Today we’ll be looking at a few more features of Levantine Arabic phonology that make it unique. The first thing many of you may notice is that Levantine has many consonant clusters at the beginnings of words, while at the ends of words consonant clusters tend to be broken up with a small vowel.

1. Clipping of short vowels

Levantine Arabic cuts out many short vowels at the beginning of words in basilect words. Classicisms are generally unaffected.

• The noun and adjective pattern faʕīl becomes fʕīl.

Classical: كَبير kabīr

Levantine: كبير kbīr

• The plural noun and adjective pattern fiʕāl becomes fʕāl.

Classical: كبار kibār

Levantine: كبار kbār

• The verbal patterns faʕiltufaʕilta, etc. (pattern I) become fʕilt etc. Verb conjugation will be covered in more detail in a later post.

Classical: شَرِبْتُ الحليب ʃaribtu al-ħalīb

Levantine: شْرِبْت الحليب ʃribt il-ħalīb

• The verbal pattern tafaʕʕala (pattern III) becomes tfa‘‘al.

Classical: تَغَيَّرَ taɣayyara

Levantine: تْغَيَّر tɣayyar

• The verbal pattern tafāʕala (pattern IV) becomes tfā‘al.

Classical: تَسَامَحَ tasāmaħa

Levantine: تْسَامَح tsāmaħ

• The verbal pattern infaʕala (pattern VII) becomes nfa‘al.

Classical: اِنكَسَرَ inkasara

Levantine: نْكَسَر nkasar

2. Assimilation of consonants (إدغام)

Assimilation exists in Classical Arabic as well as the dialects. However, because of the clipping of short vowels mentioned above, assimilation shows up in new places in Levantine Arabic.

• Some unvoiced sounds become voiced when next to another voiced consonant with no vowel between them.

Classical: صَغير ṣaɣīr

Levantine: صْغير ẓɣīr

Classical: تدكّر taðakkara

Dialect: تذكّر dðakkar

3. Word-final consonant clusters, and epenthetic vowels

• While Levantine tends to clip out short vowels at the beginnings of words, at the ends of words it tends to add extra vowels to split up consonant clusters. This extra little vowel is called an epenthetic vowel and it has a sound similar to a short /i/.

Classical: اسْم ism

Levantine: اِسِم isᵉm

• But when followed by another word that starts with a vowel, the epenthetic vowel is no longer needed and thus disappears.

Levantine: اسْم المكان  ism il-makān

• In some word-final consonant clusters, the epenthetic vowel is optional.

Levantine: بنت bint or binᵉt

• The epenthetic vowel is also placed between words to prevent clusters of 3 or more consonants.

Levantine: كتير جديد ktīr ᵉjdīd

• It can also be placed after a definite article if the word starts with a consonant cluster.

Levantine: البيت الكبير il-bēt il-ᵉkbīr