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Dissertation Information

Title: Place Assimilation in Arabic: Contrasts, features, and constraints Add Dissertation
Author: Islam Youssef Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Tromsø - The Arctic University of Norway, Center for Advanced Study in Theoretical Linguistics
Completed in: 2013
Linguistic Subfield(s): Phonology;
Subject Language(s): Arabic, Mesopotamian
Arabic, Egyptian
Language Family(ies): Semitic
Director(s): Martin Krämer
Bruce Morén-Duolljá

Abstract: This thesis provides evidence from Cairene and Baghdadi Arabic that
sub-segmental representations depend on the patterns of contrast and
phonological activity in a given language. I investigate every process of
place assimilation in these two varieties, and show that the analysis of an
individual phenomenon must be congruent with that of the overall sound
system. In the analysis, phonological features are treated as abstract
(substance-free) categories that 'emerge' to the learner from the
language's surface patterns; that is to say, they are neither universal nor
genetically pre-determined. This stems from the belief that phonology and
phonetics are two independent domains, though resembling each other in
obvious ways. The empirical contribution of the thesis is to provide
in-depth descriptions of all instances of place assimilation in these two
varieties of Arabic, based on an extensive amount of first-hand data. These
data are presented and carefully examined, uncovering new and interesting
facts about the patterns, and also holding implications for the wider
context of Arabic dialectology. The theoretical contribution is two-fold.
First, the thesis offers new solutions to a number of representational and
computational challenges in the analysis of place assimilation. Second, it
offers an exposition and implementation of a recently developed
comprehensive theory of feature geometry—the Parallel Structures Model.
This model provides a minimalist and coherent account of consonant-vowel
interactions within a unified analysis of the complete sound system.
Moreover, the treatment of phonological representations within the model
makes it compatible with a constraint-based theory of computation.