Date of Award

May 2022

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Anne Pycha


This dissertation provides a theoretical analysis of the syllable structures and vowel processes in an understudied dialect, Southern Najdi Arabic (SNA). Using the dialect’s unique phonological characteristics, the analysis aims to contribute to a better understanding of the phonological representations of syllables and common processes in Arabic dialects and to shed light on some of the longstanding problems in the literature. Presented within the model of Optimality Theory (OT), the dissertation offers a unified account for syllabification patterns and related phenomena, such as vowel raising, syncope (high vowel deletion, trisyllabic elision, and feminine suffix vowel deletion), CV metathesis, epenthesis, and stress patterns. While this dialect resembles the neighboring Najdi and Bedouin dialects, it also shows differences not previously reported in the literature. These differences are highlighted in the greater tolerance of superheavy syllables in non-final position and special sonority requirements presented by a unique type of epenthesis. The dialect also appears to allow trimoraic syllables and shows distinct stress patterns. These differences are accounted for using metrical constraints in OT. Lastly, the dialect presents a great deal of opacity when two or more phonological phenomena co-occur. These issues are accounted for with Stratal OT, a constraint-based approach to the phonology-morphology interface.

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