The aim of this paper is to clarify the phonological motivation for the stem-final /i-u/ and /e-u/ alternations of verbs, as well as properties of liquids in Ancient Japanese. I explore the possibility of a connection between the stem-final vowel alternations in verbs and certain properties of liquid consonants.
Present-day Japanese, at least the Tookyoo dialect, does not exhibit stem-final /i-u/ and /e-u/ alternations of verbs. Some modern dialects, e.g., those in Kyuushuu, exhibit alternation only in /e/-stem verbs, but not in /i/-stem verbs. This /e-u/ alternation is a relic of Ancient Japanese.
There has been only one liquid phoneme in Japanese throughout its history, whose phonetic realization remains an issue for phonologists.
The Linguistic Society of Japan