Publication Date

Spring 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Linguistics and Language Development


Daniel Silverman


Arabic, broken plurals, Jordanian, morphology, phonology, Semitic languages

Subject Areas



The Arabic plural system is of great linguistic interest due to its diversity, complexity, and resistance to classification. Arabic is a non-concatenative language that applies a masculine and feminine suffix plural, a dual, and a “broken plural” to mark number. The broken plural involves vowel changes internal to the noun stem and is defined by 30 to 34 distinct patterns. Previous research has established the broken plural as a primarily iambic productive pattern that adheres to a CVCVV- template, but more recent evidence suggests that all of the templates in the system are productive to some extent. Much of the previous research also focuses on Modern Standard Arabic while ignoring colloquial dialects of Arabic. The focus of this study is the Urban Jordanian dialect of Arabic based on data collected from a native speaker.

The study begins by introducing the Arabic plural system and the Urban Jordanian dialect of Arabic. Previous work on the Arabic broken plural is examined, in particular the application of the framework of prosodic morphology. The study outlines the shortcomings of prosodic morphology in capturing the true nature of the plural system. The data gathered for Urban Jordanian Arabic are then presented systematically, with detailed analyses of certain patterns. Based on the resistance of the data to defaulting to any singular pattern, a framework is presented that defines the pluralization process as a product of phonetic and semantic “gang effects” (Dawdy-Hesterberg & Pierrehumbert, 2014), enforced by frequency distributions and entrenchment.