Rémi Lamarque

(CNRS & Université d’Aix-Marseille)

From variation to the emergence of linguistic regularities

In this presentation, I report on the background, framing, and design of a PhD project underway. In this project, I plan to investigate how interaction among speakers and other social factors can influence the emergence of regularities in new morphological processes, taking the example of an abbreviation process for compound loanwords in Japanese. This process creates words like po.ke.mo.n, which comes from the two English words po.ke.t.to ‘pocket’ and mo.n.su.ta.a ‘monster’ (Shinohara, 1997). The most common way of deriving a compound abbreviated loanword (hereafter CAL) out of two loanwords is by maintaining only the first two morae of each constituent, like in the example po.ke.mo.n (Labrune, 2006, 2007, 2008).


This morphological process has become very productive in Japanese because of the recent increase in the number of loanwords. Our previous studies (Lamarque, 2015, 2016) revealed that the CALs tend to become more regular with time. By comparing two corpora of CALs from different time periods – the one Labrune used (circa 2000) and one we created (in 2015) – we showed that recent CALs are more regular, especially in the treatment of problematic phonological contexts for abbreviation (Lamarque 2015). However, when asked to create novel CALs via an online experiment, Japanese speakers’ treatment of those same problematic phonological contexts appeared to be highly variable across individuals. Our experiment nonetheless showed that younger speakers tend to conform significantly more to the regularity observed in the newest CALs corpus, thus confirming that those abbreviations are going through a regularization process.

These findings reveal a strong discrepancy between regularization at two different levels: the ongoing change among individuals substantially lags that occurring at the community level. They suggest that community-level processes (i.e., interactions among speakers) must therefore be responsible for the strong regularization observed in attested forms, and that regularization in individuals may actually be driven from the community level downwards. My thesis research will therefore try to determine how exactly those community-level processes influence the emergence of linguistic regularities.


To explore these phenomena, I intend to conduct an experiment in the form of an online multiplayer game. Previous studies using a multiplayer game approach proved to be a useful way to understand community level behaviors (Derex, 2015, 2016). This presentation will focus on the design and the theoretical framing of this project. In our game, players are members of a space exploration group that has to name every new creature they encounter (the setting of the game inciting them to use the CAL formation process to do so). By conducting several sessions of gaming with slightly different parameters, we hope to measure the influence of different community-level factors on the outcomes, especially concerning the way groups of players achieve a common agreement on the way they should name the creatures. Among the factors that are to be tested are the size of the groups of players; the way they can interact; their connection to other groups of players or the weight of each players vote in the decision of the creatures’ names.



DEREX, Maxime, FERON, Romain, GODELLE, Bernard, RAYMOND Michel, « Social learning and the replication process: an experimental investigation.  » in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 282, 2015, 9p.

DEREX, Maxime, BOYD, Rob, « Partial connectivity increases cultural accumulation within groups.  » in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2016, 113, pp.2982-2987.

LABRUNE, Laurence, « Phonemic preferences in Japanese non-headed binary compounds : what waa-puro, mecha-kucha and are-kore have in common », in Gengo Kenkyû, Journal of the Linguistic Society of Japan, 129, 2006, pp.3-41.

LABRUNE, Laurence, « Morphophonologie des emprunts abrégés en japonais : aspects prosodiques et mélodiques », in Des sons et des sens : données et modèles en phonologie et en morphologie, Delais-Roussarie, E., & Labrune, L., (éds), 2007, Paris : Hermès, 28p.

LABRUNE, Laurence, « Principes d’organisation phonémique des emprunts occidentaux composés abrégés », in Revue d’Etudes Japonaises, Paris : Université Paris 7, 2008, 14p.

LAMARQUE, Rémi, « La variation en phonologie : le cas des emprunts abrégés composés en japonais » (“Variation in phonology : the case of compound abbreviated loanwords in Japanese”). Théories Linguistiques : Terrain et Expérimentation (ThéLiTEx) Master’s thesis under the supervision of James Sneed German, Aix-Marseille Université, 2016, 74p.

LAMARQUE, Rémi, « Morphophonologie des emprunts abrégés japonais dans les jeux vidéo : évolution du processus d’abréviation » (“Morphophonology of Japanese’s abbreviated loanwords in video games : evolution of the abbreviation process”). Aire Culturelle Asiatique (ACA) second year Master’s thesis, under the supervision of Alice Vittrant, Aix-Marseille Université, 2015, 132p.

SHINOHARA, Shigeko, « Analyse phonologique de l’adaptation japonaise de mots étrangers ». PhD thesis under the supervision of Rialland Annie, Paris : Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris III, 1997, 219 p.