Discipline: Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences
Subcategory: Social Sciences/Psychology/Economics
Room: Exhibit Hall A
Marwa Elraey - CUNY Brooklyn College
This study investigates language attitudes toward Arabic diglossia among speakers in New York City. Diglossia refers to cases where two language varieties are spoken within the same speech community but in different domains. In the case of the Arabic language, Standard Arabic (al-fuṣḥá) is spoken in formal situations and taught in academic settings, while the Non-Standard Varieties (al-‘ammiya) are used in informal situations and are spoken on a daily basis. One reason for studying diglossia is that it has been suggested as a likely factor in an oral-literacy gap (Abu-Rabia, 2000). However, while diglossia in the Arab world has been well-investigated, few studies have examined diglossia among heritage speakers living in the U.S. and other regions. This study used a survey to ask fluent heritage speakers of Arabic in New York City three different sets of questions, based on a similar study of speakers in Egypt (Husein, 2017). The first set asks about their opinions/beliefs (i.e. cognitive domain), preferences/feelings (i.e. affective domain), and intentions/plans (i.e. behavioral domain) toward each variety. Each of these domains was studied separately and a measure of overall positive or negative attitude was determined. An additional set of questions asked about speakers’ attitudes toward diglossia and whether they would rather speak a monoglossic language. A final section asked about their demographic information. Scores were computed by adding the percentages of positive and negative answers separately for each domain. The results were compared to those of Husein (2017). Both Husein’s study and the present study revealed overall positive behavioral and cognitive attitudes – some of the sample attitude statements presented to participants in the behavioral and the cognitive domains were whether the participants wished they could “speak al-fuṣḥá fluently” and whether “it is easy to learn al-fuṣḥá” respectively. However, one key difference between the studies is that, while Husein found an overall negative affective attitude toward al-fuṣḥā, the present study resulted in an overall positive one. For example, when participants were asked whether they “enjoyed watching TV shows and movies in al-fuṣḥá,” the proportion who agreed with the statement (45.9%) exceeded the proportion who disagreed (40.5%), while in Husein’s study the opposite was found (34% vs. 58%). These results suggest that while there are similarities between attitudes toward diglossia among Arabic speakers in the Arab world and heritage speakers in NYC, the two populations may differ in their attitudes in the affective domain. The study did not provide an answer to why such a difference was found, and that points to a need for further study to examine the basis for differing attitudes of heritage speakers. References: Abu-Rabia, S. (2000). Effects of exposure to Literary Arabic on reading comprehension in a diglossic situation. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 13, 147–157. Husein, A. A. (2017). Students’ attitude towards Arabic language varieties: The Case of the Fuṣḥā Arabic. Practice and Theory in Systems of Education, 12(2), 86-98.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): Funding was provided by NSF REU SITE Intersection of Linguistics, Language, and Culture to Brooklyn College and Long Island University (LIU); REU Site Grant SMA# 1659607
Faculty Advisor: Jonathan Nissenbaum, JNissenbaum@brooklyn.cuny.edu
Role: I designed and carried out the study myself, in consultation and with valuable feedback from my faculty mentor.