The Phonetics of Multiple Vowel Lengthening in Japanese


Many languages exploit a short vs. long lexical contrast in vowels. In most, if not all of these languages, the contrast is binary. In Japanese, however, speakers can lengthen vowels to express emphasis, and multiple degrees of lengthening can be used to express different degrees of emphasis. This paper offers the first experimental documentation of this emphatic vowel lengthening phenomenon. The current results demonstrate that, among the seven speakers recorded, at least a few speakers show six-levels of distinction in duration, and all but one speaker showed a steady linear correlation between duration and level of emphasis. We conclude that Japanese speakers have articulatory control that allows them to make very fine-grained durational distinctions, which go beyond mere binary short vs. long distinctions.

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Kawahara, S. and Braver, A. (2013) The Phonetics of Multiple Vowel Lengthening in Japanese. Open Journal of Modern Linguistics, 3, 141-148. doi: 10.4236/ojml.2013.32019.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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