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David Wilmsen examines Maltese, a peripheral dialect of Arabic. Of those, Maltese stands out as remarkably unusual. Unlike other dialects of Arabic, it is an official language of the state in which its speakers reside, the Republic of Malta, as well as being an official language of the European Union. It boasts a long literary tradition, a language academy, an active press, scholarly journals and societies devoted to it, and an ever-growing digital presence, including a large online, freely accessible corpus encompassing hundreds of millions of words. It is therefore an easily accessible language for linguistic research. The chapter examines Maltese in light of linguistic thinking about so-called enclave dialects, showing that Maltese conforms to the general characteristics of remnant dialect groupings, in that it does borrow from the languages with which it comes into contact, it does undergo independent internal change, and it does retain features of its founder languages. As such, Maltese can be instrumental in demarking the latest date for the emergence of a range of features found variously in mainland dialects of Arabic.
The authors examine the application of electronically searchable corpora, from their own experience, in addressing questions pertinent to linguistics as a whole and to matters internal to Arabic, the while lamenting that the field of Arabic linguistics, in its theoretical and applied orientations alike, has not made use of the rich data source that searchable electronic corpora represent. They show how corpora can be used easily to falsify common assumptions and assertions about the human language capacity in general just as they can be used efficiently to query assumptions and assertions about Arabic itself. So, too, do they hold implications for applied uses such as teaching Arabic as a foreign language and translation between Arabic and other languages. In any of these applications, the use of corpora in the analysis of all varieties of Arabic remains underdeveloped compared to their use in the analysis of other languages, especially English.
Arabic linguistics is a field that has both expanded and shifted over the last fifty years. The coming to the fore of Arabic sociolinguistics, variation theory, corpus linguistics, language acquisition, intercultural pragmatics, and Arabic media studies has enlarged the nature of research topics, strategies, and results so that both spoken and written forms of Arabic have come to be examined from multiple perspectives. Moreover, the development of social media and discussion platforms has had a profound effect on the interface of spoken and written language that has yielded new forms of Arabic discourse. This handbook brings together articles on a range of traditional and contemporary topics from a wide spectrum of research interests. We hope that the integration of new and traditional will represent both the broadened horizon for Arabic linguistic analysis and new congruence within this disciplinary area.
Arabic linguistics encompasses a range of language forms and functions from formal to informal, classical to contemporary, written to spoken, all of which have vastly different research traditions. Recently however, the increasing prominence of new methodologies such as corpus linguistics and sociolinguistics have allowed Arabic linguistics to be studied from multiple perspectives, revealing key discoveries about the nature of Arabic-in-use and deeper knowledge of traditional fields of study. With contributions from internationally renowned experts on the language, this handbook provides a state-of-the-art overview of both traditional and modern topics in Arabic linguistics. Chapters are divided into six thematic areas: applied Arabic linguistics, variation and sociolinguistics, theoretical studies, computational and corpus linguistics, new media studies and Arabic linguistics in literature and translation. It is an essential resource for students and researchers wishing to explore the exciting and rapidly moving field of Arabic linguistics.