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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: Towards a Comparative Typology of Emphatics: Across Semitic and into Arabic dialect phonology Add Dissertation
Author: Alex Bellem Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 2007
Linguistic Subfield(s): Historical Linguistics; Linguistic Theories; Phonetics; Phonology; Sociolinguistics; Typology;
Subject Language(s): Arabic, Standard
Language Family(ies): Semitic
Director(s): Monik Charette

Abstract: This thesis investigates the role of emphatics within the Semitic sound
system as the basis for a typology of Semitic emphatics.

In seeking to define the term ‘emphatic’, since emphatics are realised in
some Semitic languages as ejectives, and in others as ‘pharyngealised’, or
‘backed’, the phonetic aspects of both are investigated. I present acoustic
analyses of Tigrinya and Arabic (Peninsula Arabian and Iraqi) emphatics,
paying particular attention to perceptual salience. Firstly, the notions of
‘noise-lag’ and ‘stop-lag’ are discussed and exemplified in relation to
ejectives; secondly, I present and evaluate analyses of VOT in Arabic,
showing that there is dialectal variation in the voicing series (i.e.
two-way vs three-way). Further to this, I discuss the phonological
composition of the various emphatics and gutturals, proposing structural
representations broadly within an element-theoretic framework.

I then take a diachronic angle, looking at Proto-Semitic and the
development of the sound systems of the Semitic languages, in particular
the Semitic triads, and the development of ‘backed’ emphatics as a product
of changing sound systems. I argue that Proto-Semitic laterals were not
part of the ‘triad’ system and that the voiced lateral fricative was
‘backed’. The emphatic trajectory hypothesis is evaluated and theoretically
contextualised, and I show that dialectal variation in the voicing series
of Arabic is relevant to the variant phonological systems of the dialect
types discussed.

A preliminary comparative investigation into Arabic dialect sound systems
is then presented. I discuss dialect classification and detail a set of key
variables for each dialect group. The thesis then discusses the issue of
‘emphasis spread’, analysing data from four different dialect types. The
data is discussed in terms of sound systems, and the traditional analysis
of ‘emphasis spread’ is disputed. I show how the various sound systems of
Arabic are characterised by resonance patterns, which are a crucial part of
what is normally taken to be ‘emphasis spread’, and that there is an active
process of ‘fronting’ (imala) which is crucial to an analysis of ‘emphasis’

The thesis concludes with an evaluation of the research, stressing the need
for systematic and consistent cross-dialectal analyses of both the
phonetics and the phonology of Semitic emphatics. I outline how I aim to
use this in future work to develop a comprehensive comparative typology,
towards which this thesis is a preliminary contribution.