AffiliationUniversity of Texas at Austin
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AbstractLanguage games have fascinated linguists in that they can provide unusual insight into the grammars of languages. The evidence provided by the study of a language game has usually been used by linguists to argue for certain phonological and morphological analysis of the source language. Recent studies of the mechanism that derives language games also discuss broader theoretical issues like the nature of this mechanism, its reflection of internal structure of the syllable and morpheme, its relationship with the morphological and phonological processes in natural languages, and the proper phonological and prosodic representations in describing the formation of language games (e.g., McCarthy 1981, 1982; Yip 1982 ). Chinese secret languages are language games spoken by children, thieves, or fortune tellers. They are also called Fanqie languages because their formation follows the traditional Chinese Fanqie principle which divides a syllable into an Initial and a Final. (1) gives some examples illustrating this traditional division of syllables . (1) Initials and Finals in Chinese (Tones are omitted): a. /ma/; Initials: /m/; Finals: /a/ b. /kuai/ [kway]; Initials: /k/; Finals: /uai/ [way] c. /pan/; Initials: /p/; Finals: /an/ d. /tuan/ [twan]; Initials: /t/; Finals: /uan/ [wan] e. /uan/ [wan]; Initials: none; Finals: /uan/ [wan]. Within a syllable the first consonant is the Initial, what remains is the Final. (1) e. is an example of the "zero Initial" syllable. Chao (1931) describes eight varieties of Chinese secret languages in terms of this traditional view on the Chinese syllable. In these languages each syllable is typically split into two syllables with the addition of a fixed Initial and /or a Final. For example, one of the Mandarin secret languages derives [may ka] from the base word /ma/, the fixed Initial /k/, and the fixed Final /ay /. Departing from this traditional view, Yip (1982) proposes to treat the formation of these secret languages as instances of reduplication within the framework of CV phonology (McCarthy 1979, Clements & Keyser 1983). In this paper I examine the behavior of nasal segments in Taiwanese secret languages described by Li (1985) in the hope of revealing the relationship between the phonological structure of the source language and that of the secret languages, and throwing some light on the understanding of the formal mechanism and principles employed by Chinese secret languages. I follow Yip in treating the formation of Chinese secret languages as reduplication,3 and assume an autosegmental model of phonology that incorporates underspecification (e.g. Archangeli & Pulleyblank 1986) and feature geometry (e.g. Clements 1985a; Sagey 1986). In Section 1, an introduction of three types of Taiwanese secret languages is given. Section 2 shows that the spreading of nasality of the nasalized vowels throughout the whole reduplicated domain in the secret language argues for the existence of a floating nasal feature in Taiwanese and the treatment of this domain as a basic morphological word. The behavior of the syllable final consonants in these Taiwanese secret languages presented in Section 3 calls for an assimilatory treatment rather than the dissimilatory one proposed by Yip (1982). Section 4 discusses some theoretical implications with respect to the theory of reduplication in analyzing the syllabic nasals in Taiwanese secret languages. Finally, a conclusion summaries the preceding sections.
Series/Report no.Arizona Phonology Conference Vol. 1
Coyote Papers 9