Edited by Elly van Gelderen
[Studies in Arabic Linguistics 9] 2020
► pp. 55–68
Previous descriptions of the place of articulation of the Arabic dorsal fricative suggest that it ranges from velar to uvular, and there remains uncertainty in terms of identifying the place of articulation of this fricative. If the dorsal fricatives are velar in articulation, this presents a mismatch between their phonological class membership and their phonetic manifestation, since the velar-uvular split is precisely where the guttural class boundary is. If the natural class of gutturals excludes velars, then the common patterning of the dorsal fricative with the gutturals suggests that it is not underlyingly velar. This study seeks to empirically determine the place of articulation of the voiceless dorsal fricative (/x/ or /χ/) in a speaker of each of the following six Arabic dialects: Moroccan Darija, Algerian Darija (West side of Algeria), Egyptian (Cairene), Triangle-Area Palestinian, Syrian (Aleppo), and Faifi (Saudi Arabia). The study uses a state-of-the-art 3D/4D ultrasound machine, digitized 3D palate impressions, and audio recordings to analyze the dorsal fricatives of Arabic speakers. The results show a general tendency toward uvular articulation or pre-uvular articulation across dialects, with some variation in some speakers.