’Imala and rounding in a rural Syrian variety: Morpho-phonological conditioning


Rania HabibFollow

Document Type





’Imala, rounding, Syrian Arabic, Morpho-phonological conditioning, Lexical Phonology




This study investigates two concurrent phenomena – ’imala and rounding – in the Arabic variety spoken in the Syrian village of Oyoun Al-Wadi. ’Imala refers to the use of [e] and [e:] in place of the urban vowels [a] and [a:] respectively; rounding refers to the use of [o] and [o:] in place of the urban vowels [a] and [a:] respectively. The use of two different vowels for each urban vowel is explained morpho-phonologically. The study economically proposes two phonological rules to account for ’imala and rounding and shows that only one rule can apply per word and to the final syllable of a word. In light of Lexical Phonology theory, certain morphological patterns and suffixes explain the presence of ’imala in initial syllables and in environments that induce rounding. That is, ’imala is part of the lexical representation of a morphological pattern or suffix in the lexicon. Hence, ’imala could occur in the initial syllable as part of the morphological pattern, and rounding could occur in the final syllable of the same word as a result of a post-lexical phonological rule.

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