Yes/No question intonation in Urban Najdi Arabic

Author(s): Hussain Almalki and Tuuli Morrill


Research on intonation in spoken varieties of Arabic has revealed a high degree of variability across dialects. Question intonation in particular may be a locus of variation, since the morphological structure of questions itself varies. This study examines the intonational patterns of Yes/No questions in Urban Najdi Arabic. Although it is a widely spoken dialect, intonation in Urban Najdi Arabic has not yet been formally examined within the autosegmental-metrical (AM) framework. Participants in an experiment completed a picture description task to elicit Yes/No question productions. The results revealed that speakers used two phrase-final intonation patterns to mark Yes/No questions: High-High% and Low-High% boundary tones. Acoustic analyses confirmed the presence of systematic pitch differences in accordance with these two labeled boundary tones. Differences were found in measurements of pitch range and pitch change within the accented syllable, final word of the question, and the final syllable of the question. These findings are compared to recent analyses of other varieties of Arabic and have implications for typological descriptions of Arabic intonation.