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THEORY: the Obligatory Contour Principle [was Re: Tallefkeul: tones and whatnot]

From:Thomas R. Wier <trwier@...>
Date:Friday, August 30, 2002, 7:45
Quoting Christophe Grandsire <christophe.grandsire@...>:

> En réponse à Marcus Smith <smithma@...>: > > > One of the major applications of the OCP was to explain why semitic > > trilateral roots never have adjacent identical consonants. (Or at > > least Arabic, I won't swear to the rest of the family.) That is, > > you could find a root like, say, KTK but never *KKT. > > IIRC roots with adjacent identical consonants are pretty well allowed in > Arabic. See for instance the root WDD, making the verb wadda: to love.
Actually, to my knowledge (and I'm no expert on Arabic morphology), that's usually considered a case of postlexical spreading. Although most Arabic roots are triliteral, some are biliteral. When these biliteral roots are mapped onto prosodic templates, the consonants spread to fill in the remaining templatic spots. Take a typical triliteral root, like /drs/ 'study', and compare it to a biliteral one /md/ 'stretch'. From /drs/ you can get forms like the following: CaCaC darasa 'he studied' CaCCaC darrasa 'he taught' CaaCiC daaris 'studying' maCCaCa madrasa 'Koranic school' Now, what would a root like /md/ do with a prosodic template like CaCCaC? It has *two* too many consonants, and so it makes do by spreading: _maddada_ is the attested form. This means that even if we presupposed three consonants, we'd have to assume some kind of spreading analysis. Okay, fine so far. But in some dialects of Arabic you get a secret coding game whereby a form like _darasa_ can come out as _radas_, _rasad_, _dasar_, _sarad_, etc., any arrangement of the three consonants to the template besides the actual one. But how does a putative biliteral root act? It turns out that a form like _madad_ can *only* have _damam_ as a coded form: CaCaC CaCaC | |/ | |/ m d d m This would appear to be strong evidence that biliteral roots do exist, that they undergo spreading, and that the OCP need not be violated in some apparently 'exceptional' forms. (Now, this is only what I recall from a lecture some months ago along with the always sketchy notes I took in class. There are many on the list more expert than I in Semitic studies, so I'd be happy to hear their thoughts about this.) ========================================================================= Thomas Wier Dept. of Linguistics "Nihil magis praestandum est quam ne pecorum ritu University of Chicago sequamur antecedentium gregem, pergentes non qua 1010 E. 59th Street eundum est, sed qua itur." -- Seneca Chicago, IL 60637