The representation of Japanese moraic nasals
Nasal consonants in syllabic coda position in Japanese assimilate to the place of articulation of a following consonant. The resulting forms may be perceived as different realizations of a single underlying unit, and indeed the kana orthographies represent them with a single character. In the present study, Japanese listeners' response time to detect nasal consonants was measured. Nasals in coda position, i.e., moraic nasals, were detected faster and more accurately than nonmoraic nasals, as reported in previous studies. The place of articulation with which moraic nasals were realized affected neither response time nor accuracy. Non-native subjects who knew no Japanese, given the same materials with the same instructions, simply failed to respond to moraic nasals which were realized bilabially. When the nasals were cross-spliced across place of articulation contexts the Japanese listeners still showed no significant place of articulation effects, although responses were faster and more accurate to unspliced than to cross-spliced nasals. When asked to detect the phoneme following the (cross-spliced) moraic nasal, Japanese listeners showed effects of mismatch between nasal and context, but non-native listeners did not. Together, these results suggest that Japanese listeners are capable of very rapid abstraction from phonetic realization to a unitary representation of moraic nasals; but they can also use the phonetic realization of a moraic nasal effectively to obtain anticipatory information about following phonemes.
Publication typeJournal article