Wright's A grammar of the Arabic language lays out claims for where the stress should be in §§28-31. Most of the claims are connectable (in my experience) to contemporary renditions of Classical Arabic / Modern Standard Arabic (leaving aside the case of Cairene renditions). The one surprising claim is that in words with more than 4 syllables, the stress goes on the first syllable when all following syllables are light (with the well-known complication that final V̄ or VC count as light). Thus [kátabatā, más'alatun, qáṣabatuhumā]. The alternative pattern that I know is that stress is limited on the left to the antepenult.

What evidence if any is there that supports (or opposes) a theory of the location of accent in 4-syllable+ words with all-light syllables in the last three syllables, for Classical Arabic? As far as I know, ancient Arab grammarians did not address the question.

1 Answer 1


As I understand from McCarthy (1979), "On stress and syllabification," pp. 460-461, the rules of accentuation that allow extending the stress as far back in the word as possible are reconstructed based on three factors:

  1. Certain dialects of Arabic with otherwise different colloquial stress patterns follow these rules in the pronunciation of Classical Arabic.

  2. These rules are observed in some modern Arabic dialects (the specific dialects named are Egyptian Saʕiidi and Yemen Plateau).

  3. The descriptions of Classical Arabic rhyming describe types of word structure in terms of where the heavy syllable is located from the end of the word, up to fifth-from-last position, implying that stress could precede the antepenult.

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