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Arabic (Bedouin)

(West and Southwest of Medina; Afro-Asiatic, Semitic)

Summary:
A preconsonantal guttural consonant metathesizes with a preceding low vowel in the CVCCVC verbal pattern.
Examples:
The present perfective generally has the structure CVCCVC as in the forms, 'he drinks', 'you write', 'we swim', shown on the left just below. However, the structure is instead CCVCVC when the second consonant is guttural and the preceding vowel is low. This is shown in the second column in the table below. If these forms followed the general pattern, illustrated in the leftmost column, we would expect the forms in the fourth column (the ill-formedness of these forms is indicated by an asterisk). (Al-Mozainy 1981, Al-Mozainy, Bley-Vroman & McCarthy 1985). In such cases, it can be assumed that the guttural consonant metathesizes with a preceding vowel, thus surfacing in prevocalic position, i.e. /yakhum/ -> [yhakum].

yaSr'ab
'he drinks’
yh'akum
*yah'kum
'he rules’
taktib
'you write’
t¿arif
*ta¿rif
'she knows’
nasbah'
'we swim’
nxat'uf
*naxt'uf
'we snatch’
Conditions:
The guttural consonant needs to (a) follow a low vowel, and (b) precede another consonant.
Motivation:
Acoustic and Auditory Similarity (Hume 1997, 1998): The contiguity of a consonant to a vowel with similar perceptual cues is one a motivating factor of Bedouin Arabic metathesis.

Perceptual Enhancement (Hume 1997): Compressed duration in word-medial position, in conjunction with insufficient spectral change resulting from contiguity to a preceding low vowel contributes to the vulnerability of the guttural consonant (Beckman & Edwards 1990, Wright 1996). By metathesizing the guttural consonant with the preceding low vowel, the guttural consonant is positioned in prevocalic position where its place cues are more salient given a more abrupt spectral change typically associated with this context .
Related Information:
Contiguity of a guttural consonant to a low vowel in coda position is not ruled out categorically; a guttural can occur in absolute word-final position, e.g. nasbah' ‘we swim’.

Hume (1997) suggests an account in line with the perceptual cue-based analyses , drawing on the observations of Beckman & Edwards (1990) concerning word-final lengthening. Segments in word-final position are generally longer than those in word-medial position, with lengthening being even more pronounced at the end of an intonational phrase. Along these lines, it is reasonable to assume that the perceptual cues to the guttural’s place in Bedouin Arabic are more salient in word-final position than in postvocalic, preconsonantal position, given the possibility of greater length.
Symbols:
S = voiceless alveo-palatal fricative
¿ = voiced pharyngeal fricative
r' = emphatic 'r'
h' = emphatic 'h'
t' = voiceless alveolar emphatic stop

Last Updated: 6/20/2007
References:
eliabeth hume's home page | OSU Linguistics home page