Prominence Marking in the Japanese Intonation System

Jennifer J. Venditti, Kikuo Maekawa and Mary E. Beckman

in The Oxford Handbook of Japanese Linguistics

Published in print November 2008 | ISBN: 9780195307344
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Prominence Marking in the Japanese Intonation System

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  • Linguistics
  • Phonetics and Phonology
  • Grammar, Syntax and Morphology



This article explains that Japanese uses a variety of prosodic mechanisms to mark focal prominence, including local pitch range expansion, prosodic restructuring to set off the focal constituent, postfocal subordination, and prominence-lending boundary pitch movements, but (notably) not manipulation of accent. It also discusses the Japanese intonation system within the Autosegmental-Metrical (AM) model of intonational phonology. The article then describes four phenomena that are the locus of lively discussion and controversy in the further development of this AM framework account, before addressing the larger implications which these phenomena have for the development of a tenable general theory of the role of prosody in the marking of discourse prominence. There is a rich variety of prominence-marking mechanisms even when morphosyntactic mechanisms such as scrambling are ignored. The generalization across English and Japanese languages predicts that there should also be complementary patterns of focus projection within the VP in transitive clauses.

Keywords: Japanese intonation system; Autosegmental-Metrical model; intonational phonology; pitch movements; range expansion; focal constituent; postfocal subordination; focus projection; prominence marking

Article.  25575 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Phonetics and Phonology ; Grammar, Syntax and Morphology

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