Assimilation of /l/ to /r/ in Syrian Arabic

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Since the time of Sībawayh over twelve hundred years ago the phenomenon of manner assimilation among sonorant coronal consonants in Arabic has been recognised. In this chapter we present analysis of electropalatographic and acoustic data from three female speakers of Syrian Arabic to investigate the assimilation of word-final /l/ to word-initial /r/. The results show that assimilation is optional at slow, normal and fast speech rates and most common at the fast rate. They also show that assimilation is complete at the fast rate, and may be either complete or gradient at the slow and normal rates. We argue for a phonological model of assimilation in which complete assimilation does not precipitate a phonological category change unless there are no differences in the set of possible realisations of an assimilated and an unassimilated consonant in the same phonological context, which is not the case in Syrian Arabic manner assimilation.


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