Urban and Bedouin features : A pilot study of phonological variation within a _diwaniyya_ in Kuwait

Ali Hussein Hajji, Mohamed Embarki

Praxiling UMR 5267, France


Our study is about the use of the language within a social network made up within a diwaniyya, this one being a space, contiguous or separated from the main home, intended to receive guests, neighbours, friends or members of the family, almost exclusively of male sex.

Our approach, purely linguistic, mobilizes on the one hand sociolinguistic aspects, because it is based on the concept of social network, as defined by Labov (1978), Milroy and Milroy (1980) and Milroy and Gordon (2002), and in particular the differences between “dense” network and ''loose''network. The idea is to know whether the structure of the diwaniyya can have an influence on the linguistic production of the speakers who gather in the diwaniyya and if they are brought to be influenced by each other. We also observe the reasons and analyze how this influence concretely appears and if the chief of the diwaniyya, in the center of the social network, exerts an influence on his brothers and his friends, having an effect on their way of speaking. Our study is interested in the linguistic production within a popular diwaniyya, that of Al Azmi, one of the greatest Bedouins families originating from North East of Arabia.

In addition, dialectological aspects are mobilized here because the attention is paid on the rural speeches and Bedouin speeches, on their similarities and their differences.

We try to analyze the realization of the two phonemes /qaf/ and/?im/ according to the social belonging of the speakers and to the pressure exerted within the social network on the choice of phonological variables.

Our corpus is made up of spontaneous recordings collected within the diwaniyya. Nine informants, including six Bedouin speakers and three urban speakers took part in these recordings. Among the six Bedouins, four are brothers and one of them is the elder brother, chief of the diwaniyya. This diwaniyya, although belonging to Al Azmi family, thus receives men from different horizons and origins. Their ages varies between 27 and 39 years. We questioned the informants about subjects of society related to them, thus promoting spontaneous answers allowing us to have a relevant corpus, representative of reality. Recordings took place within the diwaniyya, in the form of group discussions during which all the speakers had the possibility of taking part very freely in the topic of discussion, according to their desires. Each one of them spoke in turn, feeling involved in the subject.

Our results show that the phonological variation is structured. The diwaniyya represents a microcosm of the Kuwaiti society, a space where all populations of all social origins, backgrounds and occupations can mix. Several dialectal varieties coexist, based on religious and/or regional or ethnic criteria. The diwaniyya manages to join together all the dialectal varieties which exist in Kuwait and mainly the Bedouin and urban varieties.

Session: Paper session
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 09:00-10:30
room: 10