Arabic has a relatively large number of speech sounds whose primary or secondary articulation lies in the pharynx. Among these sounds are the pharyngeal class, including and the emphatic or pharyngealized class, including (in Standard Arabic), which stand in phonemic contrast to the plain class. Some examples of the plain/emphatic contrast include the following minimal pairs: /nasaba/ ‘imputed’ vs. /nasaba/ ‘erected’; /tin/ ‘fig’ vs. /tin/ ‘clay’; and /darb/ ‘path’ vs. /darb/ ‘hitting’. An emphatic tap has been posited as a marginal phoneme in at least one dialect (Watson 2002). In addition, a variety of other consonants may be realized as emphatic allophones: [b l m] (Watson 2002). Symbolic transcriptions tend to suggest uniformity in the production of a speech sound, which may be misleading. According to Ladefoged (1993, p. 280), “As soon as [phonetic] data is segmented or described in any way … phonological considerations are bound to be present.” For both the emphatics and pharyngeals, a symbolic transcription seems too phonologically reductive to capture the degree of phonetic variation attested in the literature. Both emphatics and pharyngeals still require significant study, particularly in terms of whole-vocal-tract imaging, to better understand their articulatory and consequent acoustic characteristics across speakers, dialects, and speech styles. Because the sounds are relatively well-studied in Arabic, it will be beneficial to study the sounds as they are realized in other Semitic and Caucasian languages, as well (Maddieson 2009).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Arabic Linguistics
EditorsElabbas Benmamoun, Reem Bassiouney
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781351377805
ISBN (Print)9781138783331
StatePublished - 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences


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