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Tashlhiyt Syllables without Vowels: Perception and Whistled Speech

Dr. Rachid Ridouane,

CNRS & Sorbonne Nouvelle University, France

Tashlhiyt has come to linguists’ attention due to its rare phonotactic structure. Words and sentences in this Moroccan Amazigh language can be composed of consonants only, e.g. [tkkststttfktstt] « you took it off and gave it ». A consequence of this is that any consonant can be a syllable nucleus, making [tk] or [kf] common syllables. This analysis is backed up by extensive work since the mid- 80s. In this study two additional types of evidence are provided: (i) native judgments and (ii) whistled speech. i. Thirty native speakers provided metalinguistic judgments about how a set of 100 words is partitioned. ii. Three professional whistlers carried into a whistled signal (isinsg) a dataset including 50 words and 10 sentences. Results for test words having #CCV, #CCCV or #CCCC structures show that more than 90% of the 30 subjects’ responses correspond to a bisyllabic parsing. Such items are also whistled in two parts, as evidenced in the spectrographic analysis. The word [gli] ‘guide’, which sounds like English glee, is a telling example. This and similar CCV sequences respecting the SSP are almost universally considered to have one syllable. Tashlhiyt speakers and whistlers overwhelmingly judge them as having two parts C.CV.

The above abstract is a part of the article which was accepted at The International Conference on Current Issues of Languages, Dialects and Linguistics (WWW.LLLD.IR), 2-3 February 2017, Iran-Ahwaz.