Phonology vs phonetics : The adaptation of the French rhotic into Berber

Mohamed Lahrouchi (SFL, CNRS & Univ. Paris 8)
25 octobre 2019, 14h0015h30
ILPGA

This paper examines the adaptation of the French rhotic in Berber. In loanwords borrowed from (“Standard”) French, the uvular fricative is systematically interpreted as a coronal tap, despite the fact that Berber has phonemic /ɣ/ and /x/ : e.g. byʁo > biru ‘office’, sɛʁʒɑ̃ > ʃarʒan ‘sergeant’, tχɛ̃ > træn ‘train’.

Two hypotheses are discussed : One which claims that the adaptation of loanwords is done by bilinguals who have access to the underlying representation of the French rhotic (Paradis & LaCharité 2001), and the other which argues that loanwords adaptation is governed by phonetic (perceptual) cues (Peperkamp et al. 2008, Bakst & Katz 2014, Peperkamp 2015). Under the phonetic hypothesis, Berber speakers should have mapped the French rhotic onto the closest sound in their language, namely the velar fricative /ɣ/ or /x/. As to the analysis advocated by Paradis & LaCharité, one wonders how monolingual uneducated people, who arrived in France in the early 1970s, interpret the French uvular systematically as a coronal although they don’t have access to the phonology of the source language (e.g. [ʁ]ouen > [ruwa] ‘city name’, met[ʁ]o > [metˤro] ‘subway’, a[ʁ]genteuil > [arʒantæj] ‘city name’, place voltai[ʁ]e > [blɑsˤbuntir]).

This paper aims at demonstrating that the adaptation of the French rhotic in Berber is a phonologically driven process. Taking Paradis & LaCharité (2001) as a starting point, it is argued that the selection of the coronal tap at the expense of the velar fricative is due to its phonotactics. Berber speakers identify the French r as a sonorant, which patterns with l in complex onsets. This is further supported by the hypothesis put fourth in Lahrouchi (2010), according to which the obstruent-sonorant cluster is active in the Berber phonology, despite the absence of complex onsets in the language (Ridouane et al. 2014, Lahrouchi 2018).

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