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Linguistics Colloquium | On the Syllable Constraints on Word-formation of the So-called "Ra-dropped" Expressions in Japanese, Feb. 24

The Linguistics Colloquium series presents Dr. Kensuke Emura discussing “On the Syllable Constraints on Word-formation of the So-called "Ra-dropped" Expressions in Japanese” on Friday, Feb. 24, from 12:55 to 1:50 p.m. in-person in Gordy 211 and via Microsoft Teams.


Emura is Lecturer in the University Center for the Advancement of Higher Education at Iwate Prefectural University, Japan.


For more information, contact Dr. David Bell, Chair of Linguistics at Ohio University, at belld@ohio.edu.


Abstract: In this talk, I would like to provide a morphosyntactic analysis of the so-called "ra-dropped" expressions in Japanese in which the potential suffix -rare is apparently realized in a phonetically reduced form as -(r)e (e.g. tabe-rare-ru tabe-φ-re-ru ‘being able to eat’). It has been well-known that (un)acceptability of the phenomena is strongly affected by the number of syllables of verbs. Roughly speaking, while the "ra-dropped" forms can easily be derived from verbs whose syllable number is less than three, it cannot be formed when the syllable number is more than four. Thus far, little attention has been paid to the effectiveness of the syllable constraint on the "ra-dropped" forms. With this background, I carried out a questionnaire to Japanese adults on the acceptability of "ra-dropped" expressions with two different types of verbs on transitivity alternation patterns comprising the same number of syllables. Based on the data of the questionnaire, I will argue (i) that the constraint cannot adequately be effective in that it cannot predict the results in which a certain type of verbs is significantly more acceptable, and (ii) that the apparent "ra-dropped" forms are derived not from -ra deletion, but -e insertion into the head of GETP à la Nakajima (2011, 2014), which optionally occurs at the top of vP. The proposal explains the results of the questionnaire and it is compatible with observation in the fields of language acquisition that Japanese-speaking children erroneously produce lower one-tier conjugation verbs instead of potentials, only in verb pairs in which transitive morphemes are phonetically realized as -e (e.g. tat-e-ru ‘stand’), but their intransitive counterparts show no morphological realization (e.g. tat-u ‘stand up’).

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Contact Dr. David Bell, Chair of Linguistics at Ohio University, belld@ohio.edu.

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