University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


In Cairene Arabic, speakers may affricate “plain” and pharyngealized /t/s and /d/s, a phenomenon called “strong palatalization” (SP). Haeri (1994, 1997) found that SP was used most frequently by lower-class women, and hypothesized that the meanings of SP included blue collar, tough and urbane. This paper discusses a social perception experiment and a language ideology survey completed on SP in contemporary Cairo, over 20 years after Haeri completed her fieldwork. SP is found to be highly stigmatized for both male and female speakers. In the experiment, palatalizing men and women are rated as significantly less wealthy, educated, confident and so on than non-palatalizing men and women, though men are punished more for palatalizing. Cairenes’ reported ideologies show that SP is associated with lower-classness and “improper” speech as well as with flirtatious women and non-masculine men. Though Haeri suggested SP was an unconscious change-in-progress, this paper shows it is now a salient part of talk about Cairene(s). Furthermore, the results presented here do not support the idea that SP, if it were a change-in-progress, has continued to advance.