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Reverse Engineering: Emphatic Consonants and the Adaptation of Vowels in French Loanwords into Moroccan Arabic

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On the basis of two large corpora of French (and Spanish) loanwords into Moroccan Arabic, the paper documents and analyzes the phenomenon noted by Heath (1989) in which a pharyngealized consonant is introduced in the adaptation of words with mid and low vowels such as moquette > [MokeT] = /MukiT/ 'carpet'. It is found that French back vowels are readily adapted with pharyngealized emphatics while the front vowels tend to resist this correspondence. The implications of the phenomenon for general models of loanword adaptation are considered. It is concluded that auditory similarity and salience are critical alternative dimensions of faithfulness that may override correspondences based on phonologically contrastive features.

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