Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Magister Question & my Humble Answer (20 Oct 2011)

I – The question:
‘Language contact’ studies make up a field in sociolinguistics to refer to the use of two or more languages or language varieties in the same place and at the same time. Considering today’s Algerian sociolinguistic situation, try to determine the various linguistic outcomes resulting from the phenomenon.

II – My humble answer:
It is worth to mention at first that ‘language contact’ is a universal phenomenon that characterizes all languages of the world. It is almost impossible to find a language that was kept in isolation for centuries and had no contact with others. This is true because language is a social phenomenon and is only relevant in its social context, “la langue n’est présente dans aucun cerveau. Elle n’existe que dans la masse” as De Saussure mentioned. Thus, contact between members of a speech community or people who have different cultural and linguistic backgrounds is unavoidable and necessary in everyday life.
The Algerian community is similar to other Arabic speaking communities in many respects. The widespread Arabization, for instance, that came as a result of the Muslim settlements during the 7th and 8th centuries and the massive immigration of Arab nomads in the 11th century had a major impact on the Algerian repertoire.
Also the degradation of classical Arabic is shared by all Arabic speaking countries but intensively used in the Algerian vernacular and stands as a marker to Algerian Arabic. Degradation is present in many forms & at different levels. We mention, for instance, morphological & phonetic differences & lexical uses.
Due to the existence of two varieties of the same language, classical Arabic & rural Arabic (the vernacular/ Algerian Arabic) we may speak of a diglossic situation as an outcome of the different uses of both varieties. Classical Arabic being treated as a prestigious language and kept for formal use (at schools, religious sermons, on the news…) is considered as H or Higher variety. Contrary to rural Arabic which is kept for daily use in informal & casual situations is therefore considered as L or Lower variety, as Ferguson explained.
The Algerian speech community is also characterized by the presence of many Berber dialects which were preserved and maintained despite all efforts of Arabization, and the presence of other language such as French.
The impact of the French language on the Algerian repertoire is still obvious and deep even after more than forty years of independence. This is easily noticeable through the great number of French loanwords that slipped into the Algerian repertoire and resulted in other phenomena, those of code mixing & code shifting.
Code mixing occurs when a bilingual speaker uses phrases or terms of another language together with his mother tongue in specific situations. An example of this might be: “/hkamna/ ‘la voiture’ /wa mshina/ ‘la foret’ ” = “we took the car & went to the forest”. In this example the words ‘la voiture’ = ‘the car’ and ‘la foret’ = ‘the forest’ are used in the same sentence together with the verbs /hkamna/ = ‘we took’ & /wa mshina/ = ‘we went’ in the same sentence.
(I felt a desperate need after this to satisfy the call of nature. I needed to go so badly that I couldn’t hold it. I completely lost my way & could hardly find the way to the toilets or find any open ones. I wonder what good could a closed toilet make? By the time I got relieved & intended to get back to the room to finish the test, I got lost for the second time & only made it there at the last 10 minutes. I lost my chain of thoughts & had to conclude because of time pressure…some luck I have >< …)
In a nutshell, the Algerian sociolinguistic situation maybe regarded both as similar to other Arabic speaking countries due to the historical & cultural backgrounds shared by all Arab nations, but also as unique due to the diversity of languages used in the Algerian community & its rich repertoire.


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