Dialect contact and change in the Arabic feminine ending morpheme

Uri Horesh, Enam Al-Wer, Deema AlAmmar, Moayyad Al-Bohnayyah

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The unbound feminine ending for nouns and adjectives in Arabic has two main forms: an a-type vowel and an e-type vowel. We examine processes of language change vis-à-vis this morphophonemic variable in four dialects, two in the Levant and two in the Arabian Peninsula. We show that somewhat similar processes occur across these dialects, but also that each individual dialect exhibits its own rate of change and that in each dialect the change is at a different stage in its development. Juxtaposing these four case studies together enables us to formulate generalizations regarding variation and change in Arabic, as well as standardization and koinéization, without resorting to over-generalizations. When we attempt to generalize about variation and change in Arabic dialects, we must do so on the basis of this kind of data. We caution against making generalizations that are too broad, of the type “Arabic vernaculars are changing in such-and-such a direction.” Rather, different dialect clusters exhibit different trajectories, which we can only discern upon examining specific features in individual dialects, as we have done here. In the spirit of Eckert (1989, 2000), we aim to theorize about variation and change at a higher analytical node, where we examine community-specific scenarios of interaction between social factors, which may be shared by some groups of dialects but not others.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPerspectives on Arabic linguistics XXXIII
Subtitle of host publicationpapers selected from the Annual Symposium on Arabic Linguistics, Toronto, Canada, 2019
EditorsAbdel-Khalig Ali, Atiqa Hachimi
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9789027256935
ISBN (Print)9789027212726
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec 2022

Publication series

NameStudies in Arabic linguistics
ISSN (Print)2212-8042


  • Feminine ending
  • Variation and change
  • Morphophonology
  • Levantine dialects
  • Peninsular dialects


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