A Functional Approach
University of Leeds
What crucially distinguishes this book from any others previously published on Japanese phonology is that the approach adopted in this book is functionalist. The author offers his own phonological analysis of current standard Japanese (of which he is a native speaker) from a functional point of view. The objective of the present book is therefore to present an analysis of the phonic substance (of both segmental and suprasegmental nature) of Japanese with a view to identifying and hierarchically classifying the functions that they fulfil in the phonic substance of the language and making statements about the actual workings of these functions in Japanese.
The book basically falls into Part I and Part II, each of which divides into chapters. Part I explains for the benefit of general readers the theoretical framework, i.e. the framework of functional linguistics, in which the author's phonological analysis of Japanese is carried out. The principles and procedures of a phonological analysis of languages, Japanese in the present case, from a functional point of view are set out. To this end the author explains, by drawing on illustrations from English, the various concepts of functional phonology that are necessarily invoked in analyzing the phonic substance of languages. These concepts include 'functions', 'phonology', 'phonological opposition', 'exclusive opposition', 'commutation test', 'distinctive unit', 'relevant feature', 'phoneme', 'archiphoneme' and 'neutralization'. Part II presents in detail the author's own phonological analysis of Japanese step by step, that is, by following the successive analytical procedures, and not just the global results of his analysis. The phonemes of Japanese are identified through the commutation test, together with the relevant features which define them, and the instances of the neutralization of the phonological oppositions are discovered, and the archiphonemes associated with the respective neutralizations defined in terms of the relevant features. The suprasegmental parts dealt with in this book centre on what the author calls 'moraic unit' which has certain phonological as well as phonetic implications in Japanese, and on various accentual patterns which result from certain manners in which accent in this language is realized. The book ends with the Conclusion, followed by Notes, References and Index.
As can easily be seen from its title, this book can rightly be considered a sister volume to the author's previous book, Japanese Phonetics: Theory and Practice (1997, Lincom Europa). In this book the phonic substance of Japanese is presented in detail from an articulatory point of view. The functions of the phonic substance is deliberately left out of the purview in anticipation of the publication of this new and later book in which Japanese phonology is presented from a functional point of view.
ISBN 9783895865442. LINCOM Studies in Asian Linguistics 38.360pp. 2000.