Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Other Degree Name/Area of Focus

Applied Linguistics

Department or School/College

Linguistics Program

Committee Chair

Mizuki Miyashita

Commitee Members

Naomi Shin, Tully Thibeau


Markedness Differential Hypothesis, Najdi Arabic, Optimality Theory, Second Language Phonology


University of Montana


This thesis explores how Cairene Arabic, Iraqi Arabic, and Najdi Arabic speakers deal with complex syllable margins in their L2 English. While previous studies have attributed Cairene and Iraqi speakers’ pronunciations of English syllables that contain consonant clusters to transfer of allowed syllable structures from their native language, this thesis illustrates that the universal markedness of consonant clusters could be a factor that motivates L2 speakers to simplify complex syllable margins. Universal markedness has to do with the frequency that a structure occurs cross-linguistically. Languages that allow complex syllable margins, such as English, also contain simple syllable margins. Many languages contain simple syllable margins but do not allow complex syllable margins; thus, complex syllable margins are more marked than simple syllable margins. A markedness approach to second language phonology would consider the markedness of complex syllable margins to be an important factor in whether L2 learners have difficulty with this structure. By using Optimality Theory (Prince and Smolensky 1993,McCarthy and Prince 1993), this thesis illustrates the role that markedness plays in Cairene Arabic, Iraqi Arabic, and Najdi Arabic. This thesis also presents the results of a study of L2 English data produced by native speakers of Najdi Arabic and uses the data to support a markedness approach for accounting for syllable errors in L2 English.



© Copyright 2007 Elizabeth Dawn Alezetes