Stylistic variation in read Arabic: A case study from Palestine

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The study of variation in Arabic vernaculars has come a long way since its
beginnings as a misguided endeavor to compare features in these contemporary
dialects to cognate features in Standard Arabic (Classical or Modern)
and view any differences as results of language change. We now recognize
that the dialects and Standard Arabic have had different trajectories in different
places and over a long period of time. The current study attempts to
assess variation in a local variety of Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and
explore the methodological and theoretical advantages to consider what we
already know about variation in the vernacular spoken by the same community
whose reading in the Standard we are investigating. The paper draws a
distinction between Prescribed MSA and a local variety thereof, as attested
in recordings of a text read aloud by speakers of a Palestinian dialect, which
were collected as part of a broader battery of sociolinguistic interviews in
the speakers’ two dominant languages, Arabic and Hebrew. This is a pilot
study, in which variationist methods of quantification and contextual analysis
were employed, with the hope for setting the stage for more elaborate
studies on the various stylistic repertoires available to speakers of Arabic.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)55–72
JournalLanguage Ecology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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