Palatalisation As Linguistic Variable In Cairene Arabic English Language Essay

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Linguistic variations exist in all languages. Generally, language does not change by itself but rather speakers are the innovators who shape and design the way they speak. The source of change over time is always current linguistic variation. The most obviously areas of language variation are pronunciation and vocabulary. In the Arabic language, there are linguistic variations in terms of pronunciation. Palatalisation is an obvious example of a linguistic variable that exists in Cairene Arabic. Some Egyptian speakers tend to use features of Classical Arabic in their speech for stylistic purposes. Indeed, Palatalisation is an example of a stylistic resource that belongs to Cairene Arabic. Haeri(1994) is interested in this linguistic variable and she discussed its linguistic features and its sociolinguistic distribution in Cairo. Her study shows that women are the innovators of this linguistic variable rather than men. She explained the role of the gender and social class in the distribution of Palatalisation in more details. The main purpose of this paper is to illustrate the methodologies that she used in her study, discover the main variants of this linguistic variable and discuss the effect of gender and social class on the distribution of Palatalisation.

The methodologies:

In Haeri's study, data was collected on the occurrence of the palatalisation in Egyptian Arabic. Her sample consists of 87 tape -recorded interviews representing 25 women and 24 men. In sociolinguistics studies, we have to distinguish between the dependent variables and independents variables. The linguistic variables are dependent whereas other categories such as (social class, gender, age…etc) are independent variables. Haeri's study of palatalisation used the quantitative method (Labove, 1966) to examine the relationship between linguistic variables and other external variables such as speaker's age, gender, social class and contextual style. She uses this method in order to see what happens to this variable when we look at it in relation to some factors that we can manipulate. Chamber (1995) argues that in social linguistic variation, there is a mutual significant relationship between dependent and independent variables. That is when independent variables change, dependent variables, such as linguistic properties, must change. Importantly, this change is systematic so that the dependent variables arrange participants in coherent ways. In addition, the author used the quantitative method rather than others to measure the probability of the occurrence of palatalisation in Cairene Arabic. Ferdinand de Saussure (1959) notes that static things in our science are synchronic while things that develop are diachronic. Palatalisation as a linguistic variable is considered as a diachronic linguistic variable that means it changes across time. Haeri uses the time model that depends on finding alternative expressions for the same thing that can be found in varying proportions in the generalizations of different speakers. In addition, she uses multivariate statistical tool "VARBRUL" to measure the varying impacts of social, stylistic and linguistic factors.

The main variants of this linguistic variable:

Her study shows that palatalisation in Cairene Arabic affects allophones of the plain dental stops /t, d/, and the emphatic /T, D/ in the Arabic language. She states that the emphatic stops / T, D/ in Cairene Arabic are produced with accompanying pharyngealization. Heari claimed that palatalisation in Cairene Arabic has three main variables; palatalisation in which the segment is not palatalized, weakly palatalized and strongly palatalized. In order to utter a weak palatalisation the segment is weakly palatalized and the effect is frication accompanying the sound. In strong palatalisation, on the other hand, the segment is strongly palatalized and becomes affricate. This can be done when there is a move in the place of articulation of the sound towards the palate (Haeri, 1994). In terms of probabilities, Heari's study proves that /t, d/ have higher probabilities to be palatalized than pharyngeal / T, D/. Pharyngeal /T/ has a higher probabilities to be palatalized than the plain / d/ because pharyngeal /T/ loses its pharyngenlization feature and becomes a plain / t/. Haeri claimes that, palatalisation of pharyngeal segments means that there is a stage of de- pharyngealization before palatalisation. By comparing the dental stops' /t, d/ probabilities to be palatalized, it was proven that for weak palatalisation, the voiced /d/ has higher probabilities than /t/. In addition to dental stops, Haeri claims that the pause has higher probabilities for weak palatalisation. She states that "some speakers release their dental stops and when this stop is voiceless, there is a considerable aspiration, and this aspiration is similar to that for weakly palatalisation voiceless segments" Haeri(1994,p.95). She claims that producing palatalisation occurs in different environments such as high front vowel or glide. The palatalisation of the high front vowel / i/ depends on whether it occurred word finally or none finally. That is, if it occurs as a word finally it will be higher than other positions. Haeri states that in Cairene Arabic there is an epenthetic vowel which inserts when there is a sequence of three consonants. Also, there are some instances where the palatalisation occurs when the segment is followed by a pause or when the following segment is a consonant. Haeri points out that in the phonotactics of Cairene, epenthetic vowel is inserted when there is a sequence of three consonants. Contrary to that, Haeris's data provides some examples of a cluster of three consonants that are not broken up by an epenthetic vowel. Although the majority of examples prove that palatalisation occurs before high vowel or glide. The study suggests some few variants where the palatalisation occurs before low front or high back vowels.

The effect of gender and social class on the distribution of this variable and unexpected finding:

There is a relationship between social class, gender, style and linguistic variations. This relation can be clear when we analyze data collected from people of different social classes, we find that the properties of social class and contextual style interact. The linguistic variable chosen by a speaker can present his/her social class. When speakers want to shift their style they tend to imitate the speech of another persons. For example, Holmes (2008, p .252) claims that, "in order to sound more casual people model their speeches on that of lower social class. And in order to be sound more formal, they use people from higher social class groups as their speech models." Haeri's study proves that palatalisation as a linguistic variable exists in all social classes but in different degrees. In Caeiren society, there are four social classes: upper class groups, upper middle class, middle middle class and lower class. Upper class groups have the highest frequency of weak palatalisation. Middle middle class and lower class groups have the highest frequency for strong palatalisation. That means, lower class and middle class categories have the highest frequency for strong palatalisation. Haeri (1994, p. 100) shows that, "Lower middle class and lower class took weak palatalisation a step further by shifting from frication(weak palatalisation ) to affrication (strong palatalisation )". Many sociolinguistics have discussed the relation of the style to social class (Labov, 1966). They found that non-standard variants decrease in the more formal style. However, Haeri states that in the case of strong palatalisation and weak palatalisation, people tend to use them frequently in the wordlist style which is considered the most formal style. By looking at the social class distribution, middle class and lower class frequently produce weak palatalisation in wordlist style. Haeri found out that the upper class is not the main responsible for sound change. However, as for palatalisation, the status of the upper class made it commonly used in formal style. Upper class women in Cairo tend to avoid using strong palatalisation whereas upper middle class women have less strong palatalisation in the two formal styles. Generally, strong palatalisation as a linguistic innovation is associated with the lower class whereas weak palatalisation on the other hand, is associated with upper social members. Indeed, Heari states that there is a little social and stylistic differentiation among men. It was noticeable that lower class men have the highest frequencies for strong palatalisation. This means both men and women who belong to lower social class have the highest frequencies for strong palatalisation than other social groups. In terms of educational level, women in the high school have the highest amount of strong palatalisation whereas men have the highest amount of weak palatalisation. Indeed, Haeri found out that strong palatalisation is a feature that can be found among the speakers of middle and lower class. Also, it can be found among high school educated women. Therefore, strong palatalisation is not a feature restricted to least educated or most educated speakers, rather it restricted to speaker's background and social network.

Many sociolinguistics have been aware of generalization for Labov's principles for linguistic variations. Labov (1966) suggested that women use prestigious style more frequently than men. The author successfully chose Arabic societies to show how the idea is reversed in Arabic communities. She proved that women used strong palatalisation (non-standard) more than men. The lower class men are the producers for strong palatalisation rather than other social class groups. In other words, men tend to use more prestigious variant than women. By choosing an Arabic community (Egyptian community), the author successfully proved that it is not gender that makes a speaker associated with one set of variants, but it is the social factors, such as class and roles, have an effect on the distribution of linguistic variants. The author successfully indicates that in some Arabic communities, the person's social network plays a vital role in constructing many linguistic variables such as strong and weak palatalisation

Palatalisation is a change in progress:

Nevalainen (2006) claims that when there is change it will be reflected in the community. However, young speakers show more frequencies of this change more than old speakers. That is, when a variant increase frequency in the speech of younger generations. This means that this kind of changing is change in progress. Palatalisation is a sound change in progress. It did not exist during the childhood of the older speakers. Haeri states that neither men nor women about the age of 50 have any strong palatalisation rather they have weak palatalisation. Indeed, the use of strong palatalisation frequency increased in the youngest age groups. Since it was not used by older speakers that give a good indication that strong palatalisation was not a part of Cairene Arabic in the earlier decades, rather women are the innovators of palatalisation as a sound changes in progress. The Older women group has the highest amount of weak palatalisation. The youngest group, on the contrary, has a twice as high frequency of strong palatalisation in Cairene Arabic. Haeri suggests that palatalisation started as weak palatalisation used by older speakers then it was replaced with strong palatalisation by the younger generation.


Finally, as we have seen, palatalisation as a linguistic variable can be divided into three main variants; no palatalisation , weak palatalisation and strong palatalisation. They are associated with different social classes in one community. Strong palatalisation is associated with the lower class people whereas weak palatalisation is associated with the upper class people.