The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Colloquium 2/5 - Junko Ito

Speaker: Junko Ito (UC Santa Cruz)
Title: Doubling up or remaining single—gemination patterns in Japanese loanwords
Date: Friday, Feb 5th
Time: 3:30-5:00 PM
Place: 32-141

In Japanese, a language whose native system employs consonant length contrastively, the distribution of geminates (/pp/, /dd/, /mm/, etc.) as opposed to singletons (/p/, /d/, /m/, etc.) in loanwords raises an interesting question: How is it determined in adaptations from English, a language with no contrastive length distinctions? Starting with the seminal work of Lovins (1975), who offered an insightful analysis of some of the gemination patterns in Japanese loanwords, there is a wealth of literature and research in more recent decades focusing on different aspects that include not only phonological, but also phonetic (acoustic and articulatory), experimental, as well as corpus studies. The goal of this research (in collaboration with Armin Mester and Haruo Kubozono) is to develop an optimality-theoretic analysis that accounts for all previously established generalizations as well as new factors that have emerged in the course of our own investigation. Whether or not a given consonant is geminated depends on a host of segmental factors that are the result of a family of anti-gemination and prosodic faithfulness constraints, ranked at different points within the OT constraint hierarchy. Finally, it appears that significant higher-level prosodic factors that are part of the native system are also at work, and explain many details of the gemination pattern that are rooted neither in faithfulness to the source word nor in segmental features.