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Japanese pitch accent in an English/Nupe/Hausa trilingual

Muradás-Taylor, Becky (2017) Japanese pitch accent in an English/Nupe/Hausa trilingual. In: Proceedings of the International Symposium on Monolingual and Bilingual Speech 2017. ISMBS, pp. 199-212

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Abstract

Pitch accent, which distinguishes words in Standard Japanese, is difficult for speakers of English to acquire. This is likely to be because pitch in English does not have lexical function. However, alternative explanations could be insufficient Standard Japanese input or lack of explicit instruction. This paper reports on an English/Nupe/Hausa trilingual learner of Japanese who uses Standard Japanese pitch accent accurately, in spite of no residence in Japan or explicit instruction on pitch accent. Nupe and Hausa are tonal i.e. have lexical pitch. The aim of the paper is to report on the accuracy and stability of the participant’s pitch accent; to consider how their language background has aided this acquisition, and to discuss implications for monolingual English speaking learners of Japanese. The data consists of a three minute audio recording of a presentation given in Japanese. The participant produced 90% of words with accurate Standard Japanese pitch accent and 93% of repeated words with accurate stable pitch accent. The participant’s successful acquisition of pitch accent is argued to be because of the presence of lexical pitch in Nupe and Hausa. Since they achieved this despite no explicit instruction, stay in Japan, or a native-speaker tutor, the difficulty monolingual English speakers have acquiring pitch accent cannot be easily dismissed due to lack of explicit instruction or input. This finding provides support for the argument that English speakers’ difficulty acquiring Japanese pitch accent is due to pitch not being lexical in English. However, other bilinguals (English + tone language) are needed to strengthen this claim.

Item Type: Book Section
Status: Published
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
P Language and Literature > PL Languages and literatures of Eastern Asia, Africa, Oceania > PL501-699 Japanese language
School/Department: School of Languages & Linguistics
URI: http://ray.yorksj.ac.uk/id/eprint/2727

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