Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login

New from Cambridge University Press!


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."

We Have a New Site!

With the help of your donations we have been making good progress on designing and launching our new website! Check it out at!
***We are still in our beta stages for the new site--if you have any feedback, be sure to let us know at***

Academic Paper

Title: Linguistic Analysis of Folk Singing in Arabic: Al-Attaba
Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: Arabic, Standard
Abstract: As a diglossic language, Arabic offers its speakers two basic varieties for oral communication: the Standard variety, which is virtually the same in all Arabic-speaking countries, and the Colloquial variety, encompassing numerous local dialects within each Arabic speech community. Each variety serves certain purposes: a university lecture or a public speech is conducted in the Standard variety, while at a family gathering, one expects to hear Colloquial. In the real world of spoken Arabic, however, the two varieties often overlap: elements of Colloquial may occur in formal discourse and elements of Standard find their way into casual conversation./L//L/This paper is an attempt to describe a particular type of Arabic folksinging, known as al-ataaba. Al-ataaba is composed in the form of al-bayt, which is generally sung at wedding parties and other joyous occasions. Bayt al-ataaba is not composed like traditional poetry: it is created spontaneously as it is sung for the occasion. It consists of four lines, the first three of which must end in homonyms, and it expresses a unitary idea that may be quite complex. Bayt al-ataaba may be described as words dressed in music: the words conform to the music of the poetic meter but they also tell a concise story. /L/The focus of the analysis here is the manner in which al-ataaba brings together Standard and Colloquial Arabic: bayt al-ataaba is sung in Colloquial but at the same time, it is patterned on one of the traditional poetic meters originating in Classical Arabic, namely al-waafer./L/ /L/The research material comes from tape-recorded abyaat (plural of bayt) ataaba sung at wedding parties, and a collection of abyaat from friends and persons interested in composing, singing, memorizing or reciting ataaba. Certain well-known singers of al-ataaba were also consulted for verification of some details concerning this genre./L//L/I describe the historical development of bayt al-ataaba, the various types of ataaba, and the range of subject matter treated in bayt al-ataaba. I present a linguistic analysis of bayt al-ataaba as a model of storytelling so concise that it may, for example, relate the essence of a lifetime in just four lines, and as a unique poetic form in which the first three of the four lines must end in one or more homonyms./L//L/Arabic is at its best in bayt al-ataaba, to say the least: the complexity of the content and the rigid strictures of the rhyming scheme manifest the richness and ingenuity of the language. The linguistic ability of the singer/poet is also profound. The singer may be illiterate, but mastery of the art form demands and demonstrates an excellent command of the language and its vocabulary. The existence of bayt al-ataaba is confirmation that as speakers of Arabic, we express our deepest thoughts and emotions in our mother tongue: the Colloquial. Of particular interest here is the fact that in bayt al-ataaba, we mold that expression to conform to a difficult and unvarying Classical poetic format.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: In Progress
Publication Info: Dahesh Voice
Add a new paper
Return to Academic Papers main page
Return to Directory of Linguists main page