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Why is 味わわせる often pronounced as 味あわせる? What makes the former form unnatural, and what is the mechanism that changes it to the latter form? In the first place, what it the -waw- attached to aji (besides the obvious answer that it is an affix that derives a verb)? Are there other words (inside or outside of Japanese) that follow the same phonological pattern?

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Does it have anything to do with the causative せる? I guess that those who say 味あわせる also say 味あう, and also that the same people use 賑あう instead of 賑わう. (But this does not answer why this phenomenon happens.) –  Tsuyoshi Ito Feb 25 '12 at 2:50
    
@TsuyoshiIto Thanks for the examples. –  sawa Feb 25 '12 at 4:59

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Why is 味わわせる often pronounced as 味あわせる?

I can only speculate that this is a kind of onbin to ease pronunciation. The two medial approximates /w/ are only separated by a vowel. Approximates, also known as semi-vowels, share some similarities with vowels. The reduction of one in rapid speech is small while still understandable. The reduction of the first rather than the second is similar to baai <> bawai, which tries to avoid repeating the same vowel twice.

What makes the former form unnatural, and what is the mechanism that changes it to the latter form?

I would not say that the former is necessarily unnatural. Rather that in spoken language the former takes more effort to say and as such sounds stiff or formal. See above for speculation for the mechanism.

If the first place, what it the -waw- attached to aji (besides the obvious answer that it is an affix that derives a verb)?

As you already said, it is just an affix that attaches to nouns to derive verbs. Etymologically it is suggested to be 這う・延う, but evidence is minimal. There are both yodan and shimo nidan versions.

Are there other words (inside or outside of Japanese) that follow the same phonological pattern?

If you are asking for other words with the same affix waw-, then yes.

  • tiwa[w]-u
  • nigiwa[w]-u
  • sakiwa[w]-u (and saiwa[w]-u)

And then there is the nominal forms (cf ajiwai), though the corresponding verbal forms do not seem to exist:

  • nariwai
  • urawai
  • kusawai

These are more verbal than affix, but for reference, there is also:

  • haraba[w]-u
  • neba[w]-u
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Very nice answer. Glad that new people with high standards are coming in. –  sawa Feb 25 '12 at 4:58

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