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Locating the height features : evidence from Japanese Heffernan, Kevin Michael

Abstract

Both the alternations of the Japanese verb paradigm and the formation of the go 'on and kan 'on substrata of the Sino-Japanese contain rules that refer to high vowels and velar consonants. In the verb paradigm, there is a rule that deletes velar stops before the high front vowel in certain environments. Thus we have kaku 'write' (non-past), but kaita 'wrote'. The Middle Chinese velar nasal coda was borrowed as a nasalized high vowel in the go'on and kan'on substrata of Sino- Japanese. The kan 'on reading of a Middle Chinese word such as təwη 'winter' was toŭ at the time of borrowing. The objective of this thesis is to argue that this relationship between high vowels and velar consonants is a result of their featural makeup - namely that high vowels contain a dorsal node. The argument for the hypothesis is presented in the form of two constraint-based analyses, of which the first is of the verb paradigm. Previous analyses of modern Japanese have all assumed that the i in forms such as kaita 'wrote' is not present in the underlying form. I argue that based on the historic and modern-day morphological data, there is insufficient evidence to support such an assumption about the underlying representation. As such, I develop two analyses, one with i in the underlying representation, and another where it is absent. It will be shown that in both cases the results are the same: a constraint-based account is able to derive the correct results only if we assume that the high front vowel contains a dorsal node. The second half of the argument is a constraint-based analysis of the way Late Middle Chinese codas were borrowed during the formation of the kan 'on substratum of Sino-Japanese. Again it will be shown that a constraint-based analysis is able to derive the correct results if we assume that the high front vowel contains a dorsal node.

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