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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: Towards a Sociohistorical Reconstruction of Pre-Islamic Arabic Dialect Diversity Add Dissertation
Author: Alexander Magidow Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Texas at Austin, Department of Middle Eastern Studies
Completed in: 2013
Linguistic Subfield(s): Historical Linguistics;
Subject Language(s): Arabic, Tajiki
Arabic, Mesopotamian
Arabic, Ta'izzi-Adeni
Arabic, Hijazi
Arabic, Omani
Arabic, Cypriot
Arabic, Tunisian
Arabic, Gulf
Arabic, Baharna
Arabic, South Levantine
Arabic, North Levantine
Arabic, Algerian
Arabic, Najdi
Arabic, Moroccan
Arabic, Egyptian
Arabic, Uzbeki
Arabic, Eastern Egyptian Bedawi
Arabic, Hadrami
Arabic, Libyan
Arabic, Sanaani
Arabic, Chadian
Arabic, Andalusian
Director(s): Kristen Brustad
Patience Epps

Abstract: This dissertation establishes a framework for a reconstruction of the
Arabic dialects that existed immediately prior to the Islamic conquests and
tests that framework with a reconstruction based on the demonstrative
pronouns and adjectives used in over sixty modern spoken dialects of Arabic

The dissertation develops a framework, drawing on work in sociolinguistics,
in which the unit of reconstruction is the speech community rather than the
'language' or 'dialect.' Speech communities are defined as groups of
speakers connected by networks as well as by a sense of allegiance, and may
have diverse repertoires which include multiple languages. Speech
communities are easier to situation historically since their boundaries
often coincide with those of political or social entities reported in
non-linguistic texts. We can diagnose the existence and extent of
pre-historical speech communities by the way their boundaries limit the
diffusion of innovations.

In order to link the historical reconstruction to the history of Arabic
speaking communities, the dissertation investigates the historical and
social circumstances of the pre-Islamic Arabian Peninsula and of the
post-Islamic colonization of the Middle East and North Africa by Arabic
speakers. It questions the whether a 'tribe' is identical to a speech
community, as assumed in earlier literature, and argues that the success of
the Arabic-speaking minorities in the conquered was largely related to
patterns of settlement that segregated Arabs from non-Arabs. It also
questions the traditional chronology of the settlement of North Africa and
the division between pre- and post- 'Hilalian' dialects.

The dissertation then reconstructs the Arabic demonstrative pronouns and
adjectives, and shows that Arabic dialects can be classified primarily
based on how they mark gender differentiation in the singular and by the
form of their plural demonstratives. Linking the reconstruction of the
demonstratives to the historical data, the dissertation suggests that
following origins for modern Arabic dialects: the rural dialects of the
Levant and Iraq, with c. pl. *haː-ula, originally hailed from the southern
Hijaz, though an older layer of unknown origin, with f. sg. taː, is still
detectable. The same speech community gave rise to the dialects of the
Northern Yemeni plateau. The dialects of Levantine and Iraqi cities, with
m. pl. *haːðawla, f. pl. *haːðanna (< *haːðalla) represents later dialect
shift, the origins of which are unclear. Modern (northern) Egyptian Arabic,
characterized originally by m. pl. *ðawl, f. pl. *ðayl , originated on the
Yemeni Tihama coast. The pre-Islamic origin of North African dialects,
characterized by c. pl haːðuː demonstratives, is less clear, but speakers
of these dialects colonized Upper Egypt as well, though only traces of that
period remain. Classical Arabic demonstratives show a great deal of
diversity, and may reflect the process of its development as a literary koiné.

Finally, the dissertation concludes by arguing that theories about the
original homeland of Arabic obscure the importance of the geographical and
linguistic variation present in Arabic immediately prior to the Islamic
conquests. The conclusion also argues that much more research is needed on
the dialectology of the Arabian Peninsula, particularly the Red Sea coast,
in order to develop a clearer picture of the history of the Arabic language.