AWEJ for Translation & Literary Studies, Volume 5, Number3.  August  2021                        Pp.125-150

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The Quranic Conditionally Pharyngealized Sounds: An Optimality Theory Perspective 

Fatima Abdullah Almousa
Department of Linguistics and Translation Studies
College of Languages and Translation
King Saud University, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Corresponding Author:

Faisal M. Al-Mohanna
Department of Linguistics and Translation Studies
College of Languages and Translation
King Saud University, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia



Received:  6/12/2021                 Accepted:   8/3/2021                  Published:   8/25/2021


This paper investigates the Qur’ānic conditionally pharyngealized sounds which are /rʕ/, /l/, and /a:/. The Qur’ānic /rʕ/ sound undergoes a depharyngealization process. The Qur’ānic /l/ sound in the word Allah, on the other hand, exhibits pharyngealization, as does the Qur’ānic /a:/ sound. Hence, the study aims to provide a thorough examination of these phonological processes within the Optimality Theory framework. The study also attempts to answer the following questions: (1) What constraints are considered to account for the pharyngealization of the Qur’ānic sounds /l/ and /a:/ and the depharyngealization of the Qur’ānic sound /rʕ/ in the Holy Qur’ān? and (2) How does the grammar rank these constraints to achieve the pharyngealization of the Qur’ānic sounds /l/ and /a:/ and the depharyngealization of the Qur’ānic sound /rʕ/ in the Holy Qur’ān? Both questions have been fully addressed. In addition, this study has proven that the pharyngealized /rʕ/ is the underlying representation of the Qur’ānic alveolar trill sound. This was achieved by demonstrating [rʕ] and [r] allophones environments. Also, the study has shown that the pharyngealized [lʕ] and the non-pharyngealized [l] in the word Allah are comparable to the dark /l/ in English. The Qur’anic /a:/ acquires the [RTR] feature from the preceding pharyngealized sound where it spreads its [RTR] feature rightward to the /a:/. The study concludes that the constraint-based analysis could provide a plausible accounted for examining these phonological processes in the Holy Qur’ān.
Keywords: Pharyngealization, Depharyngealization, Optimality Theory, The Holy Qur’ān, Tajweed

Cite as:  Almousa, F.A.,&   Al-Mohanna, F.M. (2021). The Quranic Conditionally Pharyngealized Sounds: An Optimality Theory Perspective. Arab World English Journal for Translation & Literary Studies 5 (3) 125-150.


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Received: 6/12/2021
Accepted: 8/3/2021
Published: 8/25/2021
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Fatima Abdullah Almousa holds a bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature from
the College of Languages and Translation in 2017 from Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic
University. She then earned a master’s degree in Arts in Theoretical Linguistics from King Saud
University in 2021. Her research interest is in the phonology field. ORCID ID:

Faisal M. Al-Mohanna is an Associate Professor of Linguistics (Phonology) at the Department of Linguistics and Translation Studies, King Saud University. His latest academic qualification is PhD in Linguistics (Phonology), University of Essex 1998. His main research interests are Prosodic Phonology, Metre, and Optimality Theory. He has work experience in academic and cultural administration, Teaching Linguistics, and Teaching English to speakers of other languages. ORCID ID: