LINGUIST List 14.3204

Fri Nov 21 2003

Qs: Neutral Vowels; Japanese Suffixes

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  1. Madalena Cruz-Ferreira, Neutral vowels across languages
  2. Benjamin Barrett, Treatments and Origins of Shii/Rashii

Message 1: Neutral vowels across languages

Date: Thu, 20 Nov 2003 19:55:40 -0500 (EST)
From: Madalena Cruz-Ferreira <>
Subject: Neutral vowels across languages

Dear all, 

In some languages, there is one same 'neutral' vowel that is used in a
number of ways, like: 
-it occurs in unstressed syllables only, and can also be the vowel
with which other vowels alternate in stress shifts due eg to
-it is an epenthetic vowel, eg to break consonant clusters
-it occurs in filled pauses. In English and in Portuguese, there is
one neutral vowel that fulfils all three criteria, though the quality
of the vowel is different in each of these languages.

Would you be able to give me, or tell me where to find, information

1.whether other languages have one, or more than one, neutral vowel;
2.whether neutral vowels of other languages fulfil these 3 criteria
(only 1, or 2? other criteria? which vowel is used for what?);
3.the phonetic quality of this vowel /these vowels.

**Please note that I'm not necessarily looking for ''schwa-like''
vowels. The neutral vowel of English is usually called ''schwa'',
though the use of this term for other languages is ambiguous, as far
as I understand. It can mean 'neutral' vowel, which is a functional
label, or it can mean a 'lax unrounded mid central' quality, which is
an articulatory label. Both meanings are true of the English neutral
vowel, but not of the Portuguese one. I also wonder whether I should
be asking for sonorants, instead of vowels. Some varieties of Swedish
use, I believe, [n] for filled pauses**

Many thanks for your help! I look forward to your replies and I will
of course post back any returns.

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Message 2: Treatments and Origins of Shii/Rashii

Date: Thu, 20 Nov 2003 16:06:06 -0500 (EST)
From: Benjamin Barrett <>
Subject: Treatments and Origins of Shii/Rashii

I am unable to locate any materials giving the origins of the Japanese
suffixes shii/rashii, other than the classical shii<shi, rashii<rashi.

Although I have found some grammatical treatments of rashii, other
than a quick mention in a text (without reference or explanation) that
-shii adjectives have an emotive content, I have been unable to find
any treatment of shii.

Does anyone on this list know of any work showing the origins of
shii/rashii or an explanation of -shii adjectives?

I will follow-up with a summary of all posts received.

Benjamin Barrett
Graduate Student, Department of Linguistics
University of Washington 

Subject-Language: Japanese; Code: JPN 
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