Aswan Arabic : negotiating identity in a provincial capital

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2017-05

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This dissertation aims to shed light on the sociolinguistic identity of the historically maligned speakers of Aswan Arabic. Although scholars have comprehensively documented much of Upper Egypt’s (southern Egypt’s) linguistic variation, Aswan Arabic remains a lacuna. Additionally, only three sociolinguistic studies cover Upper Egyptians’ language attitudes. On the other hand, much of the known sociolinguistic stigma and disparagement associated with Upper Egyptians and their dialects can be found in popular Cairene serials. I assert that several Cairene television series further stigmatize the historically marginalized Upper Egyptians and misrepresent some linguistic features. In response to this misconception, I present an empirical study of complex sociophonetic variation of three linguistic features represented in spoken Aswan Arabic and interpret the variable pronunciations in their contemporary context. To that end, I conducted sociolinguistic interviews of 33 speakers of Aswan Arabic during several trips to Aswan from 2012-2015 where I observe unusual, systematic, and variable pronunciations of ṭ, j, and ā, (which are respectively /tˤ/, /d͡ʒ/, and /æ:/). The project also acoustically describes the unorthodox pronunciations of the respective sounds as well as pinpoints the effects of factors like sex, ethnicity, and age on pronunciation choice in Aswan Arabic. Some of these pronunciation choices signify ethnic membership, masculine toughness, and urbane refinedness. These findings endeavor to help provide acoustic descriptions of an under-documented Arabic dialect, and contribute to issues in Arabic Linguistics.

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