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The study aims to 1) identify the word formation processes in Japanese early childhood vocabulary, 2) investigate the tendency of certain word formation processes to co-occur with particular semantic domains, and 3) analyse the way socio-cultural factors are reflected in Japanese early childhood vocabulary. Data were elicited from Tomosada’s (1997) Zenkoku youjigo jiten [Dictionary of Early Childhood Vocabulary around the Country]. A total of 281 vocabulary items were categorised into 22 semantic domains. Word formation processes, the tendency of occurrence of word formation processes in each semantic domain, and socio-cultural attributes were also analysed. The findings showed seven word formation processes in Japanese early childhood vocabulary. They are ranked from highest to lowest as follows: reduplication, onomatopoeia, sound change, morphemic adaptation (affixation, substitution and omission), conversion, compounding, and borrowing. The study also revealed a co-occurrence tendency between word formation processes and semantic domains. The analysis of socio-cultural reflections indicates that Japanese use of early childhood vocabulary enhances children’s comprehension and facilitates communication. In addition, it was found that the values being fostered in Japanese children include a sense of respect and politeness to surrounding non-human entities, personification of non-human entities, perception of young children’s small objects as being cute, and close and harmonious relationships between children and their family members. Other aspects of Japanese culture; for example, food, clothing, toys, are reflected in early childhood vocabulary as well.
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