This paper is a response to “Why /r/ is not a special, empty consonant in Japanese” by Thomas Pellard, published in the JEAL 25 (2016). It addresses the major criticisms raised in Pellard (2016), providing new evidence or alternative analyses on the following questions: the distribution and frequency of /r/ and /’/ at various stages of the history of Japanese, a comparison of /r/ with /h/ and /b, d, g, z/, typological evidence pertaining to word, stem or root-initial liquid prohibition, the role of /r/ in verbal morphology, the difference between derivational and compositional environments for /r/ epenthesis, cross-linguistic evidence on /r/-epenthesis, the fallacy of positing “liquid” as a phonological feature, and several other phonological, morphological or formal issues. This paper also discusses two novel issues. The first one concerns the dating of the emergence of /r/ in Japanese. It is proposed that /r/ developed before the split between Japanese and Ryukyuan, before the 3rd c. CE. The second issue is whether some so-called “Yamato” Japanese /r/’s may have an external source. While admitting that some /r/’s may be the reflexes of prehistorical loans from Korean or other languages which would have occurred after the phonologization process of /r/ within Japanese proper began, this paper defends the position that since Japanese has not been convincingly demonstrated to be genetically related to any language other than Ryukyuan, it is safer to adopt a strictly internal approach for the investigation of the nature and status of /r/ in Japanese. Explaining some of the characteristics of Japanese /r/ through a tentative Altaic origin thus appears premature.
Journal of East Asian Linguistics – Springer Journals
Published: Jul 3, 2017
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