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The Cambridge Handbook of Arabic Linguistics



The Cambridge Handbook of Arabic Linguistics PDF

Author: Karin Ryding and David Wilmsen

Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Genres:

Publish Date: November 25, 2021

ISBN-10: 1108417302

Pages: 650

File Type: PDF

Language: English

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Book Preface

Arabic linguistics is a field that has both expanded and shifted over the last fifty years. The coming to the fore of Arabic sociolinguistics, varia-tion theory, corpus linguistics, language acquisition, intercultural prag-matics, and Arabic media studies has enlarged the nature of research topics, strategies, and results so that both spoken and written forms of Arabic have come to be examined from multiple perspectives. Moreover, the development of social media and discussion platforms has had a profound effect on the interface of spoken and written language that has yielded new forms of Arabic discourse. This handbook brings together articles on a range of traditional and contemporary topics from a wide spectrum of research interests. We hope that the integration of new and traditional will represent both the broadened horizon for Arabic linguistic analysis and new congruence within this disciplinary area.
In discussing the field of Arabic studies, Jonathan Owens has referred to ‘the immensity of the field itself’ (2013: 9). Arabic linguistics distinguishes itself not only by being both broad and at the same time single-language focused, but also by being profoundly characterized by variation and language change built upon the architecture of a written tradition that has remained relatively stable for over a millennium. Instead of fragmen-tation, however, there is a new unity to Arabic linguistic research. That unity is complex and emergent, but nonetheless vital and groundbreaking in its depth and in its reach. Arabic is one language, old and new, tradition-bound yet transformative, linking past and future in myriad ways. As Arabic linguistics research develops and extends beyond the classical tradition, it transforms into an interdisciplinary field both linked and divided by the rapid spread and valorization of vernacular studies and the interplay between spoken and written discourse.

Whereas theoretical linguistics has been primarily concerned with lan-guage in itself, the field of Arabic linguistics provides a range of language forms and functions from formal to informal, classical to contemporary, from written to spoken, from individual to nation, that have vastly differ-ent research traditions and different sets of problems to identify and address. Most languages have similar issues, but for Arabic, the centrality of the fact of diglossia has long distanced traditional indigenous scholar-ship from vernacular studies and has resulted in politically, culturally, and socially fraught attitudes towards spoken discourse. This is now changing. A new synthesis is bringing these different strands of research together.
Arabic and Linguistics Research
Indeed, so vast is the study of Arabic that it would seem impossible for individual researchers to encompass it in its entirety. Perhaps this is a reason why Arabic, as an eminently accessible language, often none-theless escapes the notice of the larger field of linguistics. That is not to say that no mention is ever made of Arabic in current linguistics literature; it occasionally is mentioned, but not in proportion to its size or importance, with upwards of 300 million native speakers, as the fifth largest language on the planet.1 Even when mention of Arabic is made, the facts of Arabic are often presented incorrectly. Consider, for example, these recent works in the generativist or language typology traditions. Roberts and Roussou (2003:31–3) in discussing wh-interrogative movement, a topic of para-mount interest to generativists, state that those of Iraqi Arabic remain in situ with occasional wh-fronting


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