Lyman's Law is active in loanwords and nonce words: Evidence from naturalness judgment studies

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15 Citations (Scopus)


Lyman's Law is a general phonotactic restriction in Japanese which prohibits two voiced obstruents within the same morpheme. This law manifests itself, for example, in the blockage of Rendaku, a phenomenon which voices the initial consonant of the second member of a compound. Lyman's Law blocks Rendaku when the second member already contains a voiced obstruent. Lyman's Law has been formulated as a general phonotactic restriction against two voiced obstruents (Itô and Mester, 1986), and believed to hold only in native words, not in loanwords, because there are many loanwords that violate this restriction (e.g. [gaa. do] 'guard' and [ba. gu] 'bug': Itô and Mester, 2003, 2008).Building on Vance (1980), Tateishi (2003) and Nishimura (2003, 2006), however, this study shows that Lyman's Law is active even in loanwords, and nonce words more generally. In Experiments I and II, native speakers of Japanese judged Rendaku in nonce words to be less natural when it resulted in a violation of Lyman's Law. In Experiment III, native speakers of Japanese judged devoicing of real loanwords and nonce words to be more natural when devoicing was caused by Lyman's Law. Therefore, the three experiments, as a package, show that Lyman's Law is active both as a blocker and a trigger of phonological alternations. A general implication of this study is that a restriction with many lexical exceptions can still impact native speakers' treatment of loanwords and nonce words, as predicted by theories that posit that constraints are violable (Legendre et al., 1990a,b; Prince and Smolensky, 1993/2004).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1193-1206
Number of pages14
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2012 Sept
Externally publishedYes


  • Devoicing
  • Geminates
  • Lyman's Law
  • OCP (voice)
  • Phonological judgment
  • Rendaku

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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