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The structure and functions of codeswitching between standard Arabic and dialectal Arabic

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Title: The structure and functions of codeswitching between standard Arabic and dialectal Arabic
Author(s): Albirini, Abdulkafi
Director of Research: Benmamoun, Elabbas
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Benmamoun, Elabbas
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Bhatt, Rakesh M.; Montrul, Silvina A.; Terkourafi, Marina
Department / Program: Linguistics
Discipline: Linguistics
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Standard Arabic Dialectal Arabic Codeswitching structure social functions.
Abstract: Codeswitching (CS) between Standard Arabic (SA) and Dialectal Arabic (DA) is a characteristic feature of Arabic bidialectal speech in a number of contexts. This dissertation focuses on two aspects related to this phenomenon, namely, its syntactic structure and its social functions in Arabic-speaking communities. The purpose of this study was three-fold: first, to examine the applicability of some of the major syntactic constraints on bilingual CS to bidialectal CS between SA and DA; second, to identify the potential syntactic principles that govern CS between the two varieties; and, third, to investigate the sociolinguistic functions of CS in the Arabic sociolinguistic context. Three sets of naturally-produced data were examined, representing the domains of religious lectures/ discussions, political debates/interviews, and soccer play-by-play commentaries. The naturalistic data came from 35 audio- and video-recordings for educated speakers of Arabic. This data was supplemented by two hundred and thirty-five sentences experimentally created to test certain hypotheses about the structure of CS between the two varieties. The analysis of the syntactic patterns of CS between SA and DA shows that none of the major syntactic constraints on bilingual CS applies in the case of CS between SA and DA. This is explained by the fact that, whereas CS constraints arise as a result of certain parametric incompatibilities between typologically distinct languages, CS between SA and DA eludes these constraints because of the structural similarity of the two varieties. This also supports the view that the constraints on CS vary from one language pair to another. The findings suggest that CS between SA and DA is structurally regulated by the Sentential Functional Head Constraint, which prevents CS in a single CP between a lexical verb and its functional head(s) and between the functional heads themselves. This constraint operates only at the level of functional heads in the A-domain, that is, on the path from V to C (i.e. C, I, and Neg). Moreover, the data points to the unequal roles and statuses of SA and DA in mixed discourse. Based on the current data, DA seems to shape the structure of most mixed sentences and therefore it serves as the host language, as opposed to the guest language role which SA assumes. Sociolinguistically, the findings suggest that, unlike its bilingual counterpart, CS between SA and DA is primarily not governed by the immediate context, speech event, speaker or interlocutor, but rather by the link between status and functions of the code itself. CS here serves as a regularization mechanism through which sociolinguistic functions of varying levels of prestige, importance, complexity, and seriousness are encoded and indexed through the use of two codes—a High code dedicated for important, serious, and complex issues, and a Low code designated for less important, less serious, and simple issues. CS also serves as a marker of the speaker’s attitude toward certain details in the discourse, often indexing his/her positive attitudes toward SA-related functions and negative attitudes to DA-related ones. Lastly, speakers often shift to SA to invoke their pan-Arab or Muslim affiliation. This suggests that SA use here is meant to index their Muslim and Arab identities. Overall, the study points to a paradoxical polarity in the structural and social roles that SA and DA assume in the context of Arabic bidialectal CS. Although DA is the structurally predominant language, it assumes the functions of the Low code. On the other hand, SA assumes the functions of the High code, even though it is less influential in shaping the structure codeswitched sentences. The CS patterns therefore replicate the social and acquisitional statuses of these two varieties in the Arabic sociolinguistic landscape. The study suggests that the phenomenon of bidialectal CS should be studied on its own right as independent from bilingual CS.
Issue Date: 2011-01-21
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/18581
Rights Information: Copyright 2010 Abdulkafi Albirini
Date Available in IDEALS: 2011-01-21
2013-01-22
Date Deposited: 2010-12
 

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