Language attitude and change among the Druze in Israel

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Isleem, Martin A.

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This study examines language attitudes and behaviors among the Druze in Israel in order to assess the roles of Arabic and Hebrew in this community. The study utilizes four different approaches: attitude surveys, a survey of linguistic landscapes, a study of language choice in the Internet and an analysis of codeswitching. The results of the language attitude survey indicate that a significant number of Druze exhibit inconsistent attitudes toward their first language and linguistic behavior patterns that are in line with general sociolinguistic patterns of language change. Young people, those with less education, and females all express significantly positive attitudes toward Hebrew. As reported in the literature, these groups have been instrumental in the process of language change. Patterns of language production and consumption in both street signage and websites affirm Bourdieu’s (1991) ideas regarding linguistic market capital as Hebrew is found to have greater value than Arabic in the Mount Carmel area, where the Druze maintain a strong connection with the Jewish-Israeli economy. In contrast, Arabic has a stronger presence in Druze neighborhoods in the Lower Galilee area. This is also true of Druze websites, particularly those that address the Palestinian-Israeli community, the majority in the Lower Galilee area. The study finds that while mixed language is the most common code of younger Druze Internet users, a relatively high percentage of cultural tradition and creative writing works were posted in Arabic. This study also investigates Druze spoken and written codeswitching behavior within the framework of Myers-Scotton's MLF model (1993, 2002). The analysis reveals that Arabic is the Matrix Language of the mixed constituents, although it is not the most common code in overall language produced. Although Arabic does not show signs of waning in the mixed languages’ syntactic structure, and is dominant in cultural tradition and literary works, there is manifest evidence of a language shift toward Hebrew, and the leading groups are: youth in general, and speakers in Mount Carmel.



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