Date of Award

August 2018

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Linguistics

First Advisor

ANNE PYCHA

Committee Members

GARRY DAVIS, FRED ECKMAN, HAMID OUALI

Keywords

NAJDI ARABIC, OPTIMALITY THEORY, OPTIONALITY, PHONOLOGY, PSYCHOLINGUISTIC, SEMISYLLABLES

Abstract

Final consonants in Arabic are semisyllables; that is, moraic unsyllabified segments that are attached to the prosodic word (Kiparsky, 2003). If this is the case, optional vowel epenthesis in Najdi Arabic final clusters cannot be attributed to violations of the Sonority Sequencing Principle, because sonority restrictions apply within syllables only. In a new perspective, this dissertation argues that the existence of vowel epenthesis in Najdi coda clusters that have rising sonority, and its absence in clusters that have a falling sonority, are instead due to violations of the Syllable Contact Law (SCL), where sonority must drop between syllable codas and the following onset. It specifically argues that SCL is further divided into two sub-constraints where it not only applies across two syllables (SCL-SYLL), but also across syllables and the following unsyllabified semisyllable (SCL-SEMI). The new constraint SCL-SEMI is shown to be operative in other languages and dialects of Arabic, as well, including German, Slovak, English and Jordanian Arabic. Optionality of vowel epenthesis when words are produced in isolation vs. followed by a vowel-initial suffix is accounted for by adopting the Reversible Ranking Strategy introduced by Lee (2001) where the two constraints DEP-IO and SCL-SEMI are reversed following this ranking: *CCC, MAX-IO, ONSET >> ALIGNR>> DEP-IO, SCL-SEMI >> SCL-SYLL, *CXCOD. In addition, a psycholinguistic study is conducted to test the perception and production of ten Najdi speakers to observe whether they epenthesized a vowel into nonsense words with final rising-sonority clusters. It also investigates the generalizability of the semisyllable consistutent, by asking whether Najdi listeners will assign semisyllable status to any unsyllabifiable consonant, even those occurring in nonsense words. Results show that most participants apply their preferred vowel epenthesis pattern to nonesense words, which reflects their implicit knowledge of this pattern. Results also show a harmony effect where inserted vowels copy stem vowels.

Available for download on Thursday, February 28, 2019

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