Emergence of iambs in Eastern Arabic: Metrical iambicity dominating optimal nonfinality

Author: Bassil Mashaqba

Keywords: Arabic Word Stress, Metrical Model, Optimality Theory, Iamb


This paper presents a relatively novel metrical and constraint-based analysis of stress
patterns in Bedouin Arabic as spoken by Zalabiah and Zawaideh subtribes in
southern Jordan. Different from Eastern Arabic variety, the dialect under
investigation exhibits stress patterns which are basically controlled by an iambic foot.
In terms of metrical parameters, final foot extrametricality is proposed where it does
not violate non-exhaustivity and peripherality; extrasyllabicity is also proposed for
the analysis of a final consonant in a superheavy syllable. Extrametricality is better
analysed, in constraint-based terms, via the constraint NONFINALITY. Examining
the domain hierarchy in Optimality Theory, the argumentation then explores how the
metrical parameter ‘iambicity’ struggles with the optimal constraint ‘nonfinality’ as
well as with other constraints to generate the more harmonic stress patterns. In terms
of dominance hierarchy, the constraints IAMB and WEIGHT-BY-POSITION are
ranked higher than the constraints NONFINALITY and *FINAL-C-μ, supporting that
stress patterns in the dialect of Zalabiah and Zawaideh are mainly controlled by the
iambic foot. Contrary to previous literature, this work provides evidence that not all
Eastern Arabic dialects necessarily fit into trochaic foot-type.