Skip to Main content Skip to Navigation
New interface
Book sections

Syllable structure and vowel-zero alternations in Moroccan Arabic and Berber

Abstract : The vowel system of the Maghrebi Arabic dialects (MA) contains three peripheral vowels /i, a, u/ and one short central vowel, often referred to as schwa. A comparison between Classical Arabic (CA) and MA clearly shows that the latter lost length contrast in the vowels. In a number of items shared by these languages, there is a regular change whereby the long vowels of CA correspond to short vowels in MA, whereas short vowels in CA disappear in MA, resulting in consonant clusters often simplified by means of schwa epenthesis (e.g. CA raːsala / MA rasəl ‘correspond’, CA kataba / MA ktəb ‘write’). The same situation arises in Berber. Apart from Tashlhiyt which allows utterances without any vocalic segment, all Berber varieties use schwa to break up complex consonant clusters. This observation is of paramount importance for it shows that the distribution of schwa is largely predictable. It also suggests that the loss of vowel length in MA results from the influence of Berber. This chapter discusses ə/ø alternations in Berber and MA, in connection with syllable structure. It reviews previous analyses of the phenomenon and provides a principled account of the distribution of epenthetic vowels. Tashlhiyt Berber will be analyzed as having a highly marked syllable structure. Any segment in this language, even a voiceless obstruent, can occur in the nucleus position.
Document type :
Book sections
Complete list of metadata
Contributor : Mohamed Lahrouchi Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Tuesday, June 15, 2021 - 5:16:47 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, November 3, 2021 - 5:21:24 AM
Long-term archiving on: : Thursday, September 16, 2021 - 7:06:07 PM


Lahrouchi 2018-Syllable struct...
Files produced by the author(s)


  • HAL Id : halshs-01723842, version 1


Mohamed Lahrouchi. Syllable structure and vowel-zero alternations in Moroccan Arabic and Berber. The Routledge Handbook of African Linguistics, 2018. ⟨halshs-01723842⟩



Record views


Files downloads