Dr Wayne Lawrence

MA (Tokyo UFS), PhD (Tsukuba)


Senior Lecturer in Japanese

Research | Current

  • Phonology
  • Morphology
  • Dialect accent
  • Ryukyuan linguistics

The historical development of the Nakijin accentual system
Nakijin dialect (Northern Okinawan) nouns show regular accentual correspondences with other Ryukyuan dialects, but the correspondences differ according to the length of the noun. Also, Nakijin shows evidence of an accent, whereas most, if not all, other Ryukyuan dialects can be analysed in terms of (word-)tones. I have reconstructed the tonal system and vowel quantity of Proto-Northern Ryukyuan as very close to the system found in the modern dialect of Asama (Tokunoshima) in order to explain the Nakijin noun situation. I am now working on the tonal system of the verb conjugation, where in Nakijin the accentuation is predictable from the shape (length and vowel features) of the endings but where this does not appear to be the case in other dialects.

Singular and plural number
Lawrence (2003) notes that in English and a range of other Germanic and Romance languages, the singular represents one, and the plural represents 'other than one', not 'more than one'. In contrast, Standard French singular represents 'less than two'. Current research expands both the range of languages to other Indo-European language groups, and also the range of Germanic and Romance languages/dialects. A core question being looked at is whether there are any languages where the singular represents 'one or less' (ie, 0 would be singular, but 1.5 plural) – and if not, why not?

The to yuu-na N construction
There is a commonly used construction in colloquial Japanese which takes the structure ...yuu-na NOUN. As far as I am aware, this structure is not introduced in any textbook or reference grammar. It is, on the surface, ungrammatical, but in Lawrence (1998) I present an analysis which allows it to be interpreted as conforming to the generally accepted rules of Japanese grammar. The analysis crucially depends on haplology and radical underspecification of vowel features. I am currently investigating further evidence which supports this analysis in terms of haplology.

The genetic interrelationships of the Ryukyuan dialects
Lawrence 2000 looked at the interrelationships of most of the Yaeyama dialects, and came to this family tree as its conclusion. I am now working on the other Ryukyuan dialects, especially the position of the Tarama dialect (a Miyako dialect as traditionally assumed? Or a Yaeyama dialect as recently argued by Karimata Shigehisa of the University of the Ryukyus?). I am also doing preliminary work on the Northern Ryukyuan dialects (Okinawan and Amami groups).

Listen to recordings of Japanese dialects.

Dr Wayne Lawrence's Research

Teaching | Current

JAPANESE 130 Japanese Language 1A

JAPANESE 307 Classical Language and Culture


  • 2017 Awarded a Japanese Foreign Minister's Commendation for promotion of Japan research in

    New Zealand

  • 2008 Awarded the 30th Okinawa Bunka Kyokai prize (Kinjo Choei award) for research on Ryukyuan dialect


Deputy Head of School (Academic)

Committees/Professional groups/Services

  • 2015-2018 Editorial board member, Journal of the English Linguistic Society of Japan
  • 2010-2022 Editorial board member, Journal of the Phonetic Society of Japan

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

  • Lawrence, W. P. (2019). 竹富島方言アクセント (2) [Taketomi dialect accent (2)]. 琉球の方言 (43), 97-129.
  • Lawrence, W. P. (2018). 沖縄北部瀬底方言の音調体系再考 [A reanalysis of the Sesoko dialect (Nthn Okinawan) tonal system]. 國學院雑誌 [Kokugakuin zasshi], 119 (11), 205-216.
  • Lawrence, W. P. (2018). 湯湾方言の音調型の所属語彙資料 [The tonal classification of vocabulary in the Yuwan dialect]. 琉球の方言 [Ryuukyuu-no hougen], 42, 121-135.
  • Lawrence, W. P. (2017). Michinori Shimoji: A Grammar of Irabu [Book review]. International Journal of Okinawan Studies, 8, 55-60. Related URL.
  • Lawrence, W. P. (2016). Designing an introductory Classical Japanese course: Rationales and application. In M. Ogino, P. Shino, D. Nesbitt (Eds.) Creating new synergies : approaches of tertiary Japanese programmes in New Zealand (pp. 266-282). Auckland, New Zealand: Massey University Press.
  • Lawrence, W. P. (2016). Historical reanalysis in the Nakijin dialect noun accentuation system. Cahiers de linguistique asie orientale: East Asian Languages and Linguistics, 45 (1), 1-25. 10.1163/19606028-00451p01
  • Lawrence, W. P. (2015). 「徳之島浅間方言の名詞音調について二題 ―高起音調と指小語形の音調―」[Two topics on Asama dialect (Tokunoshima) noun tonology: The prosody of High-beginning words and diminutive prosody]. 琉球の方言 Ryukyu Dialect (40), 1-17. Related URL.
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/2292/29129
  • Lawrence, W. P. (2015). Lexicon. In P. Heinrich, S. Miyara, M. Shimoji (Eds.) Handbook of the Ryukyuan Languages: History, Structure, and Use (pp. 157-173). Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton. 10.1515/9781614511151.157


Contact details

Office hours

Mondays 2:00 - 3:00

Thursdays 11:00 - 11:55

Primary office location

ARTS 2 - Bldg 207
Level 4, Room 436
New Zealand

Web links