Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Applied Linguistics

First Advisor

Baertsch, Karen


This paper offers a short report on an Optimality Theoretic analysis of the syllabification of single intervocalic consonants in the Arabic dialect of Sakaka city. This study aimed at investigating how intervocalic consonants of different sonority profiles are treated in the dialect of Sakaka City. Thirty monolingual male participants were recruited voluntarily in this study. Participants’ judgments were elicited using a metalinguistic word blending task with pairs of disyllabic nonwords of the structure ꞌCVCVC + ꞌCVCVC, where stress was on the first syllable only throughout the data. All phonemes involved in this structure are in conformity with Arabic phonotactics. In addition, the intervocalic consonants under examination belonged to four sonority levels; glides ([j] and [w]), liquids ([r] and [l]), nasals ([m] and [n]) and obstruents ([s] and [b]). The low vowel [a] was the only vowel used in this structure. Unlike many works of this nature, ambisyllabicity and word minimality effects were blocked in this complete word task. Although the investigation shed light on several important universal rules of syllabification, sonority profile of intervocalic consonants was the overriding preference in this blending task. That is, glides, liquids and nasals were parsed in coda position by the majority of participants whereas obstruents were parsed in onset position. However, the effects of other universal principles of syllabification such as Maximal Onset Principle and stress placement were minimized. The study concluded that the Split Margin Hierarchy adopted showed a strong preference for coda parse with high sonority consonants and onset parse with low sonority ones, thus adding further support to the abstractness of the syllable as a higher prosodic constituent and the discreteness of phonemes in the human speech stream.

Keywords: Arabic dialect, Sakaka city, Optimality Theory, intervocalic consonants, nonwords, ambisyllabicity, minimality effects, Split Margin Hierarchy, sonority, Maximal Onset Principle, stress, syllable, speech stream.




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