An Optimality Theoretic Analysis of Monophtongization in Libyan Arabic


  • Yousef Mokhtar Elramli Misrata University, Libya


monophthongization, Libyan Arabic, Optimality Theory


The aim of this paper is to shed light on the phenomenon of monophthongization, whereby a diphthong is changed into a long monophthong. As established by Yoda (2005), Gaber (2012), Elramli (2013), and Hwaidi (2016) in Libyan Arabic, especially in the varieties spoken in the western part of Libya, the diphthongs /aw/ and /aj/ surface as [oo] and [ee] respectively. The former monophthong is a combination of /a/ and /j/ while the latter is an amalgam of /a/ and /w/. The constraint COMBINE {A, I} guarantees that /aj/ is realized as /ee/. By the same token, COMBINE {A, U} guarantees that /aw/ surfaces as /oo/. Given the fact that COMBINE {A, I} and COMBINE {A, U} have analogous tasks, and taking linguistic parsimony into consideration, we can unify these two constraints, ending up with the constraint COMBINE {FEATURE}. The same is true of the constraints MAX-{A} and MAX-{U}, which can be merged to yield MAX-FEATURE. It will be shown that the constraint responsible for the alternation is the markedness constraint NO-DIPH. This constraint, however, is at work only when the diphthong is in a non-final position. By contrast, when the diphthong is word-final no monophthongization takes place. The analyses in this paper will be cast within the framework of Optimality Theory (Prince and Smolensky 1993/2004). The relevant OT constraints will be introduced and the ranking of these conflicting constraints will be accounted for.