Conservative and Innovative Features in the Phonology of Hateruma Dialect
The Hateruma dialect belongs to Yaeyama Ryukyuan and is spoken on the Hateruma island as well as in the Shiraho village of Ishigaki island. The aim of this paper is to describe and analyse the phonetic and phonological characteristics of the Hateruma dialect, in order to point out all the uncommon features, most of which are unique within both Ryukyuan and mainland varieties, and their implication in the reconstruction of proto-Japanese. Beside several innovative forms, like the pharyngealized vowel, sonorant devoicing and noun-final consonant epenthesis, the Hateruma dialect is conservative in preserving certain distinctions which reflect better than any other Ryukyuan variety the distinction of kō/otsu series of Old Japanese and the corresponding reconstructed forms of proto-Japanese. A comparative analysis between cognates of the Hateruma dialect and Old Japanese shows how innovative sound changes may have contributed to preserve the distinction between syllables which have merged elsewhere.