Hezbollah Pronunciation

Alice Faber faber at HASKINS.YALE.EDU
Wed Jul 26 14:52:58 UTC 2006

David Bergdahl wrote:
> On a similar question, I assume the name is a compound of hezb (party) and
> allah (god)-- it seems that the spelling hezbollah  represents ['hEz bala]
> or ['hEzb ?ala] while the hizballah spelling represents [hIz 'baela] or
> [hIz
> 'bUla].  My question is, what are Arabic compound stress rules?
> <snip>I heard a Lebanese woman Arab now at the Carnegie Institute for
> Peace in a long radio interview.  She pronounced "Hezbollah" at
> least three ways, distinguished by which syllable was stressed.  I have
> also
> heard
> short audio clips of Arabs using the word.  They seems to stress the middle
> syllable.  Pronunciations supported "Hezb" over "Hizb".</snip>

It depends on which variety of Arabic you're talking about. Both the
stress pattern for the compound and the vowel quality in the first
syllable will vary, depending on whether "dialect" (let's not get back
into the dialect vs language question; it's not clear that all varieties
are mutually intelligible). Etymologically, the vowel is a short /i/,
but, in some dialects, it is lowered to something /E/-like by the
influence of the preceding consonant and/or syllable structure.
Likewise, the /a/ in the second syllable is influenced by the
pharyngealized /l/ in ALLAH (the subject of a famous article on the
definition of phoneme by Charles Ferguson). The change in vowel quality
is also dialect dependent; in some varieties, it might be /ah/-like (as
in CUT), while in others it might indeed be more /uh/ like (as in PUT).
(None of this should be taken as authoritative, as I haven't taken the
trouble to look for my notes on an old LSA paper I gave--almost 20 years
ago!--on the effects of pharyngeals and pharyngealization on vowel
quality in Arabic dialects.)

Alice Faber                                    faber at haskins.yale.edu
Haskins Laboratories                           tel: (203) 865-6163 x258
New Haven, CT 06511 USA                        fax (203) 865-8963

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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