Skip to main content

Assessing the prosodic licensing of wh-in-situ in Japanese

A computational-experimental approach

Abstract

The relationship between syntactic structure and prosodic structure has received increased theoretical attention in recent years. Richards (2010) proposes that Japanese allows wh-elements to stay in situ because of a certain aspect of its prosodic system. Specifically, in contrast to some other languages like English, Japanese can prosodically group wh-elements together with their licensers. This prosodic grouping is phonetically signaled by eradication or reduction of the lexical pitch accents of intervening words. In this theory, a question still remains as to whether each syntactic derivation is checked against its phonetic realization, or what allows Japanese wh-elements to stay in situ is more abstract phonological prosodic structure, whose phonetic manifestations can potentially be variable. This paper reports an experiment which addressed this question, by testing whether there is eradication or reduction of lexical pitch accents based on the detailed analysis of F0 contours. Our analysis makes use of a computational toolkit that allows us to assess the presence of tonal targets on a token-by-token basis. The results demonstrate that almost all speakers produce some wh-sentences which show reduction or eradication of the lexical pitch accents, as well as some that do not. Those tokens that show reduction or eradication directly support the prediction of Richards’ (2010) theory. The variability observed in the results suggests that the property of Japanese that allows their wh-elements to stay in situ must be abstract, phonological prosodic structure, whose phonetic realizations can vary within and across speakers. We discuss several possible mechanisms through which such phonetic variation can arise.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8

Notes

  1. 1.

    See fn. 1 in Bennett et al. (2016) for an extensive list of relevant proposals in which phonological factors seem to influence word order.

  2. 2.

    Here and throughout, we use the shorthand term “Japanese” to refer to “Tokyo Japanese.” Smith (2011) argues, based on data from Fukuoka Japanese, that it is the complementizer, not the wh-elements, that derives this phrasing pattern. We are not concerned in this paper with what triggers this prosodic grouping. Our concern is instead whether this prosodic grouping indeed occurs or not in Tokyo Japanese, and if so, how this prosodic grouping manifests itself phonetically.

  3. 3.

    A Minor Phrase is also known as an Accentual Phrase. A Major Phrase, the level above a Minor Phrase, is also known as an Intermediate Phrase. Terminological differences do not concern us much here (see Igarashi 2015 for a recent systematic review). We use the term Minor Phrase, because this is what Richards (2010) uses. See Richards (2016) for a proposal which deploys a recursive prosodic structure (ϕ) without a Minor Phrase/Major Phrase distinction (e.g. Ito and Mester 2012). In this paper we follow Richards’ (2010) conventions, as the predictions regarding phonetic realizations are straightforward to illustrate. Nothing in this paper hinges upon the choice of this particular set of terminologies, however.

  4. 4.

    See also Igarashi (2015), Ishihara (2015), Pierrehumbert and Beckman (1988) and Venditti et al. (2008) and and works cited therein for (de)phrasing that may occur in post-focal positions in general. Most of these studies, however, posit that dephrasing occurs at the level of the Major Phrase rather than the Minor Phrase. Here we focus on the proposal by Deguchi and Kitagawa (2002), which Richards (2010) builds upon. This paper specifically analyzes those contexts that are relevant to wh-constructions in Japanese.

  5. 5.

    Recent work has identified potential problems with recursive Minor Phrase, raising an alternative possibility that the higher prosodic level may be a Major Phrase. The issue with the recursive Minor Phrase is that since Minor Phrases are usually defined in terms of accent culminativity (i.e. at most one accent), a recursive structure should not be possible (Ito and Mester 2012), except for very special cases in which all the terminal Minor Phrases contain an unaccented item. For our purposes, we follow Richards (2010) in positing MiP as the higher prosodic level. If the higher level prosodic level is indeed a Major Phrase, then we would need to posit that the tonal events of the intervening DPs should be reduced due to post-focal reduction (e.g. Ishihara 2011b; Pierrehumbert and Beckman 1988; Sugahara 2003) in addition to independently observed downstep, whose domain is a Major Phrase (McCawley 1968; Pierrehumbert and Beckman 1988; Poser 1984; cf. Ishihara 2016).

    If we adapt the model proposed by Ito and Mester (2012), which does not distinguish MiP and MaP and instead posits recursive ϕ, as Richards (2016:81–83) does, we would still have to posit that both downstep, whose domain is ϕ, and post focal reduction distinguish between declarative sentences and wh-sentences.

  6. 6.

    As we discuss below in Sect. 3.2 in some detail, positing that the same prosodic structure can receive various phonetic realizations is not necessarily an ad hoc stipulation, because mechanisms which can derive this sort of variation are independently motivated. It suffices to point out at this point that generally speaking, it is not uncommon to observe variable phonetic realizations of one phonological structure.

  7. 7.

    This possibility may have been anticipated by Richards, when he states (2010:148) that “[w]hat kind of effect these wh-domains have on F0 is not part of the theory: wh-domains might involve F0 compression, a high tone, or (in principle) no prosodic effects at all.” Richards (2010) thus does allow for the presence of a language that groups wh-elements and their licensers together, but does not overtly signal that grouping in any phonetic means. As we have seen, however, Japanese is a language that does signal wh-domains either by reduction or eradication; what we are finding is that not every token shows phonetic evidence for that grouping.

  8. 8.

    This postulation implies that it is not necessarily the case that we can infer a particular prosodic structure from surface phonetic realizations alone. On the one hand, this is not a new observation: a particular syllable structure, for example, may be difficult to infer from its surface phonetics, although there are proposals that syllabic organization does manifest itself in the phonetic signal (e.g. Browman and Goldstein 1988; Shaw et al. 2011). Phonetic evidence for foot structure in some languages (e.g. Japanese) is also notoriously hard to come by (Ota et al. 2003). On the other hand, this postulation can raise an interesting challenge for studies of intonation in general, which generally assume that prosodic structure can be inferred from surface phonetic patterning (e.g. tonal distributions). Accepting this thesis therefore means that, in order to argue for a particular prosodic pattern, we need to take into consideration other possible influences, like the factors discussed in this section.

  9. 9.

    The more extreme alternative interpretation of our results is that the phonetic signal reliably diagnoses prosodic phonological structure but that it is prosodic phrasing that is variable. On this view, some instances of wh-questions, i.e. those with full tonal realizations, would have the same prosodic structure as declarative sentence, a state of affairs which is not consistent with any interpretation of Richards (2010).

References

  1. Anttila, Arto, Matthew Adams, and Michael Speriosu. 2010. The role of prosody in the English dative alternation. Language and Cognitive Processes 25: 946–981.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Baese-Berk, Melissa, and Matthew Goldrick. 2009. Mechanisms of interaction in speech production. Language and Cognitive Processes 24: 527–554.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Beddor, Patrice S., Andries W. Coetzee, Will Styler, Kevin McGowan, and Julie E. Boland. 2018. The time course of individuals’ perception of coarticulatory information is linked to their production: Implications for sound change. Language 94(4): 931–968.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Bennett, Ryan, Emily Elfner, and James McCloskey. 2016. Lightest to the right: An anomalous displacement in Irish. Linguistic Inquiry 47(2): 169–234.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Braver, Aaron. 2019. Modeling incomplete neutralisation with weighted phonetic constraints. Phonology 36(1): 1–36.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Breiss, Canaan, and Bruce Hayes. 2020. Phonological markedness effects in sentential formation. Language 96: 338–370.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Brickhouse, Christian J., and Kate Lindsey. 2020. Investigating the phonetics-phonology interface with field data: Assessing phonological specification through acoustic trajectories. Poster presented at the 96th meeting of the Linguistics Society of America.

  8. Browman, Catherine, and Louis Goldstein. 1988. Some notes on syllable structure in Articulatory Phonology. Phonetica 45: 140–155.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Cho, Taehong. 2016. Prosodic boundary strengthening in the phonetics-prosody interface. Language and Linguistic Compass 10(3): 120–141.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Chomsky, Noam. 1995. The minimalist program. Cambridge: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Cohn, Abigail. 2006. Is there gradient phonology? In Gradience in grammar: Generative perspectives, eds. Gisbert Fanselow, Caroline Fery, Matthias Schlesewsky, and Ralf Vogel, 25–44. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  12. Deguchi, Masanori, and Yoshihisa Kitagawa. 2002. Prosody and wh-questions. North East Linguistic Society (NELS) 32: 73–92.

    Google Scholar 

  13. Hirotani, Masako. 2005. Prosody and LF interpretation: Processing Japanese wh-questions. PhD diss., University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

  14. Hombert, Jean-Marie, John Ohala, and William G. Ewan. 1979. Phonetic explanations for the development of tones. Language 55: 37–58.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Igarashi, Yosuke. 2015. Intonation. In The handbook of Japanese language and linguistics: Phonetics and phonology, ed. Haruo Kubozono, 525–568. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

    Google Scholar 

  16. Ishihara, Shinichiro. 2000. Scrambling and its interaction with stress and focus. Ms., MIT.

  17. Ishihara, Shinichiro. 2003. Intonation and interface conditions. PhD diss., MIT.

  18. Ishihara, Shinichiro. 2011a. Focus prosody in Tokyo Japanese wh-questions with lexical unaccented wh-phrases. International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS) 17: 946–949.

  19. Ishihara, Shinichiro. 2011b. Japanese focus prosody revisited: Freeing focus from prosodic phrasing. Lingua 121(13): 1870–1889.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Ishihara, Shinichiro. 2015. Syntax-phonology interface. In The handbook of Japanese language and linguistics: Phonetics and phonology, ed. Haruo Kubozono, 569–618. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Ishihara, Shinichiro. 2016. Japanese downstep revisited. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 34: 1389–1443.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Ito, Junko, and Armin Mester. 2012. Recursive prosodic phrasing in Japanese. In Prosody matters, eds. Toni Borowsky, Shigeto Kawahara, Takahito Shinya, and Mariko Sugahara, 280–303. London: Equinox Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  23. Jain, Anil K. 1989. Fundamentals of digital image processing. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Krivokapić, Jelena, Will Styler, and Benjamin Parrell. 2020. Pause postures: The relationship between articulation and cognitive processes during pauses. Journal of Phonetics 79.

  25. Kubozono, Haruo. 1988. The organization of Japanese prosody. PhD diss., University of Edinburgh.

  26. Kubozono, Haruo. 2007. Focus and intonation in Japanese: Does focus trigger pitch reset? In Interdisciplinary studies on information structure 9, ed. Shinichiro Ishihara, 1–27. Potsdam: Universitätsverlag Potsdam.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Ladd, D. Robert. 1996. Intonational phonology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Lee, Sungbok, Dani Byrd, and Jelena Krivokapić. 2006. Functional data analysis of prosodic effects on articulatory timing. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 119(3): 1666–1671.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Maekawa, Kikuo. 1994. Is there ‘dephrasing’ of the accentual phrase in Japanese. In Ohio State University working papers in linguistics, 146–165. Columbus: OSU.

    Google Scholar 

  30. McCawley, James D. 1968. The phonological component of a grammar of Japanese. The Hague: Mouton.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Mücke, Doris, Martine Grice, and Taehong Cho. 2014. More than a magic moment: Paving the way for dynamics of articulation and prosodic structure. Journal of Phonetics 44: 1–7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Ota, Mitsuhiko, D. Robert Ladd, and Madoka Tsuchiya. 2003. Effects of foot structure on mora duration in Japanese? In 15th international conference on phonetic sciences, 459–462.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Pierrehumbert, Janet B. 2001. Exemplar dynamics: Word frequency, lenition and contrast. In Typological studies in language, vol. 45. Frequency and the emergence of linguistic structure, eds. Joan Bybee and Paul Hopper, 137–157. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  34. Pierrehumbert, Janet B., and Mary Beckman. 1988. Japanese tone structure. Cambridge: MIT Press.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Poser, William. 1984. The phonetics and phonology of tone and intonation in Japanese. PhD diss., MIT.

  36. Richards, Norvin. 2010. Uttering trees. Cambridge: MIT Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  37. Richards, Norvin. 2016. Contiguity theory. Cambridge: MIT Press.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  38. Roettger, Timo B., Tim Mahrt, and Jennifer Cole. 2019. Mapping prosody onto meaning: The case of information structure in American English. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience 34(7): 814–860.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. Seyfarth, Scott. 2014. Word informativity influences acoustic duration: Effects of contextual predictability on lexical representation. Cognition 133: 140–155.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Shaw, Jason, and Shigeto Kawahara. 2018a. Assessing surface phonological specification through simulation and classification of phonetic trajectories. Phonology 35: 481–522.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Shaw, Jason, and Shigeto Kawahara. 2018b. The lingual gesture of devoiced [u] in Japanese. Journal of Phonetics 66: 100–119.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. Shaw, Jason, Adamantios Gafos, Phil Hoole, and Chakir Zeroual. 2011. Dynamic invariance in the phonetic expression of syllable structure: A case study of Moroccan Arabic consonant clusters. Phonology 28(3): 455–490.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Shih, Stephanie S., and Vera Gribanova. 2016. Phonological influences in syntactic alternations. In The morphosyntax-phonology connection: Locality and directionality at the interfaces, 223–254. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  44. Shih, Stephanie S, and Kie Zuraw. 2017. Phonological conditions on variable adjective-noun word order in Tagalog. Phonological Analysis 93(4): 317–352.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Smith, Jennifer. 2005. On the wh-question intonational domain in Fukuoka Japanese: Some implications for the syntax-prosody interface. In UMOP 30: Papers on prosody, ed. Shigeto Kawahara, 219–237. Amherst: GSLA.

    Google Scholar 

  46. Smith, Jennifer. 2011. [+wh] complementizers drive phonological phrasing in Fukuoka Japanese. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 29: 545–559.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  47. Steriade, Donca. 2000. Paradigm uniformity and the phonetics-phonology boundary. In Papers in laboratory phonology V: Acquisition and the lexicon, eds. Michael B. Broe and Janet B. Pierrehumbert, 313–334. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  48. Sugahara, Mariko. 2003. Downtrends and post-focus intonation in Tokyo Japanese. PhD diss., University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

  49. Tang, Kevin, and Jason Shaw. 2020. Prosody leaks into the memories of words. Ms., University of Florida and Yale University, arXiv:2005.14716.

  50. Vatikiotis-Bateson, Eric, Adriano Vilela Barbosa, and Catherine T. Best. 2014. Articulatory coordination of two vocal tracts. Journal of Phonetics 44: 167–181.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  51. Venditti, Jennifer. 2005. The ToBI model of Japanese intonation. In Prosodic typology: The phonology of intonation and phrasing, ed. Sun-Ah Jun, 172–200. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  52. Venditti, Jennifer, Kikuo Maekawa, and Mary Beckman. 2008. Prominence marking in the Japanese intonational system. In The handbook of Japanese linguistics, eds. Shigeru Miyagawa and Mamoru Saito. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  53. Wedel, Andrew B. 2007. Feedback and regularity in the lexicon. Phonology 24(1): 147–185.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  54. Whalen, Douglas H., and Andrea G. Levitt. 1995. The universality of intrinsic F0 of vowels. Journal of Phonetics 23: 349–366.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  55. Yu, Alan. 2007. Understanding near mergers: The case of morphological tone in Cantonese. Phonology 24: 187–214.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  56. Zahorian, Stephan A., and Hongbing Hu. 2008. A spectral/temporal method for robust fundamental frequency tracking. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 123(6): 4559–4571.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Zhang, Muye, Christopher Geissler, and Jason Shaw. 2019. Gestural representations of tone in Mandarin: Evidence from timing alternations. In 19th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, 1803–1807.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

We received helpful comments from the participants at the following conferences: AMP 2019, HisPhonCog 2019, and ICPP 2019, especially Mary Beckman, Ryan Bennett, Edward Flemming, Haruo Kubozono and Mariko Sugahara. Three anonymous NLLT reviewers as well as the Associate Editor Arto Anttila provided very helpful comments which improved the paper. They bear no responsibilities for any remaining errors. This research is supported by NINJAL collaborative research project ‘Cross-linguistic Studies of Japanese Prosody and Grammar.’

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Shigeto Kawahara.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Funding: NINJAL collaborative research project ‘Cross-linguistic Studies of Japanese Prosody and Grammar.’ Conflicts of interest/competing interests: NA. Availability of data and materials: The raw data can be made available upon request. Code availability: The Matlab scripts can be made available upon request.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Kawahara, S., Shaw, J.A. & Ishihara, S. Assessing the prosodic licensing of wh-in-situ in Japanese. Nat Lang Linguist Theory (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11049-021-09504-3

Download citation

Keywords

  • Syntax-phonology interface
  • Laboratory phonology
  • Japanese
  • wh-movement
  • Intonation
  • Prosodic-grouping
  • Token-by-token analysis