Consonantal Adaptation of Arabic Loanwords in Kiswahili and Kisukuma: A Phonological Explanation

Saleh Batais


Based on three lists of well-established Arabic lexical borrowings in Standard Kiswahili and Standard Kisukuma, the study attempts to answer two questions. First, the study explores what consonantal repair strategies are triggered by both Standard Kiswahili and Standard Kisukuma to ensure the conformity of the Arabic consonants with the consonantal inventories of the two borrowing languages. Second, it investigates whether these repair strategies are phonological operations. It was found that nine of the ten consonantal repairs employed by both Standard Kiswahili and Standard Kisukuma are governed by the hypothesis and principles proposed by Paradis and LaCharité (1997, 2001, 2005), that is, the Non-Availability Hypothesis, Category Proximity and Preservation Principles, and the Threshold Principle. These findings lend strong support to the argument that loanword adaptation processes are phonologically motivated. In conclusion, the paper aims to contribute primarily to the research on loanword adaptation in general, and to the literature relevant to the consonantal repair strategies in Standard Kiswahili and Standard Kisukuma, in particular.


Adaptation, Loanwords, Consonantal Repairs, Arabic, Kiswahili, Kisukuma

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