Welcome to the Arabic Language Discussion Forum

Being a retired professor of Arabic and Linguistics, I have elected to publish an archive on how the Arabic language is used in America and across cultures.

I hope to establish a dialogue with people interested in the language, the teaching of the language, the learning of the language, and the interaction of Arabic and English while learning the language.

I am also interested in having a discussion as to the use of Arabic within the contexts of globalization.

Arabic is very much a language that binds a culture and defines a people. This blog is dedicated to understanding how American use, learn, and teach the Arabic language, and how Arabic, in Arab countries has been impacted crossculturally.

Nov 23, 2012

What Does Near Native Proficiency Mean for MSA

Copyright © 2010 Aleya Rouchdy, All Rights Reserved

David Wilmsen’s email on Arabic-L (9/29/2012)  made me go back to my neglected blog and add his comment as a post for AATA non-members.
The subject  was  What doesNear Native Proficiency Mean for Modern Standard Arabic.”
David seemed annoyed (correctly so) by the diction in job announcements in the field of Arabic teaching.  In general job announcements incorporate the statement “native or near-native command in MSA is required.”
Wilmsen’s question was “what would a native command of Modern Standard Arabic mean in the context of a language with no native speakers?” He further adds “Is this kind of boilerplate some sort of dodge for eluding the appearance of discrimination by national origin?” 
I don’t think the intention is to discriminate by national origin because I was in a position whereby I hired a number of Arabic language teachers.  The candidate’s national origin was never considered. As a matter of fact there were non-native speakers who were as good if not better than some of the native speakers!
Paul Roochnik still on Arabic-L stated “near native would be the ability to shift effortlessly from on register of the language to another.” As for Kassem Wahba, he wrote, “nobody knows what this term means,” which is a good answer to the question ‘what does a native or near-native speaker mean?’
 I would like to conclude with a humble suggestion. Why doesn’t AATA come out with a simple statement to be considered in future job announcements for job seekers, taking in consideration the ‘fluency’ of the applicants as Roochnik stated?
OK, I am sure some would consider ‘fluent’ too broad of a term!!!!!!

Jul 2, 2012

Recent Linguistic Observations – Egypt

Saturday, June 30, 2012 was one of the most memorable days for Egyptians, whether they supported or rejected the latest political changes. The newly elected Egyptian president, Dr. Mohamed Morsi, was sworn in. It is the first non-military president in Egypt since 1952.

I have been following closely the recent events in Egypt, and they were many.

Since the Revolution of January 25, 2011, there is a continuous development in the political scene: Elections, rise of new political parties, dissolution of the elected parliament, first stage presidential elections and second stage presidential election. Meanwhile the people’s demonstrations were carried on every Friday in Tahrir square until last week when the newly elected President, Dr. Mohamed Morsi, addressed the demonstrators in the Square. There are still few demonstrators in Tahrir Square, however, the square is now open to traffic.

The political changes occurring in Egypt in the last 18 months are of great interest to me, however, this blog is not where I would like to discuss them. I share my political interests with that of my husband on his blog: www.mid-east-today.blogspot.com.  I would, however, like to mention here a linguistic variation demonstrated by the last two candidates during their campaigns for the presidency.

The political discourse of the last two candidates differed greatly. Dr. Ahmad Shafik in his delivery of written speeches shifted regularly between Egyptian colloquial Arabic (ECA) and modern standard Arabic (MSA). His MSA was mediocre. He wreak havoc upon al?i3raab الاعراب, and  he used only ECA when addressing the public without a written speech.

Dr. Mohamed Morse, on the other hand used MSA when delivering either his written or non-written speeches. He was eloquent in his use of MSA avoiding all grammatical errors. Actually, whenever he made mistakes he immediately corrected them. Dr. Amr Moussa, former Egyptian foreign minister and former chairman of the Arab League was quoted in al Wafd newspaper ( June 30) saying أعجبني إصراره علي النطق العربي الصحيح وعودته إلي تكرار الجملة إذا أخطأ فيها نحوياً .

Furthermore, Dr. Morsi used a specific genre in his political discourse. Whenever he wanted to stress a point in his speeches to the public, he always repeated the last phrase of the sentence that incorporated the idea he wanted to emphasize. As for ECA, he used it sparely, and only when he felt inclined to be informal while addressing the public using slogans the demonstrators have been using.

Morsi’s diglossic variation is what Clive Holes refers to as ‘a conscious choice ‘  (Holes 1993, The uses of variation: A study of the political speeches of Gamal Abd-al-Nasir. Perspectives on Arabic Linguistics v: 13-45). This was definitely not the case of Dr. Shafik, his linguistic variation was different in nature and definitely not by choice. It remains to be examined further.

As Reem Bassiouney in her book Arabic Sociolinguistics (2009) stated” “The diglossic situation in the Arab world adds a new dimension to our understanding of language variation and change in the regions.” The political discourse used by the Egyptian candidates is in my humble opinion a situation of language variation  that is worth studying by sociolinguists.  

My second recent linguistic observation is the language used by some young Egyptians in their online page titled ‘Asa7be Sarcasm Society’. They began this new Egyptian network two months ago. Asa7be اساحبي is koined out of the word yaSaHbi ياصحبي.  

Reem Bassiouney in her book Arabic Sociolinguistics  (2009, P. 118) quotes Versteegh’s statement “The process of Koineisation…is in most cases connected with situations in which groups of speakers were thrown together by accident.” (P.118)
In the case of the ‘Asa7be Sarcasm Society’ the group of young Egyptians were not thrown together by accident. They were brought together by a common interest, which is to humor and criticize the changes they see happening in post-revolutionary Egypt: politically, socially, and linguistically. The result of such common interest, is in my opinion, a type of koine or a common language the young have developed. A salient phonological variation used in Asa7be is the replacement of emphatics by non-emphatics. For instance مسير instead of    مصير ,
    اسفحة   instead of   الصفحة

Furthermore Arabizi is also used on Asa7be to communicate the authors’ ideas. Arabizi is now becoming very popular among the young in Egypt as a fast means of communication. It is used on Facebook, Twitter and Asa7be.
Some have accused Asa7be’s authors of destroying the Arabic language by using Arabizi and phonological variation in their script. Not so, say the young authors. They have developed a script and koined a language that has attracted a large number of people’s attention in Egypt. Many of the young Egyptians I have met quote Asa7be and use its language to interject humor in their speech. Do check it yourself! Asa7be.com, Facebook.com/Asa7bess.

An official site will be also available soon:  http://www.Asabess.com

Copyright © 2010 Aleya Rouchdy, All Rights Reserved

Jun 4, 2012


Recent events in Egypt have kept me away from my blog on language. I felt as if it was a trivial topic compared to topics on the Egyptian’s elections, trials, and uprisings. But it is not, since language has been used to reflect events, vividly.

FusHa is in its glory.  Candidates for the presidency, talk shows guests, and reporters, have all tried to dazzle us with their diversified use of al FusHa. Some did impress me, others baffled me. For instance, one has only to listen to speeches delivered by the last two candidates for the Egyptian presidency to realize the variety of genres in the Egyptian political discourse. Would the use of an eloquent FusHa impress the Egyptian public? It remains to be seen. But, this is an interesting topic to pursue on blogs on the Arabic language.

 I will resume posting again on the Arabic language and its usage during these trying times in Egypt. Humor is one of the topics I will be considering. The type of humor circulating nowadays among young Egyptians is an interesting sociolinguistic topic to examine. Not only does it reflect the political situation, but also it demonstrates the Egyptians’ dexterity in using the language, their quick-wittedness, and their linguistic perception.

Arabizi is a second topic I would also like to discuss on this blog. I have been following some friends on Facebook and was amazed at the increase of their using Arabizi. Actually, I have had time reading a whole paragraph in Arabizi!

To conclude I am inserting sites from Aljazeera net reporting on the ‘Forum for the Advancement of Arabic ‘held in Qatar.

Copyright © 2010 Aleya Rouchdy, All Rights Reserved
To Read How Language and culture are intermingled

 An article by Marielle R. Risse, in The Chronicle -Commentary, May 31, 2012

Mar 20, 2012

An Interesting book edited by Reem Bassiouney and E.Grahm Katz

Copyright © 2010 Aleya Rouchdy, All Rights Reserved

Arabic Language and Linguistics edited by Reem Bassiouney and E. Graham Katz