Patterns and scales of expressive palatalization: Experimental evidence from Japanese

Alexei Kochetov, John Alderete

Abstract: This paper argues for the existence of expressive palatalization (E-Pal) – a phonologically unmotivated process that applies in sound symbolism, diminutive constructions, and babytalk registers. E-Pal is proposed to be grounded in iconic sound-meaning associations exploiting acoustic properties of palatalized consonants, and thus is inherently different from regular phonological palatalization (P-Pal). A cross-linguistic survey of patterns of E-Pal in 37 languages shows that it exhibits a set of properties different from P-Pal. As a case  study, the paper focuses on patterns of palatalization in Japanese mimetic vocabulary and babytalk. Two experiments tested native speaker intuitions of these patterns and revealed that both patterns exhibit place and manner asymmetries typical of cross-linguistic patterns of E-Pal. The cross-linguistic survey, two experiments, and analysis of the origins and structural differences of expressive and phonological palatalization provide strong empirical and theoretical motivation to distinguish the two.

Keywords: palatalization, phonetic scales, Japanese, expressive registers, iconicity, phonetics-phonology interface, process morphology

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Full citation: Kochetov, Alexei & John Alderete. 2011. Patterns and scales of expressive palatalization: Experimental evidence from Japanese. Canadian Journal of Linguistics 56: 345-376.