Arabic phonology

Authored by: Eiman Mustafawi

The Routledge Handbook of Arabic Linguistics

Print publication date:  January  2018
Online publication date:  December  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138783331
eBook ISBN: 9781315147062
Adobe ISBN:


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In this chapter, a general description and discussion of the phonology of Arabic is presented. First, the sound system of Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is briefly discussed and compared to the sound system of Classical Arabic (CA) as described by CA grammarians. Differences, or possible differences, between the two are highlighted. The phonemic inventory of MSA is then compared to those of the other Arabic spoken varieties, conventionally classified into six main dialect groups from East to West: Gulf Arabic (GA), Iraqi Arabic (IA), Levantine Arabic (LA), Yemeni Arabic (YA), Egyptian Arabic (EA), and Maghrebi Arabic (MA). Comparisons among these varieties are drawn in terms of sound system, syllable structure, and stress patterns. Some sound alternations in different dialects are analyzed within an Obligatory Contour Principle (OCP)–driven framework. Additionally, processes such as assimilation, affrication, lenition, and pharyngealization are discussed. Occasionally, reference is made to specific dialects within the six major groups, and new data are presented from less-studied dialects.

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