The Production and Perception of Emphasis in Qassimi

Abdulmajeed Alrashed

Advisor: Dr. Jim Belvins, Harim Kwon, Seoul National University

Committee Members: Cynthia Lukyanenko, Sylvia Schreiner

Horizon Hall, #4225, and Virtually
November 06, 2023, 09:00 AM to 11:00 AM


This dissertation explores emphasis effects (EE) in Qassimi Arabic (QA), examining whether EE functions as a phonetic or phonological process. EE is a well-documented phenomenon in Arabic linguistics, involving the influence of emphatic consonants on neighboring segments (Ghazali, 1977; Card, 1983; Davis, 1995; among others). The study also investigates emphasis perception in QA, specifically whether EE cues assist native QA listeners in identifying preceding or following consonants as emphatic or plain.

While prior research has explored EE in various Arabic varieties, revealing inconsistencies among them, and limited research exists on emphasis perception by native Arabic listeners, this dissertation addresses these gaps by examining EE production and emphasis perception in the understudied variety of QA.

In the production experiment, dynamic aspects of leftward and rightward EE on QA vowels were examined by analyzing second formants (F2) at 11 temporal points. Results indicate that leftward EE had a categorical effect on non-high vowels [a] and [aː], as well as the high front vowel [i], impacting them throughout their duration, providing evidence for it being a phonological process in QA. In contrast, rightward EE primarily affected vowel onset, suggesting it as a gradual phonetic process rather than a categorical phonological one.

In the perception experiments, the perceptual correlates of emphasis in QA were investigated using gating paradigm (Grosjean, 1980). Native QA listeners accurately identified the following consonant using leftward EE cues, even within the shortest gate containing one-third of the vowel, indicating proficiency in using leftward EE cues throughout the vowel. However, for rightward EE cues, accuracy in identifying the preceding consonant as emphatic or plain improved significantly only when the entire vowel duration was audible.

These findings align with the production experiment, confirming leftward EE as a phonological process and rightward EE as a phonetic process. The dissertation’s results have implications for understanding EE and emphasis perception in QA, emphasizing the importance of considering both phonological and phonetic processes when investigating EE and highlighting the significance of coarticulatory information in rightward emphasis perception. This nuanced understanding advances research into emphasis across Arabic varieties and Semitic languages.