Syllables and Stress Assignment in Najdi Arabic

Alwaleed A. Alsuhaibani


The purpose of this paper is to present a detailed and unified analysis of word stress in Najdi Arabic (NA), a variety of Arabic spoken in Najd, located in the central region of Saudi Arabia. Regular stress, seemingly exceptional cases, and also variations within NA itself are all accounted for in a simple and straightforward manner. The proposed analysis is based on two principles. First, unlike previous studies that employ a three-way weight distinction between light, heavy, and superheavy syllables, a binary weight distinction between light (monomoraic) C(C)v; and heavy (bimoraic) C(C)vX(C) is proposed, where “X” is either a vowel or a consonant. Second, word-final consonants are crucially assumed to be “extrasyllabic”. The stress algorithm is constrained so that stress may fall on one of the last three syllables of a word, as follows: Stress the rightmost heavy syllable if and only if it is one of the word’s last three syllables; otherwise stress the antepenultimate syllable (initial syllable in disyllabic words). Variations within NA and seemingly exceptional cases are accounted for by the fact that stress assignment applies earlier in the derivation before the application of any other phonological processes that subsequently alter the shape of the word.

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