How to make "ケンブリッジ" from "Cambridge": Japanese Loan Phonology

Ms Keiko Masuda (PhD student, Linguistics, Clare Hall)

Saturday, 24 April, 1999; 7:00-9:00pm

Seminar room, Darwin College

We are accepting an ever increasing number of loan words from various languages. When a foreign word is borrowed, it must be adjusted in order to fit into the phonological system of the borrowing language. Japanese has quite a different phonological system from those of the Indo-European languages, from which we have borrowed most of the loan words. Nonetheless we unconsciously adjust those foreign words into Japanese sounds without difficulty. What sort of process is going on in transforming them? What kind of rules exist?
This talk is based on my MPhil dissertation. First, I will briefly refer to the Japanese Phonology, which is the basis of this talk. Then I will discuss the following topics from the viewpoints of Articulatory Phonetics and Acoustic Phonetics, together with some results of a transliteration experiment I conducted in April, 1997.
Which vowel (/a, i, u, e, o/) is inserted when a word contains consonant clusters or a consonant ending? Why should it be that particular vowel? (e.g. start /sta:t/ --> sutaato /suta:to/)
What Japanese sounds replace less familiar sounds that exist in languages other than English? (e.g. "r", rounded vowels and nasal vowels in French, "ch" in German)
Why does consonant gemination (i.e. inserting an extra consonant) occur? (e.g. book /buk/ --> bukku /bukku/)