Japanese renditions of Korean words and phrases: Are L2 contrasts accessed by L1 grammar?

English Studies


We have studied Japanese renditions of Korean words and phrases introduced (mostly after 2000) into Japanese culture with the Korean wave, hanryuu, as background. Data are mostly Korean personal names, product and place names from travel guidebooks and commonly used words. We shall demonstrate that not only is a Korean contrast referred to in the adaptation process but also a new grammar can be acquired for loanword adaptation.

Our focus is on the laryngeal contrast. In Korean, unlike Japanese, the voicing of plosives and affricates is not contrastive: they are all voiceless on the surface except for lenis being voiced in the intersonorant environment. It appears that this Korean voicing alternation is applied to Japanese loanwords from Korean phrases. For example, a protagonist given name Kang Joon-sang in the Korean drama Winter Sonata is pronounced with a voiceless affricate in phrase initial position and with a voiced affricate after the family name in Korean. These forms are adapted as (given name) and (full name) in the dubbed or subtitled Japanese version. Both given name forms, one with the voiceless prepalatal affricate and the other with the voiced counterpart fricative, appear in phrase initial position and after the surname , respectively. The voicing alternates for a given name in this position. At first glance, it is not clear whether the given name has a single representation that alternates in voicing on the surface, as in Korean, or whether the voicing patterns merely reflect the Korean realizations of lenis voicing on the phrase level. However, importantly, other word sandhi phenomena (manner assimilation and resyllabification) are ignored in Japanese adaptation: only the voicing alternation is respected at the word boundary. These data are hard to reconcile with a model assuming a direct L1 influence in the categorization of L2 sounds (Peperkamp and Dupoux 2003) as well as with a model of phonological mapping between L2 and L1 phonemes (Paradis and LaCharité 1997). Instead, we need a grammar applied specifically to Korean phrases.

In order to correctly realize the voicing rule, input specification for the lenis is essential. It follows from this that the adapters are aware of the underlying forms for each part of the phrase, and the two parts have independent representations. This is similar to the Korean adaptation of English complex words where the two parts have independent representations and when put together they undergo segmental alternation, while in simplex words such alternations are absent, as proposed by Oh (2012). To support our case of alternation, we provided some examples which argue that non-native contrasts can be learned when they appear in varying contexts. The relation with Rendaku was also discussed.

This phenomenon may depend on certain conditions characterizing the contact between the two languages. Massive contact with the same foreign language inputs for a certain period of time may regulate the loanword outputs. Y. Kang (2010) argues that more phonetically faithful adaptations and more variants are found in the early-stage contact of Korean with English, but they may shift at a later stage to more regular patterns.


Kang, Yoonjung. 2010. The emergence of phonological adaptation from phonetic adaptation: a case study of English loanwords in Korean. Phonology 27.2: 225-253.

Oh, Mira. 2012. Adaptatin of English complex words into Korean. Journal of East Asian Linguistics 21: 267-304.

Paradis, Carole, and Darlene LaCharité. 1997. Preservation and minimality in loanword adaptation. Journal of Linguistics 33: 379-430.

Peperkamp, Sharon, and Emmanuel Dupoux. 2003. Reinterpreting loanword adaptations: the role of perception. In Proceedings of the 15th ICPhS: 367-370.

This study was supported by the Sophia University Open Research Center from MEXT (2007-2012). Some portions of this presentation were based on the draft version of the article, Shinohara, Shigeko 2015 ‘‘Loanword-specific grammar in Japanese adaptations of Korean words and phrases’’ Journal of East Asian Linguistics. The final publication is available at Springer via http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10831-014-9129-3


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