Diglossic Code-switching Between Standard Arabic and Najdi Arabic in Religious discourse

Author: Majedah Alaiyed (Department of English Language and Translation, Qassim University, Saudi Arabia)
Speaker: Majedah Alaiyed
Topic: General Sociolinguistics
COMELA 2020 General Session


In diglossic speech communities the speakers are expected to switch between two or more linguistic codes. Saudi Arabia is one of the countries where diglossic code-switching is witnessed. The switching there can take place between Standard Arabic and one of its Saudi Arabic varieties. Since, it is claimed that the switching between linguistic codes is sructually constrained (Poplack, 1980, 1981; Myers-Scotton, 1993a; Bentahil & Davies, 1992), this study investigates the linguistic structural constraints of diglossic code-switching in religious discourse between two varieties of Arabic: Standard Arabic and Najdi Arabic by focusing on intra-sentential diglossic code-switching. The aim of the study is to contribute to the limited knowledge about the mixed speech of educated speakers in Saudi Arabia by examining the switching found in the extemporaneous monologue on religious topics which is considered by Ferguson (1959a) to be a very formal context.

The study will also compare between male and female preachers in their switching between the two varieties included as no study have been conducted on female preachers’ code-switching before. It adopts the methods of quantitative and qualitative analysis to analyse the mixing found in the religious speeches. In accounting for the structural constraints found in diglossic switching between Standard Arabic and Najdi Arabic, diglossic variants of four linguistic variables are considered: negation, relative pronouns, demonstratives and future particles. This study shows that male and female preachers alternated in their use of the two varieties, switching from one variety to the other across sentence boundaries and within the same sentence.The results of the current study show that this process does not proceed randomly but is rather governed by particular principles in both the male and female preachers’ religious monologues. In the case of Standard Arabic variants, where Standard Arabic represents the NON-DOMINANT variety in the study, diglossic code-switching is restricted as its variants are found to occur only with Standard Arabic or shared lexis. On the other hand, in the case of Najdi Arabic, which is considered the DOMINANT variety in the study, Najdi Arabic variants are found to exist with both Standard Arabic and Najdi Arabic lexis, thus providing further evidence for the validity of the ‘dominant language hypothesis’ proposed by Petersen (1988). It also provides further evidence in support of Eid’s (1982, 1988) constraints. The study also adopts the assumption that the growing practice of switching may give us a deep understanding of what constitutes ‘intermediate varieties’.

Keywords: Code-switching, diglossia, Standard Arabic, Najdi Arabic, intermediate varieties