Diglossia - Research Paper Example

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Diglossia of the Arabic Language Abstract Arabic is a diglossic language in which two literary varieties coexist as ‘pure’ forms, namely Classical Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic. The former retains its appeal mainly for religious reasons while the latter, which is closely related, functions as a global lingua franca amid the multiplicity of regional and local dialects and colloquial forms…
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Download file to see previous pages Keywords: Arabic, diglossia, Classical Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic, Iraqi/Syrian dialect Arabic is among the diglossic languages of the world because two formal varieties exist in concurrent use. These varieties are Classical Arabic (CA) and Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). Both are referred to as al-lugha al-fusha or simply fusha for short, the latter part being pronounced as al-fuS-Ha and meaning ‘pure’ or ‘most eloquent’. Badawi however, distinguishes between al-fusha al-turath for CA and al-fusha al-‘asr for MSA (Ryding, 2005: 4). This distinction reflects the historical and cultural differences as CA pertains to Arab heritage (al-turath) and MSA pertains to the modern era (al-‘asr). Vincent Monteil (1960) thus regarded MSA as a modern development of the old classical form of CA. There are also colloquial forms and various dialects but the main distinction is drawn between the two aforementioned literary forms. Many Arabs and indeed Muslims regard CA as the pure form, as it is the form used in the Holy Quran and the form used in heaven, and therefore regard all other varieties as inferior. The syntax and morphology of CA have thus remained intact but the lexicon present in MSA is changed. This classical form is the same globally although it has few fluent speakers whereas the other varieties are distinct enough “so as to impede mutual intelligibility” (Tan, 1999: 264). Nonetheless, the spoken varieties tend to be of greater practical benefit in the present age, as shown in a study by Palmer (2008). On the other hand, MSA, which functions as a global lingua franca, is used by the media and “stirs pan-Arab nationalistic feelings in the Arab world” (Palmer, 2008: 93). Above all, it also allows for greater intelligibility of the Holy Quran from being closer to CA and is the more respected and educated variety. It functions as educated Arabic speech because it is “characterized by general intelligibility among great regional and stylistic diversity” (Mitchell, 1986). Essentially therefore, despite a multiplicity of forms and dialects, Arabic is a prime example of diglossia. The term ‘diglossia’ was first used by the Greeks to describe two different varieties of their language, namely Dhimotiki and Katharevousa. Diglossia was more recently examined by Charles Ferguson (1959) in his book ‘Diglossia’ in which three other diglossic languages were identified including Arabic. It “describes any stable linguistic situation, in which there exists a strict functional differentiation between a (socially) ‘L(ow)-variety’ and a distinct ‘H(igh)-variety’” (Bussmann, 2006: 345). The latter is differentiated from the former by being more grammatically complex, standardised and formal. Gumperz (1964) considered linguistic societies as diglossic if functionally distinct varieties were found, but did not regard them as bilingual because of their close relationship whereas Fishman (1967) related diglossia closely to bilingualism. Other scholars who have studied diglossia include Kremnitz (1987) and Willemyns & Bister (1989). As far as the various dialects of Arabic are concerned, the present day dialects can be roughly divided according to four geographical regions, which are: (1) Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf, (2) Levantine, (3) ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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