Phonology of Japanese Palatals
Michal Temkin Martinez
Due to contact with other languages throughout its development, the Japanese language contains multiple layers of vocabulary in its lexicon. Each layer, or stratum, consists of words originating from different languages with which Japanese interacts. Itô and Mester (1995, 1999). Depending on the stratum in which a word is found, different phonological processes apply to either resemble native Japanese sound patterns or preserve the word’s native pronunciation. The four layers are: Yamato (native Japanese words), Sino-Japanese (from contact with Chinese), Mimetics (onomatopoeic words), and Foreign (words more recently borrowed into the language, mostly from English). This paper explores a set of four phonological processes that apply to a specific group of sounds (namely, palatals) as they are affected by their placement within the different strata. Implications regarding the status of the palatals as phonemes (mental representations of sounds) or allophones (variations of those sounds) will also be discussed.