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Background

Twenty five countries have Arabic as an official language, but the dialects spoken vary greatly, and even within one country different accents are heard. 

Many features create the impression of 'a different accent', including how particular sounds (consonants and vowels) are pronounced, where stress falls in a word, and what intonation pattern is used. There is extensive prior research on the first two of these for Arabic, but few descriptions of the intonation of individual dialects. In addition, what we do know is based on different data types, so direct comparisons cannot be made.

The Intonational Variation in Arabic project is hosted by the Department of Language and Linguistic Science at the University of York, a leading centre for sociophonetic research. Adapting methodology from earlier ESRC funded work on English (www.phon.ox.ac.uk/IViE/) the project will generate a public-access corpus of Arabic speech, using a parallel set of sentences, stories and conversations, recorded with 18-30 year olds in seven regions of the Arab world. Additional data in a follow up study in one region, with older speakers (50+) and in nearby cities, should reveal any changes in progress and/or local variation.