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A Study of the Phonological Structure and Representation of First Words in Arabic

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posted on 2012-03-21, 11:47 authored by Eman Mohammed Abdulrahman Abdoh
This research studies the phonological structure and representation of first words in Hijazi Arabic. It investigates the representational nature of early words and the developmental stages of their syllable and word internal structure within the framework of the Prosodic Theory (McCarthy & Prince 1986, 1990). The issues raised relate to the relation between child and adult phonology, and whether the subjects follow a universal path or influenced by their language-specific phonology (Ferguson & Farewell, 1975; Vihman, 1991; Fikkert, 1994; Demuth, 1995; Ota, 2003; Lleo, 2006). The discussion has been accompanied by considering child-adult differences and cross-linguistic comparisons between child Arabic and child Germanic languages (English, Dutch), child Romance languages (French, Spanish, and Catalan), and child Japanese. Cross-sectional spontaneous data were collected from twenty two monolingual children (aged from 1;0 to1;9) living in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia by recording their speech using the object-naming technique in near natural settings and analyzed using a qualitative approach. The results show that the subjects’ segmental inventories are very limited at the onset of speech, which determines the shape of their early words. The subjects often employ phonological processes (e.g. reduplication, consonant harmony, substitution, truncation) when their templates cannot accommodate all the segmental material of the target words. The data provide evidence that the phonological structure of their early words has the same organizational units of adult phonology and governed by its prosodic principles. The subjects go through similar stages of prosodic word development to those reported in the literature: a minimal word stage (1;0-1;6), where their outputs display bimoraic and disyllabic forms, followed by a maximal stage (between 1;7-1;9), where more complex structures are produced. Despite the universality of many aspects of word acquisition in child Arabic, the study emphasizes the importance of investigating the impact of the ambient language and the role of language specific phonologies.



Rogerson-Revell, Pamela; Al-Safi, Sabah

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University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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