The first introduction to the field of Arabic sociolinguistics, this book Reem Bassiouney For the layperson, there is only one language called ‘Arabic’. For the. The first introduction to the field of Arabic sociolinguistics, this book discusses major trends in research on diglossia, code-switching, Reem Bassiouney. This introduction to major topics in the field of Arabic sociolinguistics Reem Bassiouney is an assistant professor of Arabic linguistics at Georgetown University.

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Search the history of over billion web pages on the Internet. Contents Acknowledgements viii List of charts, maps and tables x List of abbreviations xii Conventions used in this book xiv Introduction 1 1. Diglossia and dialect groups in the Arab world 9 1.

Language variation and change 88 3. Arabic and gender 4. Language policy and politics 5. Two semesters of research- leave from the University of Utah and Georgetown University have helped me focus more on this book.

I would like to thank both universities for this research period. Professor Jean Aitchison has been and will remain a constant friend and a great scholar. I thank her for drawing my attention to Edinburgh University Press. Dr Mahmoud Hassan will also remain a teacher, a friend and a model of integrity.

Thank you also to Professor Yasir Suleiman for suggesting the title Arabic Sociolinguistics instead of Arabic and Society and for being an inspiring scholar. I would like also to thank the two anonymous reviewers who read my proposal and made useful recommendations. Thank you to the reader of the manuscript, whose suggestions were very useful and insightful, and whose knowledge of the field is exemplary. I am very lucky to have such a reader.

Needless to say any oversight is my responsibility.

I have benefited in one way or another from discussions and exchange of ideas, not necessarily about linguistics, with a lot of colleagues and friends. Among those, in alphabetical order, are: There is nothing as satisfying as having students who are interested and engaged in the topics one teaches. My students in many ways helped me clarify my ideas in fruitful and stimulating class discussions.

Arwbic team at Edinburgh University Press are a delight to work with. Nicola Ramsay and Sarah Edwards are both extremely dedicated and efficient. James Dale has been enthusiastic about the book, friendly, resourceful and efficient. Thanks also to Fiona Sewell my copy-editor for her diligent work.

It becomes clearer over time that without moral support from people who care, the journey is aimless. This book is dedicated to Mark Muehlhaeusler.

Arabic Sociolinguistics

Charts, maps and tables Chart 3. Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia Table 5. Lebanon and Syria Table 5. The table illustrates the pronunciation of the letters of the Arabic alphabet in Modern Standard Arabic.

However, it should be noted that the data used in this book is mainly spoken data. Thus there is consider- able variation within that data. For instance, the same word could be pro- nounced by the same speaker first with a long vowel and then with a short one in the same stretch of discourse.

It is important for sociolinguists to capture the performance of speakers, rather than the idealised way in which words and phonemes are ‘supposed’ to be pronounced. Thus, the aim of transcribing the data is not to idealise but to render actual pronunciation.

Within the examples, a forward slash denotes a short pause, while two slashes denote a long pause. In the glosses, whenever verb forms are fully analysed, the gloss follows the translation for verbs in the perfect which has a suffix conjugation in Arabicwhereas the gloss precedes the translation for the imperfect which has a prefix conjugationwhile the mood marking of the verb – if present – is glossed in its natural location at the end of the verb unit.


However, the glossing of examples is related to the context of the example, and is not always detailed. If the example is intended to demonstrate how indi- viduals switch between two varieties, or languages, and if this demonstration concentrates on specific morpho-syntactic variables such as demonstratives, negation, tense, aspect, mood marking and case marking then the glossing is detailed as in the example below from Chapter 2: This is a prayer from a heart that never lost hope or belief in you.

However, all abbreviations and symbols are listed above. Now note this last example, from Chapter 4: They did not approve my marriage to your father. I was an only child and I was no peasant then. Since then, I have planted trees and vegetables. Your grandfather then asked your father how he can marry a mere widow with no family. I tran- scribe it as an Egyptian would read it; with the g rather than the j.

This facilitates the search for these materials in Library catalogues, where the same conventions are used Table 2. Introduction 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.

Arabic Sociolinguistics | Georgetown University Press

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? For the layperson, there is only one language called ‘Arabic’ For the linguist, there sociiolinguistics at least three different varieties of Arabic in each Arab country, and some linguists even claim that there are at least five different levels sociolinguisticw Arabic in each country, not counting the different dialects of each country.

This is the first problem that one encounters in analysing this catchphrase. The other problem that one encounters is why, if ‘Arabic’ is the inherent language of the earth, are Arabs so keen on teaching their children foreign languages. Why is it that in North Africa French is still a crucial instrumental language?

And why is it that at the time that all Arabs are defending their language as the main source of pride and identity they are also mastering English and French? The answers to all these questions are not clear cut. Before proceeding with what this book discusses, I would like to refer to specific incidents that the reader may find interesting and that in general terms show the importance of Arabic socio- linguistics and the relationship between language and society.

Years ago, when I was still working bassouney the UK, I was asked by an organisation to become a simultaneous translator in a forum that discusses security issues in Iraq. The forum had Iraqis from different sects and factions. I started translating from Arabic to English. While I was interpreting, a female politician started speaking in a language that I did not recognise. I was then at a loss, thinking that perhaps she was speaking a dialect of Iraqi that I was not familiar with.

I stopped translating and waited until she finished. Once she had finished, a colleague of hers started translating what she had said into Iraqi Arabic. After he did that, I then translated his Iraqi Arabic into English.

Chapter 1. A new direction for Arabic sociolinguistics | Reem Bassiouney

It took me minutes to realise that she was a female Kurdish politician and her colleague who was translat- ing sociolinnguistics her was also Kurdish.

During the break, which I was very glad to have, the female Kurdish politician approached me in a friendly manner and started addressing me in Iraqi Arabic.


For an outsider it may seem impractical and a waste of time that she should speak Kurdish first to an audience that was mostly not Kurd, sociolinguishics then her colleague should have to translate, and then I have to translate. For a sociolinguist, this is perhaps expected. I asked her why she had not spoken ‘Arabic’ since she was so fluent, and she said confidently that she was Kurdish and by speaking Kurdish, she was making a political statement.

Her statement was indeed appealing, and it alludes to the power and sym- bolic significance of language choice. The relations arwbic language and politics, and language and identity, are worth investigating. This is exactly bxssiouney I do in Chapters 2 and 5 of this book. She was a second-generation Moroccan, and I was happy to discover that her parents were keen on teaching her ‘Arabic’ and that she spoke ‘Arabic’ fluently.

And indeed she did – except that she spoke Moroccan Arabic. We decided to meet for lunch, and she started complaining to me in Moroccan Arabic about her Moroccan husband, who did not understand her.

We basically, after five minutes, reached a deadlock. It was clear that we both had to switch to English to understand each other. She was fluent only in Moroccan Arabic. Had the woman been exposed to ECA sociolinhuistics any other dialect and not specifically MSA via the media, TV and satellite channels, our communication would have been much easier. The dialects are sometimes mutually unintelligible, and while educated speakers have developed sets of strategies for communicating across dialect boundaries that include using resources from MSA, someone who knows only a dialect of spoken Arabic will be likely not to understand an educated speaker of another dialect or be able to make herself or himself understood, especially if one of the speakers comes from North Africa and the other does not.

Speakers of ECA have an advantage, but arbic if bazsiouney interlocutor has watched a lot of television in a country that broadcasts programmes from Egypt.

This will again be discussed in detail in Chapters 1 and 5, although there are many implications of this story that merit more investigation, especially the role of vernaculars in inter-dialectal communication and not just that of MSA.

A third event that left its impact on me was when I was invited to give a lecture at Cairo University about language choice and code-switching. Egypt, like any other country in the world, has more than one dialect spoken within it, the most prestigious one being the Cairene dialect for Egyptians. After I finished the lecture, a male student came to me to congratulate me on giving a very good lecture.

He was speaking to me in perfect Cairene Arabic. We started a conversation, and he then told me that he comes from upper Egypt al-sa? I then asked him how he spoke Cairene Arabic so fluently, and he seemed a bit embarrassed and said to me ‘I speak Cairene Arabic to you. I can never speak it to my mother. If I speak Cairene Arabic to my mother, she will call me a sissy and possibly kill me! Note that speakers of non-standard language varieties are expected or even compelled to master prestige varieties.

In Egypt, for a person from upper Egypt this would be Cairene. However, the survival of an upper-Egyptian dialect amidst all the pressure from a highly centralised Egypt for all Egyptians to speak Cairene Arabic is indeed worth investigating.