LINGUIST List 5.328

Tue 22 Mar 1994

Sum: Japanese labial weakening

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Message 1: Japanese labial weakening

Date: Tue, 22 Mar 1994 09:42:38 Japanese labial weakening
From: <wclivax.ox.ac.uk>
Subject: Japanese labial weakening



A week ago, I posted a request for references in English on Japanese labial
weakening -- here are the replies. Thanks to all those who contributed!

Wenchao Li
Lady Margaret Hall
Oxford University

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 woman?" <SDFNCRritvax.isc.rit.edu>

My understanding is that historically there was a "hw" segment (much like
the *kw segment in Indo-European) in Old Japanese, which in some contexts
lost the labial part and in others lost the "h" part and then could
*strengthen*. But I know very little about historical Japanese phonology.
Susan Fischer

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Hi Wenchao,

I once wrote a Master's thesis at Sophia University, Tokyo on a quantiatative
analysis of [ongoing!] delabialization process of bilabial fricatives in an
Okinawan dialect. The Okinawan dialects, spoken on the Ryuukyuu islands in the
Southern-most part of Japan, still retains (at least some of the dialects do)
those segments that the mainland dialects have long lost.

Kenjiro Matsuda
Dept. of Linguistics
619 Williams Hall
Univ. of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305
Email: matsudalinc.cis.upenn.edu

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 You might take a look at Shibatani's THE LANGUAGES OF JAPAN
(CUP 1990), specifically pp. 166-7.

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Try S. E. Martin (1987) The Japanese Language Through Time
and references contained therein.

Peter Hendriks
phendrikfacstaff.wisc.edu (608) 262-3871
East Asian Languages and Literature
1210 Van Hise Hall 1220 Linden Drive
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Madison, WI 53706
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Dear Wenchao:

I read your query about bilabila weakening in japanese with interest. As a
 native speaker of japanese, I suppose that historical shift from /p/ to /h/
 might account for this phenomenon. For instance, the word "haru" (spring) used
 to be pronounced as "paru
/ in the Middle Ages in Japan. I was told that the Okinawan Dialcects inherited
 some aspects of the Old and Middle Jpanese dialcects.
Today, we find some native speakers of such Okinawan dialects pronounce "hon"
 (book) as /pon/, hune" (ship) as /puni/, and the like. Unifortunately, I know
 no literature dealing with the dialects in Okinawa. Perhaps you can consult
 several papers on them
in your university library, I assume.
I don't know if my comment is of help for you, so just take it as an additum to
 your research. Bye for now.
Mihoko Kubota

kubotastc.ipa.go.jp

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Dear Wenchao: Sorry I cannot give you references (one of my luxuries
since retirement has been to be able to read without keeping an
up-to-date bibliography of everything in my head), but I can tell you
about it and the evidence for it. Depending on how abstract one believes
phonology is, the phenomenon is primarily historical, though reflected in
morphophonemics. Thus the phoneme /h/ is pronounced as [h] before a and o,
as a bilabial [f] before u, and as a fronted [x] before i. In
morphophonemic combinations which require a geminate, h appears as /p/.
Thus, ichi+C'V>iC'C'V, so ichi + hon yields [ippon]. All of these leads
to internal reconstruction (as it used to be called) of Japanese /h/ as
/p/, for fairly clear reasons. I am sure there is data from borrowing
and dialectal development that confirms this too, but I am not at the
moment on top of it. Anyhow, for your possible interest, that's what
it's all about. I take it others will be good enough to give you
references. Good luck! Karl V. Teeter, Professor of Linguistics,
Emeritus, Harvard University

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I'm sure you've had a stack of these, but just in case:

Martin, Samuel E. The Japanese Language Through Time (Yale, 1989[?]).

Bart Mathias

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