Towards an account of historical new-dialect formation in northern Africa
The case of sibilant merging in Arabic dialects
The two “waves” which are held to have brought Arabic to northern Africa are typically assumed to have been homogenous entities which subsequently developed in situ into the numerous dialects of the modern period. This paper argues that the complex distribution of phonological variants seen in the modern dialects can be better accounted for by assuming multiple input dialects and a sociolinguistic process of new-dialect formation leading to new output dialects. It uses the example of sibilant merging, attested in a number of dialects, wherein the Arabic non-emphatic sibilants s/š and z/ž merge their places of articulation. Sibilant merging in these dialects is argued to be an internal development preceding the spread of Arabic into northern Africa rather than solely the result of language contact.
- 2.Sibilant merging in Arabic dialects
- 3.The origins of sibilant merging
- 4.Towards an account of historical new-dialect formation in North Africa