Non-sound’ verb Inflection in Arabic: Allomorphic variation and paradigmatic uniformity

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Focusing on the Levantine Arabic variety, this paper investigates the paradigmatic asymmetry observed in the inflection of sound verbs whose stems contain three or four consonants and non-sound verbs whose stems contain only two consonantal realizations. It provides a unified account of verb inflection within Optimality Theory and the theory of paradigms. The target of investigation is the allomorphic variation in the non-third person markers which appear in their basic allomorph in inflected sound verbs, but appear in their augmented éeC form in the paradigms of non-sound (weak and geminate) verbs. Previous analyses have viewed this paradigmatic inconsistency as arbitrary exceptions requiring highly specific rules or allomorphic postulates, thus treating the sound and non-sound verb systems as two distinct types. This paper shows that the interaction of independently-motivated markedness constraints with paradigmatic uniformity constraints is capable of producing these allomorphic effects without recourse to ad-hoc rules or arbitrary allomorphic statements. The two verbal types are therefore treated as a unified system. The Optimality-theoretic account of affix allomorphy accords a prime role to the markedness constraint optimizing binarity of prosodic constituents, and rhythmic and prosodic uniformity within and across inflectional subparadigms the interaction of which explains the emergence of the augmented allomorph of the affix. The paper advocates an expanded definition of paradigms allowing grammatical categories such as gender, person, case, etc. to form subparadigms subject to what I refer to as paradigm-to-paradigm faithfulness requiring paradigmatic identity within a grammatical category regardless of verb type. Hollow verbs which present an interesting challenge to the analysis are discussed and accounted for by highlighting the role of Anchor in differentiating between hollow verbs and other non-sound verbs. The paper ends with a comparison with the contrast analysis of Broselow (2008) demonstrating on empirical grounds the superiority of the uniformity against the contrast account.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-89
Number of pages29
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020


  • Allomorphy
  • Arabic verbs
  • Inflection
  • Optimality
  • Paradigm uniformity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics


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