Supremacy of suprasegmentals in Arabic phonology: Evidence from malapropisms
Keywords:Arabic phonology, mental lexicon, malapropisms, suprasegmentals
Speech errors are an important source of information to understand language processing and production. Earlier research focused on different types of errors including semantic and phonological errors while malapropisms, which refer to slips of the tongue involving whole word substitutions that share phonological similarities but are not related semantically, have not received adequate attention in the Arabic language. Drawing on malapropisms in Jordanian Arabic, we bring evidence on the supremacy of suprasegmental phonological aspects in Arabic phonology. This is unexpected as stress in Arabic is non-phonemic and fully predictable, besides Arabic rhythm is much less stress-timed than that of Germanic languages. Data was collected from spontaneous speech over a period of three years. Results showed that malapropisms share the primary stress position, the number of syllables and the word rhythmic pattern with the target words. To a lesser degree, the target and the error share the same rime and initial segments. Findings suggest that suprasegmental features are very crucial in Arabic phonology, like in Indo-European languages. Evidence suggests that formal similarity that is based on the syllabic and metrical structure of words plays a significant role in language processing and the organization of the mental lexicon in Arabic, which suggests that this is a language universal. Furthermore, our findings do not agree with earlier claims that Arabic has a flat syllabic structure. Rather, evidence suggests that Arabic, like English, has a hierarchical syllable structure, which seems to represent another language universal. More research on other Arabic dialects is recommended to corroborate these findings.
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.
* Corresponding author: Mohammed Nour Abu Guba,
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