Sociolinguistics of the Arab World

Course time: 
Monday/Thursday 9:00-10:50 AM
The 90, Room 217

In this course, we’ll seek to examine recent research on Arabic sociolinguistics and future possibilities for work on that topic. On the one hand, we’ll be considering how basic concepts from sociolinguistics can help us understand the complexity of the linguistic situations found there; from this perspective, we’ll be asking how we can describe and analyze that complexity given the nature of contemporary sociolinguistic theorizing, which has focused primarily on the West. On the other, we’ll be asking how the particular configurations of language, culture, and society that characterize the Arab world and diaspora communities with roots there can contribute to our understanding of language as social practice, as tool, and as symbol more broadly. Our approach to sociolinguistics will be quite broad, including research employing a range of paradigms, e.g., descriptive studies, variationist sociolinguistics, language contact, the social psychology of language, and linguistic anthropology.

Because of the nature of speech communities across the Arab world, topics will include diglossia and diglossic switching; multilingualism (including both indigenous languages and languages of wider communication) and codeswitching; language ideologies, language attitudes, and identity; language and nationalism; language planning and policy; and the impact of media on the linguistic situation there.

We’ll use Abdulkafi Albirini’s (2016) Modern Arabic sociolinguistics: Diglossia, variation, codeswitching, attitudes and identity (Routledge) as a starting point, and students are encouraged to read the volume before the first class meeting to enable us to spend as much time as possible examining specific research studies to help you deepen their knowledge of the field.

To the greatest extent possible, we will focus on topics and geographic areas of particular interest to students enrolled in the course. (I’ll survey those registered for the course a few weeks before it begins to learn more about your interests.) Some knowledge of any variety of Arabic would be useful though not required as would familiarity with general sociolinguistic concepts. If you have questions, feel free to contact me at