Arabic Grammar – 66

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►II.16. PREVENTION OF CONSONANT CLUSTERS

§A. In principle, the syllabic structure of Standard Arabic does not allow consonants to cluster in a single syllable. Such unlawful clustering of consonants is called in Arabic “meeting of still letters” اِلْتِقَاْءُ الْأَحْرُفِ السَّاكِنَةِ .

However, as was mentioned in §II.14.B., this rule is regularly broken in pausal forms of words, so I do not think that we can say that consonant clusters are absolutely prohibited in Standard Arabic.

§B. As was explained in , a prosthetic vowel with a junction hamza·t is employed in Standard Arabic to prevent the pronunciation of an initial consonant cluster after a pause. The vowel is usually i, but in imperative verbs it can also be u.

§C. In continuous speech an anaptyxic vowel i regularly appears to prevent the pronunciation of syllable-initial consonant clusters.

نَبِيٌّ اِسْمُهُ أَحْمَدُ

nabiyyuṋi smu-hu ʔAħmadu

a prophet [the] name-[of]-him [is] Ahmad

“A prophet whose name is Ahmad”

In the above example the word ʔ·ismu-hu اِسْمُهُ “his name” is preceded by the word nabiyyuṋ نَبِيٌّ “a prophet,” therefore the junction hamza·t is not pronounced, because it is not preceded by a pause. However, because the word smu-hu is preceded by a closed syllable an anaptyxic vowel i is pronounced to prevent an initial consonant cluster in smu-hu, so that the syllabic structure will become na.biy.yu.ṋis.mu.hu.

خُذِ الْكِتَاْبَ

xuði l-kitȃba

“take-[you](masc. sing.) the-book”

“Take the book”

In the above example the word ʔ·al-kitȃba الْكَتَاْبَ “the book” is preceded by the word xuð خُذْ “take-(you)(sing. masc.);” therefore the junction hamza·t is not pronounced. However, to prevent an initial consonant cluster in lkitȃba an anaptyxic vowel i is pronounced so that the syllabic structure will become xu.ðil.ki.tȃ.ba.

اِنْسَيِ اَلْرَّجُلَ

ʔ·insayi r-raǵula

“forget [you](fem. sing.) the-man”

“Forget the man”

مِنَ الْبَيْتِ

mina l-bayti

“from the house”

In the above example the anaptyxic vowel is a instead of the usual i. The vowel a is originally a terminal vowel of the preposition min مِنْ that was lost, but it appears only as an anaptyxic vowel.

أَنْتُمُ الأَعْلَوْنَ

ʔantumu l-ʔaʕlawna

“you(masc. plur.) [are] the-highest”

In the above example the anaptyxic vowel is u. This vowel is originally a terminal vowel of the pronoun ʔantum أَنتُمْ that was lost, but it appears only as an anaptyxic vowel.

لا تَنْسَوُا الْجَوَاْبَ

lȃ tansawu l-ǵawȃba

not forget [you](plur. masc.) the-answer

principle”Do not forget the answer”

The anaptyxic vowel is always i except when the preceding word is the preposition mina مِنْ , the non-attached masculine plural subject pronoun ʔantumu أَنتُمْ , or the attached masculine plural subject pronoun -wu ـوْا .

§D. According to Sibawayh (volume IV, p. 153), some speakers would use the anaptyxic vowel u in all cases other than the preposition min مِنْ . He did not specify those speakers, but it is possible that they were from eastern Arabia (c.f. II.I9.A.a.θ.I.).

§E. Superheavy syllables of the form CVVC are also reckoned to have consonant clusters in the viewpoint of the old linguists, because the long vowels are thought to be VC rather than VV. In any case, such unlawful syllables may arise not only in pausal forms but also in continuous speech when a word ending with a long vowel is immediately followed by a word beginning with a (secondary) consonant cluster. To prevent the latter case, the terminal long vowel is shortened in pronunciation.

حَضَرْنَاْ اَلْيَوْمَ

ħaḍar-na l-yawma

came-we today

“We came today”

In the above example the word ʔ·al-yawma الْيَوْمَ “today” is preceded by the word ħaḍar-nȃ حَضَرْنَاْ “we came;” therefore the junction hamza·t is not to be pronounced. However, to prevent a superheavy syllable ħa.ḍar.naal.yaw.ma the final long vowel of ħaḍar-nȃ is shortened in pronunciation so that the syllabic structure will become ħa.ḍar.nal.yaw.ma.

The following examples are similar:

فِيْ اَلْبَيْتِ

fi l-bayti

“in the house”

يَدْعُوْ اَلْنَّاْسَ

yadʕu n-nȃsa

“calls on [he] the-people”

“He calls on the people”

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