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The social connotations of linguistic variation in a Moroccan urban context: the case of Temara

Abstract : Based on one year of fieldwork conducted between September 2015 and March 2018 in the city of Temara, Morocco, this thesis examines the language practices of Moroccan Arabic speakers residing in this city and, through these practices, analyses the social meanings that the speakers themselves attribute to linguistic variation. This work falls within a larger body of literature analysing Moroccan Arabic speakers’ language practices from a sociolinguistic perspective. Among the main concerns of this literature are the processes of convergence and levelling of linguistic features that have been taking place across Morocco – particularly in the cities of the central Atlantic coast – in the last decades. Such processes are strictly related to the immigration of relatively huge amounts of population from other regions of the country, which has profoundly modified the demographic makeup of urban centers. Among the destinations of these immigration fluxes is Temara, a former rural periphery of the municipality of Rabat, which has witnessed a dramatic demographic growth in the last 50 years and was itself declared urban municipality in 1983. Temara’s condition of recently formed city and its specific history of urbanisation make it a particularly interesting subject for sociolinguistic research. As such, this study analyses three linguistic variables: the variation between /q/ and /g/ in a limited set of lexemes, the affrication of /t/ in specific phonetic environments and the alternation between the verbs /dwa/ and /hdərˁ/ to express comparable meanings. The aim of the analysis is to detect the factors that motivate the speakers’ choices vis-à-vis the linguistic features involved and, ultimately, the social values indexed by the variables in the community studied. This thesis starts with a review of existing literature on general and urban sociolinguistics, as well as Arabic sociolinguistics and dialectology (with a focus on Morocco). It then presents the results of an historiographic research that aimed at reconstructing the phases of the urban development and the immigration-related social dynamics that accompanied Temara’s evolution from a small rural community to an urban centre; to this purpose, information was collected from works in rural geography and urban planning, as well as from direct accounts of people who had lived in Temara most of their life and witnessed the changes that the city went through. After that, the methodology adopted in the data collection and analysis is illustrated and justified. Finally, the analysis proper is presented and the results commented. The aim of this thesis is to bring a new contribution to Arabic sociolinguistics in general, and to the sociolinguistic study of Moroccan Arabic in particular. It is also to test theories and concepts elaborated by Western sociolinguistics, verifying which of them may be applied – and to what extent – to the Arabic and Moroccan linguistic and cultural contexts. To this aim, the analysis takes several factors into account, including the informants’ socio-demographic features – such as age and level of education (cfr. research by and in line with that of W. Labov, P. Trudgill, etc.) – discourse features related to information structure and prosody (cfr. eg. Gumperz) and recent theoretical concepts elaborated in the field of anthropological sociolinguistics (cfr. works by A. Agha and M. Silverstein). Another asset of this work is the direct and prolonged contact between the author and the informants that contributed to the data corpus, as it allowed not only a closer look at their language practices, but also the access to a variety of communicational contexts – especially with regards to the younger speakers. Ultimately, it permitted to go beyond the raw data, in the attempt to comprehend why the speakers make a certain use of the linguistic resources, available in their repertoires, when engaging in verbal interactions within their community.
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Jacopo Falchetta. The social connotations of linguistic variation in a Moroccan urban context: the case of Temara. Linguistics. Université d'Aix-Marseille (AMU), 2019. English. ⟨tel-02571596⟩

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