The word accent system of Tokyo Japanese might look quite complex. with its number of accent patterns and rules. However, recent research has shown that it is not as complex as has been assumed if one incorporates the notion of markedness into the analysis: nouns have only two productive accent patterns: (a) the antepenultimate and unaccented patterns, as opposed to (b) multiple patterns. Seemingly different accent rules can be generalized if one focuses on these productive accent patterns.
The word accent system raises some new interesting issues. One of them concerns the fact that a majority of nouns are “unaccented,” that is, they are pronounced with a rather flat pitch pattern, apparently violating the principle of obligatoriness. A careful analysis of noun accentuation reveals that this strange accent pattern occurs in some linguistically predictable structures. In morphologically simplex nouns, it typically tends to emerge in four-mora nouns ending in a sequence of light syllables. In compound nouns, on the other hand, it emerges due to multiple factors, such as compound-final de-accenting or pseudo-de-accenting morphemes, certain syntactic categories, as well as some prosodic configurations.
Japanese pitch accent exhibits an interesting aspect in its interactions with other phonological and linguistic structures. For example, the accent of compound nouns is closely related with rendaku, or sequential voicing, which is also characteristic of compounds: the choice between the accented and unaccented patterns in certain types of compound nouns correlates with the presence or absence of the sequential voicing. Moreover, whether the compound accent rule applies to a certain compound depends on its internal morphosyntactic configuration as well as its meaning; alternatively, the compound accent rule is blocked in certain types of morphosyntactic and semantic structures.
Japanese pitch accent also displays interesting features in the domains beyond the word. For example, it actively participates in downstep, an intonational process by which word accent lowers the pitch range of subsequent materials in the same utterance. It also exhibits intriguing properties with respect to the ways accent neutralization is avoided in sentence-level phonology.
Finally, careful analysis of word accent sheds new light on the syllable structure of the language, notably on two interrelated questions about diphthonghood and super-heavy syllables. It provides crucial insight into diphthongs, or the question of which vowel sequence constitutes a diphthong as against vowel sequences across syllable boundaries. It also presents new evidence against trimoraic syllables in the language.
Young-mee Yu Cho
Due to a number of unusual and interesting properties, Korean phonetics and phonology have been generating productive discussion within modern linguistic theories, starting from structuralism, moving to classical generative grammar, and more recently to post-generative frameworks of Autosegmental Theory, Government Phonology, Optimality Theory, and others. In addition, it has been discovered that a description of important issues of phonology cannot be properly made without referring to the interface between phonetics and phonology on the one hand, and phonology and morpho-syntax on the other. Some phonological issues from Standard Korean are still under debate and will likely be of value in helping to elucidate universal phonological properties with regard to phonation contrast, vowel and consonant inventories, consonantal markedness, and the motivation for prosodic organization in the lexicon.
As might be expected from the difficulty of traversing it, the Sahara Desert has been a fairly effective barrier to direct contact between its two edges; trans-Saharan language contact is limited to the borrowing of non-core vocabulary, minimal from south to north and mostly mediated by education from north to south. Its own inhabitants, however, are necessarily accustomed to travelling desert spaces, and contact between languages within the Sahara has often accordingly had a much greater impact. Several peripheral Arabic varieties of the Sahara retain morphology as well as vocabulary from the languages spoken by their speakers’ ancestors, in particular Berber in the southwest and Beja in the southeast; the same is true of at least one Saharan Hausa variety. The Berber languages of the northern Sahara have in turn been deeply affected by centuries of bilingualism in Arabic, borrowing core vocabulary and some aspects of morphology and syntax. The Northern Songhay languages of the central Sahara have been even more profoundly affected by a history of multilingualism and language shift involving Tuareg, Songhay, Arabic, and other Berber languages, much of which remains to be unraveled. These languages have borrowed so extensively that they retain barely a few hundred core words of Songhay vocabulary; those loans have not only introduced new morphology but in some cases replaced old morphology entirely. In the southeast, the spread of Arabic westward from the Nile Valley has created a spectrum of varieties with varying degrees of local influence; the Saharan ones remain almost entirely undescribed. Much work remains to be done throughout the region, not only on identifying and analyzing contact effects but even simply on describing the languages its inhabitants speak.
Timothy J. Vance
The technical term rendaku (連濁), sometimes translated into English as sequential voicing, denotes a widely known morphophonemic phenomenon in Japanese. In a prototypical case, an alternating morpheme appears with an initial voiceless obstruent as a word on its own or as the initial element (E1) in a compound, but with an initial voiced obstruent as the second element (E2) in a two-element compound. For example, the simplex word /take/ ‘bamboo’ and the compound /take+yabu/ ‘bamboo grove’ (cf., /yabu/ ‘grove’) begin with voiceless /t/, but this morpheme meaning ‘bamboo’ begins with voiced /d/ in /sao+dake/ ‘bamboo (made into a) pole’ (cf., /sao/ ‘pole’).
Rendaku was already firmly established in 8th-century Old Japanese (OJ), the earliest variety for which extensive written records exist, and subsequent sound changes have made the alternations phonetically heterogeneous, pairing /f/[ɸ] and /h/[h] both with /b/[b], /š/[ɕ] and /č/ [tɕ] both with /ǰ/ [dʑ], etc. Many OJ compounds with eligible E2s did not undergo rendaku, and the phenomenon remains pervasively irregular in the modern language. There are, however, many factors that promote or inhibit rendaku, and some of these appear to influence native-speaker behavior on experimental tasks.
The best known phonological factor is Lyman’s Law, according to which rendaku does not apply to E2s that contain a non-initial voiced obstruent. Thus, /kucu/ [kɯtsɯ] ‘shoe’ alternates with /gucu/, but /kuzu/ ‘scrap’ does not alternate with */guzu/, as in /ki+gucu/ ‘wooden shoe’ vs. /ki+kuzu/ ‘wood chip’ (cf. /ki/ ‘wood’). The existing vocabulary contains only a tiny number of exceptions to Lyman’s Law. Many theoretical phonologists endorse the idea that Lyman’s Law is a sub-case of the Obligatory Contour Principle, which rules out identical or similar units if they would be adjacent in some domain.
Other well-known factors involve vocabulary stratum (e.g., the resistance to rendaku of recently borrowed E2s) or the morphological/semantic relationship between E2 and E1 (e.g., the resistance to rendaku of coordinate compounds).
Some morphemes, such as /kasu/ ‘dregs’, are idiosyncratically immune to rendaku. Thus, there is no rendaku in /sake+kasu/ ‘saké dregs.’ Other morphemes alternate but undergo rendaku in some compounds, while failing to undergo it in others, even though no known factor is relevant. For example, /hi/~/bi/ ‘sun’ shows rendaku in /niši+bi/ ‘westering sun’ (cf. /niši/ ‘west’), but not in /asa+hi/ ‘morning sun’ (cf. /asa/ ‘morning’). In addition, many individual compounds vary between a form with rendaku and a form without, and this variability is often not reflected in dictionary entries.
Despite its irregularity, rendaku is productive in the sense that it often applies to newly created compounds. Many compounds, of course, are stored (with or without rendaku) in a speaker’s lexicon, but the fact that native speakers can apply rendaku not just to existing E2s in novel compounds, but even to made-up E2s shows that rendaku as an active process is somehow incorporated into the grammar.