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7 - Diglossia, Variation, and Structural Complexity

from Part II - Arabic Variation and Sociolinguistics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 September 2021

Karin Ryding
Affiliation:
Georgetown University, Washington DC
David Wilmsen
Affiliation:
American University of Beirut
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Summary

Samira Farwaneh interrogates the largely unquestioned and untested assumption in linguistics that languages are all equally complex. Again, the indelible mark of diglossia in Arabic on theorizing about language colours the analysis, specifically with the notion that the formal Arabic of writing and declamation is necessarily more complex than the natively spoken varieties of the language. Starting from the assumption, shared by native speakers of Arabic and many linguists studying Arabic alike, that spoken varieties are simplifications of a more structurally complex and presumably chronologically older Arabic, represented by the Arabic of classical writing and its modern written descendant, she demonstrates that Arab dialects are in some ways more structurally complex than the Arabic of writing, specifically respecting the tense, mood, and aspect systems of spoken Arabi, the manifestations of indefinite noun constructs and object marking, and specifically in the so-called ‘dialectal tanwin’, co-referential and ethical dative marking, and in negation.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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