LINGUIST List 6.379

Fri 17 Mar 1995

Disc: Sex and Standard Language

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  1. "", RE: 6.328 Sum: Sex and standardness
  2. benji wald, Re: 6.328 Sum: Sex and standardness

Message 1: RE: 6.328 Sum: Sex and standardness

Date: Tue, 7 Mar 1995 13:10:09 +RE: 6.328 Sum: Sex and standardness
From: "" <>
Subject: RE: 6.328 Sum: Sex and standardness

Content-Length: 3119

I have the following comment about Sex and standardness in Arabic in
response to D. Hudson's recent summary of data:

Arabic is not an exeptional case; Arab women use 'standard'
'prestigious' forms significantly more often than men. The confusion
that arises in this regard is with the variety referred to as
'standard Arabic' which under no circumstances should be understood to
be analogous with, say, standard English, standard German, etc. There
are regional standards in the Arab World; these, rather than Classical
Written Arabic, are the varieties which exert pressure on the
speakers, and are assigned values such as 'prestige'. The evidence
for the above is overwhelming: the famous variant /q/ (referred to in
Abdel-Jawad's work as a 'standard Arabic' feature) is also a feature
of, mainly, rural Palestinian varieties and also of the traditional
old Nablus variety, and (presumably therefore) is highly stigmatized,
(this is why women from Nablus use it less often than men). The same
variant (/q/) is a feature of urban Tunisian Arabic where it is
considered prestigious and women apparently use it more often than men
(see Jabeur 1987 for data from Tunis). /q/ is also a feature of some
Christian Baghdadi varieties, in which case it is shunned in favour of
/g/, a moslem variant. Another variable which exhibits a similar
pattern is (th): in the Levant, this variable has three major
variants: interdental voiceless fricative (as the 1st sound in Eng
'three)', a feature of varieties which are akin to the Bedouin norm,
e.g. indigenous Jordanian varieties, Horan and the Eastern province in
Syria and of Classical Arabic, [t] and [s], characteristic of the
urban varieties, e.g Damascus, Beirut, Jerusalem, Haifa, Hebron etc.
My data from Jordan show very clearly that (1) the indigenous (and
Classical Arabic) variant is consistantly abandoned in favour of the
stop and less often the sibilant variants, (2) women (who come from an
'interdental fricative' dialect background) do this considerably more
often than men, and (3) most significantly highly educated women (who,
by definition, have better knowledge of Classical Arabic than
uneducated women) do this considerably more often than less educated
or illiterate women (who show an almost categorical use of the
interdental variant). Similar results have been obtained with regard
to many other variables, e.g. (dh) 'interdental voiced fricative' in
Jordan, (J) in Jordan and in Bahraine (see Holes 1987). If features
characteristic of Classical Arabic are considered 'prestigious', how
do we explain the fact that these features are being systematically
abandoned? The conclusion must be that Classical Arabic and its
features are not involved in the processes of variation and change,
and that Arab women follow the general pattern of sex differentiation:
they lead change in the direction of the norm which is considered more
prestigious (in the case of Arabic, this norm is most often an urban

Dr Enam Al-Wer
Dept of Language and Linguistics
University of Essex,
Wivenhoe Park,
Colchester CO4 3SQ/ Essex, U.K
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Message 2: Re: 6.328 Sum: Sex and standardness

Date: Mon, 06 Mar 95 21:06 PST
From: benji wald <IBENAWJMVS.OAC.UCLA.EDU>
Subject: Re: 6.328 Sum: Sex and standardness

Content-Length: 11352

I don't know whether it's Hudson or Fasold who's mixed up in reporting
what Russell may have said about the relative conservatism of women vs
men in Mombasa. One of those two guys (Hudson or Fasold) seems to think
that the contrast is between Swahili and English -- when, as one would
expect from the nature of the original query -- it's about variation
within Swahili. Mombasa, like other Swahili speech communities, distinguishes
two basic kinds of Swahili, "inside" Swahili and "everybody" Swahili.
The first is the community language, identified by speakers with norms
which contrast with the norms used by outsiders. The stereotyped example in
Mombasa is the pronunciation ndoo "come" (with a dental prenasalised stop)
as inside vs. njoo (with palatal) as "outside". In fact, women tend to
use the "inside" norms more than men, most noticeably when talking to
outsiders, for the reasons mentioned as general by Hudson in summary of
societies in which women are more "conservative" (in the sense of
preserving OLDER local norms) than men. It's not about Swahili vs.
English, but about Swahili variants, one of which can be identified with
the traditional local (= conservative) community and the other with
the larger society (= Umgangsprache for everybody which is close to the
written standard). All this, bear in mind, reflects the situation
in the 1970s, as far as Mombasa is concerned. Benji
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