At least due to the presence on the web, since the so-called Arab Spring if not before, of innumerable blogs and forums where one can no longer distinguish between the two channels (written/spoken), the concept of diglossia, from Marçais (1930) to Ferguson (1959) - but also to Hamam’s (2014) bimodalism, which distinguishes between “written” and “speech” - can no longer be considered adequate (Giolfo & Sinatora, 2011). Given the above, if variation is infinite in dialectal Arabic, it also exists in Standard Arabic, which is not as ‘standard’ as its name might suggest (Mejdell, 2008). Diatopical variation can be graphematic, phonic, lexical, and syntactic. Moreover, variation results from no separation between ‘varieties’, due to code-switching and code-mixing, and no separation between ‘mixed varieties’. This leads to the notion of ‘continuum’: not only an alternation of standard and dialectal forms, but above all the creation of hybrid forms, neither standard nor dialectal. Besides that, variation is also attested by the fact that we find in synchrony what belongs diachronically to different states of the language, as shown in the present analysis of contemporary conditionals via a correlation between the presence of ʾin and traditionalist discourse. If we admit that the Arabic linguistic reality of today is a continuum, that is to say an infinitely variable and heterogeneous Arabic, then such an acknowledgement constututes rather a challenge for the teaching of Arabic. Can we teach a continuum? How can we give an idea to our students? The present article aims at contributing to the representation of Arabic as infinitely variable and heterogeneous by analyzing samples of conditional systems derived from a peculiar genre of contemporary written Arabic. This will lead to the unveiling of a more variegated linguistic situation with regard to contemporary Arabic conditionals, compared with the description provided by Arab and Western modern and contemporary grammars. The importance of this more nuanced perspective on the present-day situation of contemporary Arabic will be discussed for its implications at the level of teaching methodology and its impact on the way in which contemporary Arabic grammar is presented to students of Arabic. In an attempt to add to the puzzle a piece which is anyway representative of contemporary written Arabic inasmuch as it is part of nowadays practice - an operation which also means, and not only metaphorically, enlarging the problem, instead of shrinking it - we will focus on current uses of Arabic conditionals on the web. More specifically, we will take into consideration samples from blogs and forums dealing with the analysis and interpretation of some very critical geopolitical events (such as the Arab Spring or the rise of ISIS) in the light of the Islamic eschatological tradition. Within the selected blogs and forums, the peculiar point of view adopted by the users in dealing with recent events that have dramatically altered the scenario of contemporary Arab world determines an extremely interesting continuity between tradition and modernity. Such a blending of traditional and modern elements, in our opinion, does not only affect the content but also the linguistic form of the message conveyed. In fact, due to the particular nature of the communication channel employed, the language of the samples collected in our corpus, while being a form of contemporary written language, presents linguistic traits that are related to its extemporaneous and informal use. Furthermore, thanks to the presence of a large number of hypotheses related to the interpretation of contemporary events and expressed by the authors in form of conditional sentences, our corpus presents us with a wide range of samples of hypothetical structures in contemporary Arabic. Apocalyptic hypotheses are characterized by uncertainty, but their realization is always perceived as possible. Therefore we have decided to focus on the potential conditional structures introduced by the conditional operator ʾin, “if”, as this operator is the one classically associated with uncertainty and possibility at the same time. (Giolfo, 2014, 2015) The choice of this classically prototypical (Giolfo, 2012) hypothetical operator is particularly important since recent linguistic descriptions of contemporary Arabic have theorized a heavy restriction in the use of ʾin in contemporary Arabic (Sartori, 2010) and hypothesized the increasing falling into disuse of ʾin to introduce conditional clauses to the benefit of ʾiḏā and law. (Badawi et al. 2004: 40, 623-624, 632-670; Girod, 2010) We will try to assess whether the new linguistic data provided by our corpus can help to shed light onto this topic and whether they confirm or not the theorized progressive disappearance of ʾin. In order to do that we will not only have to establish the exact number of ʾin occurrences in our corpus as a conditional operator in authentic productions (and not just in set phrases or religious formulas) but we will also have to contextualize that number by contrasting it with the number of occurrences of the other two conditional operators, ʾiḏā and law (also considered in authentic productions). The time span considered for our corpus ranges from June 2014 to March 2015. In order to analyze the large amount of linguist data provided by our corpus we have opted for the realization of a digital corpus to be investigated by means of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). In particular we have opted for the use of a term extractor, the freeware AntConc software, to interrogate our corpus in search of the concordance lines (i.e. parts of the text that represent the context in which a particular element occurs) produced by the keyword ʾin. The results of our research present us with extremely interesting new data that can be used as a starting point for the further development of what has been so far outlined by scientific literature on conditional systems in contemporary Arabic and, at the same time, for the elaboration of a teaching methodology that takes into account the complexity of the contemporary Arabic linguistic and sociolinguistic situation.

Contemporary Arabic Variation and Conditionals: Hypotheses from Arab Blogs 2014-2015

GIOLFO, MANUELA ELISA;SALVAGGIO, FEDERICO
2017

Abstract

At least due to the presence on the web, since the so-called Arab Spring if not before, of innumerable blogs and forums where one can no longer distinguish between the two channels (written/spoken), the concept of diglossia, from Marçais (1930) to Ferguson (1959) - but also to Hamam’s (2014) bimodalism, which distinguishes between “written” and “speech” - can no longer be considered adequate (Giolfo & Sinatora, 2011). Given the above, if variation is infinite in dialectal Arabic, it also exists in Standard Arabic, which is not as ‘standard’ as its name might suggest (Mejdell, 2008). Diatopical variation can be graphematic, phonic, lexical, and syntactic. Moreover, variation results from no separation between ‘varieties’, due to code-switching and code-mixing, and no separation between ‘mixed varieties’. This leads to the notion of ‘continuum’: not only an alternation of standard and dialectal forms, but above all the creation of hybrid forms, neither standard nor dialectal. Besides that, variation is also attested by the fact that we find in synchrony what belongs diachronically to different states of the language, as shown in the present analysis of contemporary conditionals via a correlation between the presence of ʾin and traditionalist discourse. If we admit that the Arabic linguistic reality of today is a continuum, that is to say an infinitely variable and heterogeneous Arabic, then such an acknowledgement constututes rather a challenge for the teaching of Arabic. Can we teach a continuum? How can we give an idea to our students? The present article aims at contributing to the representation of Arabic as infinitely variable and heterogeneous by analyzing samples of conditional systems derived from a peculiar genre of contemporary written Arabic. This will lead to the unveiling of a more variegated linguistic situation with regard to contemporary Arabic conditionals, compared with the description provided by Arab and Western modern and contemporary grammars. The importance of this more nuanced perspective on the present-day situation of contemporary Arabic will be discussed for its implications at the level of teaching methodology and its impact on the way in which contemporary Arabic grammar is presented to students of Arabic. In an attempt to add to the puzzle a piece which is anyway representative of contemporary written Arabic inasmuch as it is part of nowadays practice - an operation which also means, and not only metaphorically, enlarging the problem, instead of shrinking it - we will focus on current uses of Arabic conditionals on the web. More specifically, we will take into consideration samples from blogs and forums dealing with the analysis and interpretation of some very critical geopolitical events (such as the Arab Spring or the rise of ISIS) in the light of the Islamic eschatological tradition. Within the selected blogs and forums, the peculiar point of view adopted by the users in dealing with recent events that have dramatically altered the scenario of contemporary Arab world determines an extremely interesting continuity between tradition and modernity. Such a blending of traditional and modern elements, in our opinion, does not only affect the content but also the linguistic form of the message conveyed. In fact, due to the particular nature of the communication channel employed, the language of the samples collected in our corpus, while being a form of contemporary written language, presents linguistic traits that are related to its extemporaneous and informal use. Furthermore, thanks to the presence of a large number of hypotheses related to the interpretation of contemporary events and expressed by the authors in form of conditional sentences, our corpus presents us with a wide range of samples of hypothetical structures in contemporary Arabic. Apocalyptic hypotheses are characterized by uncertainty, but their realization is always perceived as possible. Therefore we have decided to focus on the potential conditional structures introduced by the conditional operator ʾin, “if”, as this operator is the one classically associated with uncertainty and possibility at the same time. (Giolfo, 2014, 2015) The choice of this classically prototypical (Giolfo, 2012) hypothetical operator is particularly important since recent linguistic descriptions of contemporary Arabic have theorized a heavy restriction in the use of ʾin in contemporary Arabic (Sartori, 2010) and hypothesized the increasing falling into disuse of ʾin to introduce conditional clauses to the benefit of ʾiḏā and law. (Badawi et al. 2004: 40, 623-624, 632-670; Girod, 2010) We will try to assess whether the new linguistic data provided by our corpus can help to shed light onto this topic and whether they confirm or not the theorized progressive disappearance of ʾin. In order to do that we will not only have to establish the exact number of ʾin occurrences in our corpus as a conditional operator in authentic productions (and not just in set phrases or religious formulas) but we will also have to contextualize that number by contrasting it with the number of occurrences of the other two conditional operators, ʾiḏā and law (also considered in authentic productions). The time span considered for our corpus ranges from June 2014 to March 2015. In order to analyze the large amount of linguist data provided by our corpus we have opted for the realization of a digital corpus to be investigated by means of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). In particular we have opted for the use of a term extractor, the freeware AntConc software, to interrogate our corpus in search of the concordance lines (i.e. parts of the text that represent the context in which a particular element occurs) produced by the keyword ʾin. The results of our research present us with extremely interesting new data that can be used as a starting point for the further development of what has been so far outlined by scientific literature on conditional systems in contemporary Arabic and, at the same time, for the elaboration of a teaching methodology that takes into account the complexity of the contemporary Arabic linguistic and sociolinguistic situation.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11567/877661
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