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Phonetic and phonological aspects of gemination in Lebanese Arabic

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This paper reports on phonetic and phonological patterns of gemination and vowel length in Lebanese Arabic (LA). Both short and long vowels occur before singleton and geminate consonants in LA leading to light, heavy, and super-heavy syllable structures: CVCV , e.g. /ˡtˁabaʔ/‘dish’; CVCCV , e.g. /ˡtˁaabaʔ/ ‘he matched’; CVVCV , e.g. /ˡtˁabbaʔ/ ‘he persuaded’; CVVCCV , e.g. /ˡtˁaabbe/ ‘she is bending over’. The moraic status of geminates and their temporal relationship with their surrounding vowels has been the subject of many cross-linguistic and cross-dialectal studies (e.g. Al-Tamimi, 2004; Arvaniti, 2001; Ghalib, 1984; Ham, 2001; Hassan, 2003; Ladd & Scobbie, 2003; Local & Simpson, 1999; Payne, 2005; 2006; Ridouane, 2007). The debate revolves around whether vowels preceding geminates shorten in order to maintain the rhythmic structure of the word and enhance the singleton-geminate contrast or whether no temporal compensation occurs. Another debate revolves around non-durational indices for the geminate contrast (e.g. more centralized vowels before singletons; lenition and lower amplitude in singletons; palatalisation for geminate stops) and their implication regarding a tense/lax distinction in singleton/geminate pairs. This study addresses these two issues using data from LA and suggests that that the underlying contrast for gemination in LA is mainly temporal and its domain is restricted the 2nd syllable.

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