Variation in prosodic and segmental marking of yes-no questions in Tunisian Arabic

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Recent work has highlighted the consistent co-occurrence of a partial rise-fall prosodic contour with a segmental vowel epenthesis marker to mark yes-no questions in the Tunisian Arabic of Tunis; the incidence of the segmental marker (epenthesis) varied according to the external factor gender, but did not vary according to language internal factors, such as phonological environment. In this paper we explore the relationship between the prosodic and segmental question-marking strategies further in a production study which investigates: i) regional variation between the north (Tunis) and the south-east of Tunisia; and ii) potential transfer of one or both strategies into speakers’ spoken second language English. Greater incidence of epenthesis is observed in yes-no questions produced by speakers from the south-east, accompanied by a different prosodic contour (with a lower boundary tone), and a difference in the quality of the inserted vowel (tending towards [u]). In L2 English yes-no questions, a small subset of speakers displayed TA epenthesis in their English productions, but only when accompanied by a TA rise-fall contour. Taken together the results confirm the close relationship between the presence of epenthesis and the complexity of the accompanying prosodic contour (a rise-fall rather than a plain rise).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStudies on Arabic Dialectology and Sociolinguistics
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the 12th International Conference of AIDA held in Marseille from 30th May- 2nd June 2017.
EditorsCatherine Miller, A Barontini, M Germanos, J Guerrero, C Pereira
Place of PublicationAix-Marseille
PublisherIREMAM (Institut de recherches et d'études sur le monde arabe et musulman)
ISBN (Electronic)9791036533891
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Tunisian Arabic
  • prosody
  • intonation
  • dialectal variation

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