Place Assimilation in Arabic: Contrasts, Features, and Constraints
Author: Youssef, Islam Date: 2013 Institution: University of Troms Subject:Linguistics
Abstract: This thesis provides evidence from Cairene and Baghdadi Arabic that sub-segmental representations depend on the patterns of contrast and phonological activity in a given language. I investigate every process of place assimilation in these two varieties, and show that the analysis of an individual phenomenon must be congruent with that of the overall sound system. In the analysis, phonological features are treated as abstract (substance-free) categories that “emerge” to the learner from the language’s surface patterns; that is to say, they are neither universal nor genetically pre-determined. This stems from the belief that phonology and phonetics are two independent domains, though resembling each other in obvious ways. The empirical contribution of the thesis is to provide in-depth descriptions of all instances of place assimilation in these two varieties of Arabic, based on an extensive amount of first-hand data. These data are presented and carefully examined, uncovering new and interesting facts about the patterns, and also holding implications for the wider context of Arabic dialectology. The theoretical contribution is two-fold. First, the thesis offers new solutions to a number of representational and computational challenges in the analysis of place assimilation. Second, it offers an exposition and implementation of a recently developed comprehensive theory of feature geometry—the Parallel Structures Model. This model provides a minimalist and coherent account of consonant-vowel interactions within a unified analysis of the complete sound system. Moreover, the treatment of phonological representations within the model makes it compatible with a constraint-based theory of computation.