Text-tune alignment in Tunisian Arabic yes-no questions

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This paper reveals a pattern of vowel epenthesis in Tunisian Arabic yes-no questions which is – at least partly – prosodically conditioned. In our data, the final nuclear accent in yes-no questions is commonly a (delayed peak) rise followed by a complex boundary tone (analysed here as L*+H H-L%), and, in such tokens, an epenthetic vowel is frequently appended to the last lexical item by some speakers. This pattern of utterance-final vowel epenthesis has not previously been reported in the small literature on Tunisian Arabic intonation, nor in other work on the intonation patterns of neighbouring dialects of Arabic, to the best of our knowledge. Systematic investigation of corpus data reveals that many of the contextual factors which have been shown to condition word-final epenthesis in European Portuguese and Italian do not play a role in the incidence of word-final epenthesis in Tunisian Arabic. Instead, in Tunisian Arabic, the primary conditioning factors for word-final epenthesis are discourse function (yes-no questions) and prosodic contour (complex rise-fall), with a secondary effect of gender (the pattern is produced more frequently by female speakers). The results suggest that the Tunisian Arabic word-final epenthetic vowel is not a case of ‘text-tune’ adjustment, but functions instead as a question particle. The potential historical origins of the pattern, and its current sociolinguistic indexical function, are briefly discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProsodic variation (with)in languages
Subtitle of host publicationIntonation, phrasing and segments
EditorsMarisa Cruz, Sónia Frota
ISBN (Electronic)9781800501478
ISBN (Print)9781781794685
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2022

Publication series

NameStudies in Phonetics and Phonology

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