• Aseel Almuhaimeed

Student thesis: Phd


Among the phonemic features of Semitic languages, emphasis (pharyngealization, velarisation or uvularisation), a secondary articulation in the posterior vocal tract, is an indisputably distinctive phenomenon in most modern Arabic dialects. Due to its prevalence, emphasis has become one of the most intriguing and discussed phenomena in numerous Arabic studies. Nonetheless, upon comparing these descriptive studies, it appears that there is no consensus regarding the nature of emphasis and its influence on neighbouring vowels. Therefore, this study aims to examine emphasis in Najdi Arabic (NA) from phonetic and phonological perspectives. To begin with, this study illuminates the acoustic characteristics of the emphatics in NA and the phonemic opposition between emphatic segments and their plain counterparts. Several acoustic parameters were examined, including voice onset time (VOT), the closure duration of voiceless stops, the friction noise durations of fricatives, the duration of adjacent vowels and the frequency of their formants in the onset, midpoint and offset positions (F1–F3). Overall, the results indicate that emphatic vowels are characterised by a decrease in F2 when compared to plain vowels. The results of this study also indicate that the VOT and closure duration are reliable acoustic correlates of emphasis, particularly for voiceless stops whose emphatic VOTs are shorter than the ones in plain environments, while the closure durations are significantly longer in emphatic environments than those in plain environments. The vowels formant frequencies F1 and F3, noise duration of the fricatives and the vowel duration, however, are not reliable acoustic cues of emphasis. The present study also elucidates the phonological behaviour of emphasis spread in NA. The observed variations of F2 lowering suggest a three-way system in which emphasis can spread categorically, gradiently or not at all. Regarding the domain in which the emphasis spread applies, the results show that emphasis extends beyond the domain of the immediate surroundings and affects all other syllables within the phonological word, regardless of the emphatic position in the word (initial, medial or final). The results indicate that emphasis does not involve one direction having absolute predominance over the other, but rather that the emphasis spreads throughout the entire word in both directions (to the right and the left). The findings also imply that the emphasis domain can extend over other syllables across the morpheme boundary, affecting both prefixes and suffixes. Moreover, there is no directional asymmetry involved in the process in which the emphasis spread in NA is bounded in both directions. Specifically, there is a set of segments—/i(ː), u(ː), j, ʃ, dʒ, ɡ, k, q/—that appear to impede the emphasis spread. Interestingly, NA exhibits some differences concerning these opaque segments. For instance, the results demonstrate that the phonemes /i(ː), u(ː), j, ʃ, dʒ/ always block further spreading of emphasis, whereas /ɡ, k, q/ are inconsistent since they act as blockers in some cases and undergoers in others. Moreover, one of the blockers reported in previous studies, the [+ high] phoneme /w/, is emphasised in NA, as it fails to block the emphasis spread in both bisyllabic and trisyllabic words.
Date of Award1 Aug 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorPatrycja Strycharczuk (Supervisor) & Wendell Kimper (Supervisor)

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