de Chene 2016: r-Epenthesis and Ryukyuan

r-Epenthesis and Ryukyuan
Brent de Chene
January 2016

Focusing to begin with on the Shuri dialect of Okinawan, this paper poses the question of whether Ryukyuan languages display evidence for the analysis of verbal morphology proposed for Japanese by de Chene (2015), an analysis according to which consonant-stem allomorphs are the underlying or default representations of alternating suffixes and regular vowel-stem allomorphs are derived by intervocalic epenthesis of r at verb stem boundary. It is found that Shuri combines two characteristics that make it particularly revealing as evidence for the r-Epenthesis analysis. First, with respect to primary vowel-stems, Shuri illustrates the logical endpoint of the changes entailed by that analysis, namely the total assimilation of vowel-stem inflection to the inflectional pattern of r-stems. Second, because of the creation of secondary vowel stems from historical w-stems and the ongoing nature of the assimilation of those vowel-stems to r-stem inflection, it displays evidence at the same time for r-Epenthesis as a living process that is still being extended. When we broaden the focus from Shuri to Ryukyuan and to Japonic as a whole, we find that, with regard to the initiation of changes that lead in the direction of assimilation of vowel-stem to r-stem inflection, the area from northern Kyushu to southern Okinawa constitutes a dialect continuum straddling the Japanese-Ryukyuan boundary within which, to a first approximation, those changes are further advanced the further south one proceeds.

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Reference: lingbuzz/002853
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Published in: submitted for publication
keywords: ryukyuan, japanese, shuri, r-epenthesis, verb inflection, phonology