Reconciling CV phonotactics and high vowel deletion in Japanese

James Whang


High vowel devoicing is a productive process in Japanese, where /i, u/ become unphonated between voiceless obstruents. Recent studies have shown that the vowels can completely delete as a result of the process, resulting in surface consonant clusters. This seemingly conflicts with the strong CV phonotactic preference that has repeatedly been shown in both phonological and psycholinguistic studies of Japanese. This paper proposes that the apparent conflict can be resolved by having phonotactic repairs and high vowel devoicing apply at different phonological levels, adopting a more sophisticated phonological representation than simple /underlying/ vs. [surface] forms. The proposed framework also makes an empirically testable prediction regarding syllabification of clusters that result from high vowel deletion.


Japanese; Vowel Devoicing; Phonological Representation

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