Consequences of High Vowel Deletion for Syllabification in Japanese


  • Jason Anthony Shaw Yale University
  • Shigeto Kawahara Keio University



syllabification, vowel deletion, devoicing, Japanese, consonant clusters, syllabic consonants, truncation, pitch accent


High vowels in Japanese devoice between two voiceless consonants; recent work has shown that devoiced /u/ in this environment is also variably deleted. This paper investigates the syllabification of consonant clusters resulting from vowel deletion. We consider two competing hypotheses from the literature: (H1) that consonant clusters are parsed tautosyllabically into a complex syllable onset and (H2) that consonant clusters are parsed heterosyllabically, with the consonant preceding the deleted vowel becoming a syllabic consonant. We bring both phonological and phonetic evidence bear on evaluating these hypotheses. The phonological evidence draws on patterns sensitive to syllable structure including pitch accent placement, loanword truncation, hypocoristic formation, and mimetics. The phonetic evidence comes from patterns of temporal stability in articulatory data collected with ElectroMagnetic Articulography. Both types of evidence provide converging support for H2.

Author Biographies

  • Jason Anthony Shaw, Yale University

    Assistant Professor, Department of Linguistics

  • Shigeto Kawahara, Keio University
    Associate Professor, The Institute of Cultural and Linguistic Studies