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Examining feature economy in Arabic dialects

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Abstract

This study extends the scope of the principle of feature economy (Clements, 2003) to the diachronic level, where it serves as one of the principles for sound change. The principle predicts that newer varieties of a language will have more efficient sound systems than older varieties do. This study examines the predictions made by this principle in twenty Arabic dialects, divided into groups based on two salient historical factors concerning geography and standardization. Although the results confirm the predictions of feature economy, some concerns are raised regarding the assumptions made by the principle as it pertains to language change. Therefore, the applicability of the principle of feature economy within the diachronic domain cannot be regarded as confirmed until denser diachronic data is analyzed. Further investigation into the topic is still needed.

References

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