Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

Sociolinguistic variation in arabic: a new theoretical approach

Hassan R. Abdel-Jawad, Adel Abu Radwan


This paper argues that the linguistic situation in Arabic defies any rigid demarcation and dichotomization; therefore, it proposes an alternative approach to the analysis of the Arabic linguistic situation — the Variation Approach. The proposed approach assumes that (a) the probabilistic use of
linguistic items correlates with an index of stylistic, economic, and socio.political variables shared by all members of any Arab speech community, and (b) in dealing with variation in Arabic, it is important to study (1) each individual linguistic variable and its behavior as an independent unit within the same linguistic level, and (2) the relationship between variables across linguistic levels, i.e. the hierarchy and implication of the application, and (3) the variable sensitivity of the linguistic variables to socio.stylistic contexts and social evaluation within the same community and across communities. In light of the new model, the paper highlights some of the most common variation patterns that may exist in any given Arab speech community. Finally, it surveys the major factors that may influence and shape the dominant patterns of variation in the Arab world.

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