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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."


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Dissertation Information


Title: Suburbia and the Inner-City: Patterns of linguistic variation and change in Damascus Add Dissertation
Author: Hanadi Ismail Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Essex, PhD in Linguistics
Completed in: 2008
Linguistic Subfield(s): Sociolinguistics;
Subject Language(s): Arabic, North Levantine
Director(s): Enam Al-Wer
David Britain

Abstract: This study investigates current patterns of linguistic variation and change
in Damascus, the capital city of Syria. The data is elicited from the
speech of 59 female and male Damascene speakers from two neighbourhoods in
Damascus: inner-city Shaghoor and suburban Dummar. The sample is divided
into three age groups: young, middle and old; and two life-modes: life-mode
1 and life-mode 2. Two linguistic variables are investigated: the variable
(h) in the 3rd person singular feminine and plural feminine and masculine
suffixes /-ha/ and /-hon/; and the variable (r). The data show that the
variant Ø, rather than [h], is the favoured form of the pronominal suffix,
and that there is no gender or life-mode differentiation in the usage of
(h). The statistical analysis, supported by previous descriptions of the
dialect, shows that (h) has been in stable variation in the dialect for a
long period of time. The geographical distribution of (h) in Syria reveals
that the h-less form of the suffix is an urban/city feature, and that it
had possibly diffused from the dialects of the coastal cities following the
urban hierarchal model. The analysis also shows that the sound /r/ is
undergoing a change in progress in the dialect. The change of /r/,
signified as [ɹ] in the study, is being led by the young age groups in both
neighbourhoods. The distribution of [ɹ] across age groups suggests that the
new sound emerged in life-mode 2 (suburban Dummar). In life-mode 1
(Shaghoor), the sound change is being led by the young men in the
neighbourhood. It is suggested that it is not contact per se, or contact
alone, which facilitates the adoption of [ɹ] amongst the speakers in
life-mode 1 (Shaghoor); rather, it is the mode of production as a social
practice. An examination of the individual scores among the young women's
group reveals that the linguistically innovative members of this group can
be categorised as a life-mode within a life-mode on the basis of their
economic contribution and the way they are perceived by the rest of the
community. These productive women are a minority in the population of
Shaghoor as a whole, and their economic contribution is sanctioned by local
cultural norms. The relative dominance of men in this age group in terms of
productivity may explain the young men's higher score of [ɹ].