Japanese Morphophonemics

From Linguistic Inquiry Monographs

Japanese Morphophonemics

Markedness and Word Structure

By Junko Ito and Armin Mester





The sound pattern of Japanese, with its characteristic pitch accent system and rich segmental alternations, has played an important role in modern phonology, from structuralist phonemics to current constraint-based theories. In Japanese Morphophonemics, Junko Ito and Armin Mester provide the first book-length treatment of central issues in Japanese phonology from the perspective of Optimality Theory.

In Optimality Theory (OT), a generative grammar (including its phonological component) is built directly on the often conflicting demands of different grammatical principles and incorporates a specific kind of optimization as the means of resolving these conflicts. OT offers a new perspective from which to view many of the processes, alternations, and generalizations that are the traditional subject matter of phonology. Using the phonology of compounds as an analytical thread, Ito and Mester revisit central aspects of the sound pattern of Japanese and submit them to the rigor of OT. In pursuing both well-known and less-explored issues in this area, they show that an optimality-theoretic approach not only provides new solutions to old puzzles but also suggests interesting new questions for both descriptive work and theoretical research.


$75.00 X ISBN: 9780262090360 326 pp. | 7 in x 9 in


$34.00 X ISBN: 9780262590235 326 pp. | 7 in x 9 in


  • This book is the culmination of many years of research on Japanese consonantal morphophonemics, by two scholars already famous for their work in this area. The data are covered with unusual thoroughness and scholarly care, and the analyses have important implications for current issues in phonological theory: constraint conjunction, the nature of faithfulness constraints, and the form of the morphology-phonology interface.

    Bruce Hayes

    University of California Los Angeles

  • Ito and Mester provide a penetrating analysis of Japanese compound voicing (rendaku) and explore its implications for Optimality Theory. Comprehensive in scope and elegant in presentation, it makes for a very impressive study.

    Michael Kenstowicz

    Professor Of Linguistics, MIT

  • The empirical and theoretical depth of Ito and Mester's highly readable Japanese Morphophonemics are beautifully balanced, leading the reader to a rich, complete understanding of very complex material. Furthermore, the work presents the broader context of both theory and data throughout, making this a valuable reference book or teaching tool.

    Diana Archangeli

    Professor of Linguistics, University of Arizona