Phonology and orthography: The orthographic characterization of rendaku and Lyman's Law

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This paper argues that phonology and orthography go in tandem with each other to shape our phonological behavior. More concretely, phonological operations are non-trivially affected by orthography, and phonological constraints can refer to them. The specific case study comes from a morphophonological alternation in Japanese, rendaku. Rendaku is a process by which the first consonant of the second member of a compound becomes voiced (e.g., /oo/ + /tako/ → [oo+dako] 'big octopus'). Lyman's Law blocks rendaku when the second member already contains a voiced obstruent (/oo/ + /tokage/ → ∗[oo+dokage], [oo+tokage] 'big lizard'). Lyman's Law, as a constraint which prohibits a morpheme with two voiced obstruents, is also known to trigger devoicing of geminates in loanwords (e.g. /beddo/ → [betto] 'bed'). Rendaku and Lyman's Law have been extensively studied in the past phonological literature. Inspired by recent work that shows the interplay between orthographic factors and grammatical factors in shaping our phonological behaviors, this paper proposes that rendaku and Lyman's Law actually operate on Japanese orthography. Rendaku is a process that assigns dakuten diacritics, and Lyman's Law prohibits morphemes with two diacritics. The paper shows that a set of properties of rendaku and Lyman's Law follows from this proposal. However, since some aspects of rendaku and Lyman's Law are undoubtedly phonological, the ultimate conclusion is that it is most fruitful to recognize a model of phonology in which it has access to orthographic information. Several consequences of the current proposal are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Devoicing
  • Lyman's Law
  • Opacity
  • Orthotactics
  • rendaku

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


Dive into the research topics of 'Phonology and orthography: The orthographic characterization of rendaku and Lyman's Law'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this