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David Schultz

Ph.D. Dissertation, 1981


In Egypt, as is the case elsewhere in the Arab world, two varieties of Arabic are in common use. Classical Arabic is said to be the language of reading and writing, while colloquial Egyptian Arabic is said to be the language of daily social intercourse. In addition, classical Arabic is said to be the language of formal discourse--lectures, news broadcasts, speeches and the like. The purpose of this work was to investigate in detail the style of Arabic used in formal discourse. Since some previous researchers have suggested that style is in part a function of sociolinguistic factors, an effort was made to choose a sample from a homogeneous group of speakers. To this end, I recorded about 19 hours of extemporaneous speech from radio interviews and talk shows with 49 well educated Egyptian men. All the results and conclusions of this study were based uniquely on this corpus. Two major conclusions emerge from this study. First, a very wide range of styles was found in the corpus--ranging from nearly pure colloquial to nearly pure classical. This implies that sociolinguistic models which predict a certain language style when a given speaker is in a given situation are suspect or invalid. The second is that nobody in the sample used what could be called a pure variety of Arabic. All the Arabic in the corpus is, in some sense, mixed. Moreover, there seems to be a hierarchy of features which are used in mixed speech. Every speaker in the corpus used some classical vocabulary, every speaker used words containing the classical phoneme /q/, every speaker used some classical verb forms, 45 of the 49 speakers used the classical demonstrative adjective /haa(PAR-DIFF)a/ some of the time, and 42 of the 49 used at least some classical negatives. On the other hand, nobody used grammatical endings or the classical interdental phonemes all the time. There is also a difference in function with some elements. For example, while 45 speakers used classical demonstrative adjectives, only 33 used classical demonstrative pronouns in their discourse. This work also discusses the fact that, while some sort of hierarchies or mixing paradigms seem to exist, there are problems with stating these hierarchies. Finally, the problem of accounting for this style of speech with a single grammar model or with a two grammars model is briefly discussed.

Department of Linguistics University of Wisconsin-Madison

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