Edited by Kimi Akita and Prashant Pardeshi
[Iconicity in Language and Literature 16] 2019
► pp. 35–56
Chapter 2The phonological structure of Japanese mimetics and motherese
Japanese is known to have a rich inventory of words both in mimetics and motherese (baby talk words). The purpose of this chapter is to examine interesting similarities that these two types of vocabulary exhibit in phonological structure. First of all, words in both mimetics and motherese are basically disyllabic although mimetic words also permit longer strings of syllables. Second, they are subject to a prosodic restriction by which word-final sequences of a light syllable plus a heavy one are prohibited. Third, all baby talk words are lexically ‘accented’, i.e., pronounced with an abrupt pitch fall, as opposed to ‘unaccented’. This prosodic feature is also shared by mimetic words. This fact is astonishing because a majority of native words in adult Japanese are lexically unaccented, which raises the interesting question of why mimetics and motherese are accentually different from the adult language.
By carefully analyzing various phenomena in adult phonology, this chapter presents evidence that the phonological biases commonly shown by mimetics and motherese represent unmarked phonological structures of the language that emerge in derived words in adult phonology. This allows us to link mimetics and motherese on the one hand, and adult and child phonology, on the other.
- 2.Syntactic and morphological structures
- 3.Phonological structures
- 3.1Word length
- 3.2Prosodic structure
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