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Rendaku (連濁, lit. "sequential voicing") is a phenomenon in Japanese morphophonology that governs the voicing of the initial consonant of the non-initial portion of a compound or prefixed word. In modern Japanese, rendaku is common but at times unpredictable, with certain words unaffected by it.
|s, sh||→||z, j|
|t, ch, ts||→||d, j, z|
Rendaku can be seen in the following words:
In some cases, rendaku varies depending on syntax. For instance, the suffix tōri (〜通り, "road, following"), from tōru (通る, "to go, to follow"), is pronounced as -tōri (〜とおり) following the perfective verb tense, as in omotta-tōri (思った通り, "as I thought"), but is pronounced as -dōri (〜どおり, with rendaku) when following a noun, as in yotei-dōri (予定通り, "as planned, according to schedule") or, semantically differently – more concretely – Muromachi-dōri (室町通, "Muromachi Street").
Research into defining the range of situations affected by rendaku has largely been limited to finding circumstances which cause the phenomenon not to manifest itself:
Lyman's Law states that there can be no more than one voiced obstruent (a consonant sound formed by obstructing airflow) within a morpheme. Therefore, no rendaku can occur if the second element contains a voiced obstruent. This is considered to be one of the most fundamental of the rules governing rendaku.
While this law is named after Benjamin Smith Lyman, who independently discovered it in 1894, it is really a re-discovery. The Edo period linguists Kamo no Mabuchi (1765) and Motoori Norinaga (1767–1798) separately and independently discovered the law during the 18th century.
Some lexical items tend to resist rendaku voicing regardless of other conditions, while some tend to accept it.
It is even rarer to find rendaku among words of foreign origin, unless the loanword has become completely absorbed into Japanese:
Compare this to yama + kawa > yamagawa "mountain river".
Rendaku is also blocked by what is called a "branching constraint". In a right-branching compound, the process is blocked in the left-branching elements:
Despite a number of rules which have been formulated to help explain the distribution of the effect of rendaku, there still remain many examples of words in which rendaku manifests in ways currently unpredictable. Some instances are linked with a lexical property as noted above but others may obey laws yet to be discovered. Rendaku thus remains partially unpredictable, sometimes presenting a problem even to native speakers, particularly in Japanese names, where rendaku occurs or fails to occur often without obvious cause. In many cases, an identically written name may either have or not have rendaku, depending on the person. For example, 中田 may be read in a number of ways, including both Nakata and Nakada.
In some cases, voicing of preceding consonants also occurs, as in sazanami (細波, ripple), which was formerly sasa-nami. This is rare and irregular, however.
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