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Title:An Optimality Theoretic Approach to Variable Consonantal Alternations in Qatari Arabic
Authors:Eiman Mustafawi
Abstract:This thesis investigates two variable phonological processes exhibited in Qatari Arabic (QA). One is the affrication of the velar stops [k] and [g] to [tS] and [dZ], a process that has been traditionally assumed to be triggered by adjacency to a front vowel. The other alternation concerns the lenition of /dZ/ to [j], taken to be phonetically unconditioned. Previous studies, however, recognize the existence of a large number of exceptions to these processes.

By reconsidering the data in the light of new advancements in phonological theory, affrication and lenition are analyzed as regular processes, and cases that were previously considered to be exceptions to affrication and lenition are accounted for. First I argue for the inclusion of the segments /g/ and /tS/, which are traditionally assumed to derive from an underlying /q/ and /k/, respectively, in the phonemic inventory of QA. I find that affrication can be triggered only by adjacency to [i(:)], to the exclusion of any other segment, within the stem. Also, affrication interacts with pharyngealization, a process that retracts/lowers vowels in a certain domain and removes the required context for affrication to apply. Lenition is argued not to be context-free, as it is blocked in coda position preceded by a non-low vowel, as well as in geminates. Exceptions to lenition are accounted for by employing the notion of prespecification/underspecification. Both processes are subject to OCP restrictions and paradigmatic effects.

Typologically, the current study adds QA to the small list of languages in which lenition of an obstruent to a glide applies. It also discusses a unique case of interaction between variation and paradigmatic effects, and it provides evidence for the necessity of the OP model (McCarthy, 2005) in addition to regular OO-faithfulness constraints. This study suggests that the OCP is a synchronically active constraint in Arabic which restricts segmental alternations, in addition to restricting static patterns of phonological representation.

The discussion is based on a large amount of data, systematically extracted from a local dictionary and complemented by additional forms provided by the author. The analysis is cast in an optimality theoretic (OT) framework (Prince & Smolensky, 2004), which holds that linguistic forms are the outcome of the interaction among violable universal constraints, and in OT's recent development into a model that accounts for linguistic variation.
Article:Version 1