The Phonology of the Definite Determiners in Yemeni Tihami Arabic


  • Mohammed J. Al-Ariqy University of Utah



definite determiners, Tihami Arabic, initial gemintes, OCP-LABIAL, Optionality


This paper analyzes the phonology of the definite determiner (DET) of two Yemeni Tihami Arabic dialects. The underlying Det for one dialect (the b-dialect) is /b-/: [θoor] ‘ox’- [b-θoor] ‘the ox’, and /m/ for another dialect (the OCP m-dialect): [m-θoor] ‘the ox’. Although the determiner is underlyingly different in both dialects, it fully assimilates to the following word-initial consonant if it is labial, creating a word-initial geminate. On the surface, the onset geminate behaves differently in both dialects. I present an analysis that treats them the same except for their underlying representation and the ranking of two constraints. Both dialects present further complications involving these onset geminates. In the OCP m-dialect, labial assimilation is always optional, and if the word-initial syllable is light, as in /firag/ ‘teams’, gemination is optional ([f-firag] ~ [m-firag]), but if it is heavy, gemination is resolved by epenthesis: /m-fiiraan/ → [ʔaf.fii.raan] ‘the mice’. This is explained if we assume all geminates, even word-initial ones, are moraic: in that case, epenthesis is compelled by a ban on extra-heavy syllables. In the b-dialect, labial assimilation is obligatory because of a high-ranking Ocp-Lab. However, gemination in heavy syllables is only optional: [f-faanuus] ~ [ʔif.faa.nuus], ‘the lantern’.






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