Probing linguistic change in Arabic vernaculars: a sociohistorical perspective

Enam Al-Wer*, Uri Horesh, Deema Alammar, Hind Alaodini, Aziza Al-Essa, Areej Al-Hawamdeh, Khairia Al-Qahtani, Abeer Ab Hussain

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


It is received wisdom in variationist sociolinguistics that linguistic and social factors go hand in hand in structuring variability in language and any consequent instances of language change. We address the complexity of such factors by exploring data from several Arabic dialects in the eastern Arab world. We demonstrate that language change does not always follow expected phonological trajectories, even in cases where older changes are reconstructed to have operated along so-called universal patterns. In our explanation of recent changes in these dialects, we emphasise the role of social motivations for language change and the interactions between these social constraints and purely linguistic ones. Our analysis of change is supported by historical accounts of variation and change in Arabic. We illustrate how general principles of sociolinguistic theory apply to the Arabic data and provide additional layers of sociolinguistic information that highlight the importance of diverse data for evaluating cross-linguistic generalisations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-50
Number of pages22
JournalLanguage in Society
Issue number1
Early online date6 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022


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