Sociolinguistic variation in Cairene Arabic: Palatalization and the 'qaf' in the speech of men and women

Niloofar Haeri, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation aims to describe the linguistic behavior of men and women in Cairo. To this end, two sociolinguistic variables are studied: the use of the voiceless uvular stop /q/; and apical palatalization. For each variable, a detailed linguistic analysis is provided; as well as data and analysis of the social distribution of each. Palatalization affects the dental stop series /t, d, T, D, tt, dd/, that is the 'plain' stops, the emphatic stops, and the geminates. A following palatal glide, and high front vowels are the main favored environments. A distinction is made between weak palatalization (frication) and strong palatalization (affrication). Two related issues to this process are explored in some detail: palatalization of pharyngeal stops; and the phonetic differences between word-final (i), and non-word final (i). For the qaf, a diachronic and synchronic analysis is provided and competing treatments are discussed. Although some studies analyze the presence of the Classical /q/ in the modern dialects as representing some application of a rule, in the present study it is analyzed as lexical borrowing, following the analysis of many older studies. Women's speech has frequent and advanced palatalization, while men's does not. On the other hand, men's speech contains qaf lexical items more frequently than women's in all educational levels and social classes. It is argued that palatalization is a sound change in progress. Possibly, this is the first report of a sound change in progress in an Arabic speech community. Finally, a chapter is devoted to language attitudes towards Classical Arabic and Cairene Arabic; and towards the speech of men and women. We found that the speakers have overwhelmingly positive attitudes towards their own language--more so than towards Classical Arabic. While the speakers did not believe there to be phonological differences in the speech of men and women, they do report other differences.

Subject Area

Linguistics|Middle Eastern literature

Recommended Citation

Haeri, Niloofar, "Sociolinguistic variation in Cairene Arabic: Palatalization and the 'qaf' in the speech of men and women" (1991). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9125661.