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Arabic Sociolinguistics

Arabic Sociolinguistics

Reem Bassiouney
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Arabic Sociolinguistics
    Book Description:

    The first introduction to the field of Arabic sociolinguistics, this book discusses major trends in research on diglossia, code-switching, gendered discourse, language variation and change, and language policies in relation to Arabic. In doing so, it introduces and evaluates the various theoretical approaches, and illustrates the usefulness and the limitations of these approaches with empirical data. The book shows how sociolinguistic theories can be applied to Arabic and, conversely, what the study of Arabic can contribute to our understanding of the function of language in society. Key features:*Introduces current theories and methods of sociolinguistics, with a special focus on Arabic*Topics include: language variation and change, gender, religion and politics*Aimed at students and scholars of Arabic with an interest in linguistics and students and scholars of linguistics with an interest in Arabic

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-3017-2
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. viii-ix)
  4. List of charts, maps and tables
    (pp. x-xi)
  5. List of abbreviations
    (pp. xii-xiii)
  6. Conventions used in this book
    (pp. xiv-xviii)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    The earth speaks Arabic.

    Egyptian catchphrase

    This Egyptian catchphrase has always intrigued me. Of course it shows the amount of pride Egyptians and perhaps all Arabs take in their language. But what I find fascinating is the word ‘Arabic’. What does ‘Arabic’ here refer to? Is it the Standard Arabic used in newspapers? The Classical Arabic of the Qur’an? The colloquial Arabic of Egypt?¹ Or is it the Gulf Arabic of Saudi Arabia? For the layperson, there is only one language called ‘Arabic’. For the linguist, there are at least three different varieties of Arabic in each Arab country, and...

  8. CHAPTER 1 Diglossia and dialect groups in the Arab world
    (pp. 9-27)

    This extract from the novel Qismat al-ghuramāʾ (‘The debtor’s share’) reflects the tension and ambivalent feelings Egyptians have towards both Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and Egyptian Colloquial Arabic (ECA). Perhaps it also reflects the tension that exists in all Arab countries, where people speak one language variety at home and learn a different one in school, write in one language and express their feelings in another, memorise poetry in one language and sing songs in another. Whether doing this is practical or not is a moot point. However, as a linguist, one knows that most linguists would agree that whenever...

  9. CHAPTER 2 Code–switching
    (pp. 28-87)

    Although he is referring here to the duality between ECA and MSA – what Ferguson calls diglossia – Maḥfūẓ touches upon one of the main functions of language choice. He does not think that duality or bilingualism in general is an impairment.¹ In fact, it is an enriching ability that all humans possess and that enables them to express themselves differently and express their diverse needs. He echoes what Myers-Scotton discusses in her book Social motivations for code switching (1993). She refers to code-switching as part of the ‘communicative competence’ of a speaker, which is the competence that individuals acquire...

  10. CHAPTER 3 Language variation and change
    (pp. 88-127)

    The protagonist in the passage above moves from a village to a city. In the village he spoke a dialect of Berber, but now in the city his native language is looked down upon and is associated with poverty and death. If he does not speak Arabic, he will be forever ostracised from this new community. In the novel he does indeed learn to speak Arabic. Because he moves from one place to another and thus breaks his social ties to the village, and because of the negative associations of his native language, he has to give it up in...

  11. CHAPTER 4 Arabic and gender
    (pp. 128-197)

    The idea that women never talk straight is an assumption found not only among the Bedouins in Egypt, but also more universally. Holmes (1998: 461) contends that the myth that women talk too much exists in all cultures. Supposedly women do not know their own minds. They hedge and qualify everything they say. As Holmes puts it, they are supposed to be ‘indirect and devious’ (1998: 461).

    However, the presupposition that men and women, because of their sex differences, speak differently should not be taken as a given. The research on gender has moved and developed beyond this presupposition. Holmes...

  12. CHAPTER 5 Language policy and politics
    (pp. 198-272)

    In his poem about Arabic, by which he meant SA, Ḥāfiẓ Ibrāhīm sums up the feelings of the majority of Arab intellectuals about the language. Arab governments in their struggle for freedom from colonising powers often appealed to language as a shield for their identity.¹ It is indeed true that the power of language reflects the power of its people. Still, the struggle is not always fair, nor is it always fruitful. In February 2007, the Arab League held a conference to discuss the future of SA with emphasis on teaching it to children. The conference was the collaborative work...

  13. General conclusion
    (pp. 273-275)

    In this book, I have first shed light on the diglossic situation and the main groups of dialects in the Arab world. It was established at the beginning that the distinctions made by linguists between CA, MSA and the different vernaculars are not necessarily accepted by native speakers and in some cases not even trusted, as was shown in Chapter 5, in which there were native speakers who were sceptical about linguists and politicians, especially non-Arab ones, discussing their language and linguistic situation. The relation between language and ideology is very much in the forefront of the minds of native...

  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 276-298)
  15. Index
    (pp. 299-318)