Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics

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Subject: Language and Linguistics

Managing Editors Online Edition: Lutz Edzard and Rudolf de Jong

The Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics Online comprehensively covers all aspects of Arabic languages and linguistics. It is interdisciplinary in scope and represents different schools and approaches in order to be as objective and versatile as possible. The Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics Online is cross-searchable and cross-referenced, and is equipped with a browsable index. All relevant fields in Arabic linguistics, both general and language specific are covered and the Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics Online includes topics from interdisciplinary fields, such as anthropology, psychology, sociology, philosophy, and computer science.

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(5,659 words)

Author(s): Salman H. Al-Ani
1. Introduction Phonetics is the science of describing the speech sounds of a language. The focus in the following description of Arabic speech sounds is on articulatory and acoustic phonetics. The phonetic characteristics of the vowels, consonants, and syllables of the Arabic language are introduced and described. A brief discussion of the vocal organs follows; these are responsible for the articulation of speech, which is produced by the pulmonic airflow that is transmitted from the lungs to the larynx and then to the oral tract. Literary Arabic ( al-fuṣḥā), with occasional and b…

Phonological Merger

(1,577 words)

Author(s): Enam Al-Wer
There are many debates as to the causation of mergers. Among the earliest proposals are those put forward by Martinet (1955), which stipulated that functional load was an important factor, such that phonemes with low functional load are likely to merge. The notion of ‘functional load’ refers to the relative importance of a distinction in the maintenance of a phonemic opposition. Although there is no agreed-upon way to measure functional load, it is usually determined by such factors as the number of minimal pairs that depend on the distinction, the extent to which the distinc…

Phonological Split

(1,331 words)

Author(s): Enam Al-Wer
The term ‘ split’ is sometimes also used in cases where no clear phonemic distinction occurs, i.e. where the phonological structure of the language is not affected by the sound change. In these cases the term ‘allophonic split’ is used, which refers to a conditioned sound split. In the majority of cases, allophonic split is a precursor to phonological split. The latter happens when the conditions that caused the original split are broken and the two sounds can then occur in the same environment; they thus stand in phonemic opposition to one another. A considerable number of phonological…


(5,464 words)

Author(s): Ellen Broselow
1. Definition Every language has a system for mapping meaning to sound. The phonology of a language defines the set of sounds that signal meaning in a language (its phonemes), as well as the principles for combining these sounds into syllables, morphemes, words, and phrases. Two sounds are said to be separate phonemes of a language, or in contrast, when the substitution of one sound for the other can signal a change in meaning. The set of phonemes varies across languages; for example, the contrast between /p/ and /b/ is significant in English (as in pat vs. bat), but not in Arabic. In addit…

Phonology: Metrical

(4,641 words)

Author(s): Bruno Paoli
1. General framework Metrical theory was founded by Liberman (1975) and elaborated on by Liberman and Prince (1977), Halle and Vergnaud (1978), Hayes (1980), and others as part of nonlinear phonology, in order to capture the hierarchical and rhythmical nature of stress in a representation of its own, in addition to the segmental matrix which contains other features. Although the theory has later been applied to other phonological phenomena, such as vowel harmony, syllable structure, deletion, and epenthesis, word stress remained the central domain of metrical phonology…


(2,837 words)

Author(s): Stefan A. Frisch
1. Definition Phonotactics are the patterns of co-occurrence and avoidance between phonological units in a syllable, word, or phrase. 2. Consonant co-occurrence in Arabic Arabic has phonotactic restrictions between consonants within the verbal roots that have played an important role in the development of phonological theory. Greenberg (1950) was the first systematic quantitative study of these patterns. However, Greenberg noted that these patterns of co-occurrence among consonants in the verbal roots were known to tra…


(3,219 words)

Author(s): Avihai Shivtiel
1. Introduction Phraseology (also ‘ idiomaticity’) is a branch of linguistics which deals with fixed combinations of words whose meaning cannot be deduced from the conjoined meanings of their components. Each combination is normally termed an ‘ idiom’, e.g. at sixes and sevens; to put up with; to kick the bucket. It is to be distinguished from cognate terms, such as ‘collocation’, i.e. a fixed combination whose components retain their literal meanings, e.g. economic sanctions; ‘compound’, i.e. a phrase consisting of two or more words, rendering a new meaning, e.g. breakfast; ‘ blend’ o…

Pidgin Arabic

(8 words)

see Ki-Nubi ; Juba Arabic

Pidgin Arabic: Bongor Arabic

(2,881 words)

Author(s): Xavier Luffin
1. General 1.1 Area Bongor Arabic, locally called árab aná bóngor, less often túrku or túrgu, is a pidginized form of Arabic that is spoken in southwestern Chad in the Mayo-Kebbi area, more specifically in Bongor, a city which is close to the border with Cameroon. Bongor Arabic is used as a lingua franca between the Masa (or Masana) and the Tupuri (two populations who speak a Chadic language and a Niger-Congo language respectively) on the one hand, and Arabic-speaking traders from the north on the other. There are no data concerning the number of speakers. Information concerning the actual…


(4,057 words)

Author(s): Mauro Tosco
1. Definitions and generalities Pidginization is, strictly speaking, simply the process whereby a pidgin is brought about. Its definition hinges, therefore, upon a previous delimitation of the concept of pidgin. According to Holm (2000:5), a pidgin is “a reduced language that results from extended contact between groups of people with no language in common”. Generally, but not always, the groups in contact have unequal social (economic, political, etc.) status: the language of the group in power act…

Pidgin Madam

(6,267 words)

Author(s): Fida Bizri
1. Introduction Pidgin Madam is a form of Arabic almost forty years old that developed out of the contact between Sinhala speaking Sri Lankan housemaids and their Arab employers (mainly Madams) in Lebanon. While Sri Lankan maids consider this language to be Arabic, Lebanese employers refer to it with the term ‘broken Arabic’ ( ʕarabe mkassar), or ‘Sri Lankan Arabic’ ( ʕarabe serlanke), or simply ‘maids’ speech’ ( ake ṣonnēʕ). The term Pidgin Madam (used in Bizri 2010 onwards) emerged from the analysis of the linguistic data and interviews, the language being by …