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The role of psychoacoustic similarity in Japanese puns: A corpus study1



A growing body of recent work on the phonetics–phonology interface argues that many phonological patterns refer to psychoacoustic similarity – perceived similarity between sounds based on detailed acoustic information. In particular, two corresponding elements in phonology (e.g. inputs and outputs) are required to be as psychoacoustically similar as possible (Steriade 2001a, b, 2003; Fleischhacker 2005; Kawahara 2006; Zuraw 2007). Using a corpus of Japanese imperfect puns, this paper lends further support to this claim. Our corpus-based study shows that when Japanese speakers compose puns, they require two corresponding consonants to be as similar as possible, and the measure of similarity rests on psychoacoustic information. The result supports the hypothesis that speakers possess a rich knowledge of psychoacoustic similarity and deploy that knowledge in shaping verbal art patterns.


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Authors' addresses: Linguistics Department, Rutgers University, 18 Seminary Place, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-1108,
Institute of Symbiotic Science and Technology, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, 2-24-16 Nakacho, Koganei, Tokyo 184-8588,


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We are grateful to our informants for composing ample examples of Japanese puns for us. We would also like to thank Gary Baker, Michael Becker, John Kingston, Kazu Kurisu, Dan Mash, Lisa Shiozaki, Betsy Wang, and two anonymous JL referees for their comments on earlier drafts of this paper. Remaining errors are ours. An earlier version of this paper appeared as Kawahara & Shinohara (2007). Both the data and analyses presented in this version supersede those in Kawahara & Shinohara (2007).



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The role of psychoacoustic similarity in Japanese puns: A corpus study1



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