Hejazi Arabic phonology

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The phonological system of the Hejazi Arabic consists of approximately 28 consonant phonemes of which two (/θ, ð/) are partially used by a number of speakers, and 8 vowel phonemes /a, u, i, aː, uː, oː, iː, eː/, in addition to 2 diphthongs /aw, aj/.[1][2] Consonant length and Vowel length are both distinctive in Hejazi.

Strictly speaking, there are two main groups of dialects spoken in the Hejaz region,[3] one by the urban population حَضَرْ originally spoken in the major cities of Jeddah, Medina, Mecca and Ta'if who constitute the majority, and another by the bedouin or rural populations. However, the term most often applies to the urban variety which is discussed in this article.

  • phonemes will be (written inside slashes / /) and allophones (written inside brackets [ ]).

Consonants[edit]

Hejazi consonant inventory mostly depends on the speaker, urban speakers use 26 with no interdental phonemes or 28 phonemes with the phonemes /θ/ث⟩ and /ð/ذ⟩ being used partially and mostly by younger speakers due to the influence of Modern Standard Arabic and neighboring dialects. In general, Hejazi speakers pronounce ⟨ظ⟩ as /zˤ/ or merge it with /dˤ/ depending on the word, the classicized [ðˤ] is an optional allophone for ⟨ظ⟩, as it is always used when pronouncing the letter's name ([ˈðˤaːʔ]), and when reading or speaking Standard or Classical Arabic. On the other hand rural or Bedouin speakers use 27 consonant phonemes completely merging the phoneme /dˤ/ ⟨ض⟩ with /ðˤ/ ⟨ظ⟩.

A notable feature of Hejazi and many Arabic dialects is the pronunciation of ⟨ق⟩ as a voiced velar stop /ɡ/ (instead of the classical /q/) which Ibn Khaldun, described that it might have been the Old Arabic pronunciation of the letter, and he even described that Quraysh and the Islamic prophet Muhammad may have had the /g/ pronunciation,[4] but due to the influence of Modern Standard Arabic the [q] has been introduced as an allophone of /ɡ/ق⟩ in few words and phrases as in القرآن /algurˈʔaːn/ ('Quran') which can be pronounced as [alqʊrˈʔaːn] or [algʊrˈʔaːn].[5]

Consonant phonemes of Hejazi (urban)
Labial Dental Denti-alveolar Palatal Velar Pharyngeal Glottal
 plain  emphatic
Nasal m n
Occlusive voiceless (p) t k ʔ
voiced b d d͡ʒ ɡ
Fricative voiceless f θ s ʃ x ħ h
voiced (v) ð z ɣ ʕ
Trill r
Approximant l (ɫ) j w

Phonetic notes:

  • the marginal phoneme /ɫ/ only occurs in the word الله /aɫːaːh/ ('god') and words derived from it,[6] it contrasts with /l/ in والله /waɫːa/ ('i swear') vs. ولَّا /walːa/ ('or').
  • the phonemes /d͡ʒ/ج⟩ and the trill /r/ر⟩ are realised as a [ʒ] and a tap [ɾ] respectively by a number of speakers or in a number of words.
  • the phonemes /ɣ/غ⟩ and /x/خ⟩ can be realised as uvular fricatives [ʁ] and [χ] in few instances.
  • the reintroduced phoneme /θ/ث⟩ is partially used as an alternative phoneme, while most speakers merge it with /t/ or /s/ depending on the word.
  • the reintroduced phoneme /ð/ذ⟩ is partially used as an alternative phoneme, while most speakers merge it with /d/ or /z/ depending on the word.
  • /n/ن⟩ has the velar allophone [ŋ], which occurs before velar consonants ⟨ق ,ك/k, ɡ/ as in انكب [aŋkab] ('it spilled') and مِنقَل [mɪŋɡal] ('brazier').
  • the phonemes /p/پ⟩ and /v/ڤ⟩ which exist only in foreign words, are used by a number of speakers and can be substituted by /b/ب⟩ and /f/ف⟩ respectively depending on the speaker.
  • /tʃ/ occurs only in foreign words and it is not considered to be part of the phonemic inventory but as a sequence of /t/ت⟩ and /ʃ/ش⟩, as in تشيلي /ˈtʃiːli/ or /tʃiːleː/ ('Chile').

Illustrative words[edit]

Example words for consonant phonemes in Hejazi
Phoneme Example Phoneme Example
/m/ /mahar/ مهر 'Mahr' /n/ /nahar/ نهر 'river'
/l/ /laħma/ لحمة 'meat' /r/ /raħma/ رحمة 'mercy'
/f/ /farg/ فرق 'difference' /b/ /barg/ برق 'lightning'
/θ/1 /θarwa/ ثروة 'wealth' /ð/1 /ðarwa/ ذروة 'climax'
/t/ /tiːn/ تين 'fig' /d/ /diːn/ دين 'religion'
/tˤ/ /tˤaːr/ طار 'he flew' /dˤ/ /dˤaːr/ ضار 'harmful'
/sˤ/ /sˤarf/ صرف 'expenditure' /zˤ/ /zˤarf/2 ظرف 'envelope'
/s/ /sirː/ سر 'secret' /z/ /zirː/ زر 'button'
/ʃ/ /ʃarː/ شر 'evil' /d͡ʒ/ /d͡ʒarː/ جر 'he pulled'
/k/ /kaʃː/ كش 'he shrank' /ɡ/ /gaʃː/ قش 'hay'
/x/ /xeːma/ خيمة 'tent' /ɣ/ /ɣeːma/ غيمة 'cloud'
/ħ/ /ħama/ حمى 'he protected' /ʕ/ /ʕama/ عمى 'blindness'
/h/ /hams/ همس 'whisper' /ʔ/ /ʔams/ أمس 'yesterday'
/j/ /jaraga/3 يرقة 'caterpillar' /w/ /waraga/ ورقة 'paper'
/p/4 /pinkbeːri/ پنكبيري 'Pinkberry' /v/4 /veːrd͡ʒin/ ڤيرجن 'Virgin'
1 for most speakers /ð/ and /θ/ are mainly used in classical words, or when trying to speak with a standardized tone. /ð/ can be substituted by /d/ or /z/ depending on the word and the speaker, and likewise /θ/ can be substituted by /t/ or /s/.
2 pronounced [arf] or [ðˤarf].
3 pronounced [jaraga] or [jaraqa].
4 /p/ and /v/ occur only in loanwords and can be substituted by /b/ and /f/ respectively depending on the speaker.

Dental assimination[edit]

Grapheme ث ذ ظ ض Notes
Hejazi Dialects Urban /t/ /θ/ /s/ /d/ /z/ /ð/ /dˤ/ /zˤ/ [ðˤ] /dˤ/ The merger between /θ/ and /s/ is more likely to never occur, unlike other mergers
Rural /θ/ /ð/ /ðˤ/ /dˤ/ & /ðˤ/ completely merge into /ðˤ/ in rural accents

For urban Hejazi speakers the Classical Arabic phoneme /ðˤ/ظ⟩ had a partial merger with /dˤ/ض⟩ in some words like ظلام /dˤalaːm/ and ظفر /dˤifir/, while it is still pronounced distinctly as /zˤ/ in others, like ظلم /zˤulm/ and ظاهرة /zˤaːhra/, this partial merger with ⟨ض⟩ lead to some homophones that did not exist in Classical Arabic e.g. تظليل 'dimming' and تضليل 'mislead' both pronounced /tadˤliːl/, it is also worth noting that the classical [ðˤ] is still an optional allophone for ⟨ظ⟩. In contrast /dˤ/ض⟩ is always pronounced as a /dˤ/ except in words derived from the two trilateral roots ⟨ض ب ط⟩ and ⟨ض ر ط⟩ in which it's pronounced /zˤ/. On the other hand rural Hejazi speakers have a complete merger of the phonemes /ðˤ/ and /dˤ/ where both are pronounced /ðˤ/.

Most urban Hejazi speakers merge the phoneme /ð/ذ⟩ mostly with /d/ or with /z/ depending on the word, while most words have only one merger or the other, some words have two optional mergers e.g. كذب /kiðib/ might be pronounced as /kidib/ for some speakers or /kizib/ for others. The other dental phoneme /θ/ث⟩ also merges mostly with /t/ or rarely /s/ depending on the word, e.g. ثور /θoːr/ is pronounced /toːr/, these mergers completely depend on the speakers themselves, for example many might refrain from the usage of /s/ as a pronunciation for ⟨ث⟩ and only merge /θ/ with /t/ in most words while keeping it /θ/ in others, this phenomenon might be due to the influence of Modern Standard Arabic and neighboring dialects.

When speaking or reading Modern Standard Arabic, all Hejazi speakers would not merge any of the phonemes and would pronounce each phoneme distinctly according to its classical phonemic status, and any mergers in those situations are completely stigmatized, while most rural Hejazi, Najdi and other Gulf Arabic speakers tend to completely merge /dˤ/ with /ðˤ/ even when speaking or reading Modern Standard Arabic.

While many speakers keep the same Classical Arabic spelling of the words some might change the spelling according to their pronunciation so ثور becomes تور.

Vowels[edit]

Hejazi has eight vowel phonemes:[7][8] three short /a/, /u/, /i/ and five long /aː/, /uː/, /oː/, /iː/ and /eː/, with length as a distinctive feature, and two diphthongs /aw/ and /aj/. Unlike other Arabic dialects, Hejazi did not develop allophones for the vowels /a/ and /aː/ in the vicinity of emphatic consonants, and they are always pronounced as an open front [a] or open central [ä] depending on the speaker, and retains most of the long and short vowels of Classical Arabic with no vowel reduction, though in a few number of foreign words the long /aː/ is optionally pronounced [ɑː].

The main phonological feature that differentiate urban Hejazi from the neighboring urban and rural dialects of the Arabian peninsula, is the constant use of full vowels and the absence of vowel reduction, for example قلت لك 'I told you' (to a female), is pronounced [gʊltalːɪk] or [gʊltalɪk] in Hejazi with full vowels but pronounced with the reduced vowel [ə] as [gəltələk] or [gəltələt͡s] in Najdi or [gəltələt͡ʃ] in most other dialects in the Gulf region.

The pronunciation of word initial and medial /u/ and /i/ depends on the nature of the surrounding consonants, whether the syllable is stressed or unstressed, and on the accent of the speaker, and speech rate. As a general rule, word initial or medial /u/ is pronounced [ʊ] or [], but strictly as an [u] at the end of the word or before /w/ (as in هُوَّ [huwːa]), while word initial or medial /i/ is pronounced [ɪ] or [], and strictly as an [i] at the end of the word or before /j/ (as in هِيَّ [hijːa]), though this free variation in allophones is not found among all speakers of Hejazi.

Most of the occurrences of the two diphthongs /aj/ and /aw/ in the Classical Arabic period underwent monophthongization in Hejazi, and are realized as the long vowels /eː/ and /oː/ respectively, but they are still preserved as diphthongs in a number of words which created a contrast with other monophthongized words with /oː/ and /eː/, as in صوتي /sˁawti/ 'acoustic' vs. صوتي /sˁti/ 'my voice' (both pronounced /sˁawti/ in Modern Standard Arabic). Not all instances of mid vowels are a result of monophthongization, some are from grammatical processes قالوا /gaːlu/ 'they said' → قالوا لها /gaːllaha/ 'they said to her' (opposed to Classical Arabic قالوا لها /qaːl lahaː/), and some occur in modern Portmanteau words e.g. ليش /leːʃ/ 'why?' (from Classical Arabic لأي /liʔaj/ 'for what' and شيء /ʃajʔ/ 'thing').

Hejazi Arabic vowel chart, from Abdoh (2010:84)
Vowel phonemes of Hejazi
Short Long
Front Back Front Back
Close i u
Mid
Open a

Phonetic notes:

  • /a/ and /aː/ are pronounced either as an open front vowel [a] or an open central vowel [ä] depending on the speaker.
  • /oː/ and /eː/ are pronounced as true mid vowels [o̞ː] and [e̞ː] respectively.
  • /u/ is pronounced allophonically as [ʊ] or [] in word initial or medial syllables and strictly as [u] at the end of words or before [w] or when isolate.
  • /i/ is pronounced allophonically as [ɪ] or [] in word initial or medial syllables and strictly as [i] at the end of words or before [j] or when isolate.
  • [ɑː] is an optional allophone for /aː/ in some words such as ألمانيا [almɑːnja] ('Germany') and يابان [jaːbɑːn] ('Japan').
Example words for vowel phonemes
Phoneme Allophones Position in the word Example Phonemic Phonetic Meaning
/a/ [a] or [ä] all فَم famm /ˈfamː/ [ˈfam] or [ˈfäm] 'mouth'
/u/ [u] final or before [w] or isolate ربو rabu /ˈrabu/ [ˈrabu] 'asthma'
[ʊ]~[] initial or medial حُب ħubb /ˈħubː/ [ˈħʊb]~[ˈħo̞b] 'love'
/i/ [i] final or before [j] or isolate لوني lōni /ˈloːni/ [ˈlo̞ːni] 'my color'
[ɪ]~[] initial or medial طِب ibb /ˈtˤibː/ [ˈtˤɪb]~[ˈtˤe̞b] 'medicine'
/aː/ [] or [äː] all فاز fāz /ˈfz/ [ˈfaːz] or [ˈfäːz] 'he won'
/uː/ [] فوز fūz /ˈfz/ [ˈfuːz] 'win!' (Imperative)
/oː/ [o̞ː] فوز fōz /ˈfz/ [ˈfo̞ːz] 'victory'
/iː/ [] دين dīn /ˈdn/ [ˈd̪iːn] 'religion'
/eː/ [e̞ː] دين dēn /ˈdn/ [ˈd̪e̞ːn] 'debt'

Phonological processes[edit]

The linking conjunction و ('and') pronounced [u] is often linked with the consonant (before it) or the vowel (before or after it) or for emphasis only left as it is :-

  • ِانا و إنتِ /ana u inti/ ('me and you') is either pronounced as [anaw e̞nti] where the [u] connected to the vowel before it or pronounced as [ana wɪnti] where the [u] connected to the vowel after it or left as it is for emphasis [ana u e̞nti].
  • واحد و خمسين /waːħid u xamsiːn/ ('fifty one') is either pronounced [waːħe̞du xamsiːn] or for emphasis [waːħe̞d u xamsiːn].
  • خمسة و سبعين /xamsa u sabʕiːn/ ('seventy five') is either pronounced [xamsaw sabʕiːn] or for emphasis [xamsa u sabʕiːn].

References[edit]

  1. ^ Abdoh (2010:84)
  2. ^ Omar (1975:xv)
  3. ^ Alzaidi (2014:73)
  4. ^ Heinrichs, Wolfhart. "Ibn Khaldūn as a Historical Linguist with an Excursus on the Question of Ancient gāf". Harvard University.
  5. ^ Abdoh (2010:83)
  6. ^ Watson (2002:16)
  7. ^ Abdoh (2010:84)
  8. ^ Omar (1975:xv)

Bibliography[edit]