The Arab Gulf region is one of the standard examples of diglossia, where standard Arabic (SA), as a high variety, and colloquial Arabic (CA), as a low variety, co-exist (Ferguson, 1959; Kaye, 1970; Wardhaugh & Fuller, 2015). However, this linguistic pattern has been changing, with speakers increasingly using English due to globalization (Winford, 2002). In this paper, I examine the use of SA, CA, and English in the speech of two groups of public figures in the Arabian Gulf region: politicians and actors. It is hypothesized that the two groups will have distinct speech styles as they are constructing different personae (Eckert, 2004): a socially conservative one for politicians, and a more popular and cosmopolitan one for actors. It is further hypothesized that politicians will use standard Arabic more, because of its association with conservative values, and actors will use more colloquial Arabic and English for their popular association. The study uses naturalistic data that was obtained by examining a 30-minute interview, from public recordings on YouTube, for each of the 18 subjects: six politicians (three males, three females) and 12 actors (six males, six females). An analysis of 2,808 utterances yields results that support the hypothesis. More than half of the politicians’ utterances are a mixture of SA and CA. Actors, on the other hand, adopt a different style in which CA is the dominant code, but they also use utterances that are a mixture of CA and English borrowings (12% of their speech). These findings can be seen as an indication of a linguistic change in the region: CA forms are replacing SA, not only in the speech of popular figures such as actors but also in that of more conservative speakers such as politicians. The appearance of English borrowings in the utterances of the actors is another indication that linguistic norms in the Arab Gulf region might be shifting towards the vernacular.
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Thesis advisor: Pappas, Panayiotis
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