Plosive (de-)voicing and f0 perturbations in Tokyo Japanese: Positional variation, cue enhancement, and contrast recovery

Jiayin Gao, Takayuki Arai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study addresses the two-way laryngeal contrast of plosives in Tokyo Japanese, which is commonly analyzed as a “true voicing” language. We examine how voicing-related properties of the plosive and f0 of the following vowel varied with the position in the word and in the sentence. We compare word-initial with word-medial positions for words in citation (between two pauses) and for two prosodic conditions in a carrier sentence: with vs. without a preceding pause. In word-initial position, unlike in a typical “true-voicing” language such as French, voiced plosives in Tokyo Japanese show a high devoicing rate, while voiceless plosives are moderately aspirated. A combination of VOT and f0 of the following vowel is used to distinguish the two plosive series. In word-medial position, voiced plosives are frequently prevoiced and voiceless plosives are unaspirated, while f0 does not differ after the two plosive series. This positional variation suggests that the onset-induced f0 effect is enhanced in word-initial position, where the VOT cue is not sufficient, but not in word-medial position, where the plosive voicing contrast is robustly marked by presence vs. absence of phonetic voicing. The differential use of cues in different environments in Tokyo Japanese provides another piece of evidence for the complexity of phonetic implementations of the voicing contrast. Finally, we discuss the enhancement of f0 perturbations as a source of a potential tonal development and ask whether such a development would take place in Tokyo Japanese.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100932
Pages (from-to)1-33
JournalJournal of Phonetics
Early online date17 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • japanese
  • voicing
  • aspiration
  • VOT
  • f0 perturbations
  • cue weighting
  • cue enhancement


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