A mediated discourse analysis approach to language attitude research in Oman

Najma Al Zidjaly

Sultan Qaboos University, Oman

WS157: Doing things with an attitude: Interdisciplinary explorations of the relationship of language attitudes and social action

In this paper I use mediated discourse analysis (Scollon 2001; Norris & Jones 2004) to analyze language attitudes of one Baluchi Arab family from Oman, a multilingual Arab state which, despite hosting a variety of ethnic languages (e.g. Baluchi, Lawatia, Sawahili, Zidjaly among others), recognizes only Arabic as THE official and national language and English as THE second official language. Mediated discourse analysis is an integrative theory that takes as its unit of analysis the 'social action' or the moment an actor takes action using a variety of mediational means; it considers language use as a component of social action or as a form of action in and of itself. I employ this methodology to examine and contextualize the results of a questionnaire on language uses and attitudes that was administered during a one-month ethnographic study of one multilingual Omani family's discourse. The family includes three generations: educated siblings, their children, and their uneducated parents. The questionnaire addresses a variety of social domains and social situations in order to collect information about family members' attitudes toward and uses of their own ethnic tongue (Baluchi), other ethnic varieties, and Arabic and English. I then compared and contrasted their responses with their actual language behavior recorded during the ethnographic study, which was captured on video and audio-tape. My findings explore discrepancies between the family's language attitudes (e.g. their pride of their ethnic language) and what they actually do in one face-to-face interaction (celebrating Arabic, the official and national language). I demonstrate how language attitudes towards Baluchi and Arabic are only one facet of a multitude of macro- and microsocial discourses and elements circling through a moment of interaction and influencing language choice 'on the ground'.

This paper thus contributes to language attitude research by suggesting that language attitudes needs to be examined in their social and cultural contexts, especially in multiethnic societies, as this can be extremely helpful in assessing the complex role of people's language attitudes in concrete moments of language choice. It also suggests that language attitude research can be enriched through the integration of diverse methodologies and theoretical approaches like mediated discourse analysis.


Norris, Sigrid, and Rodney H. Jones. 2005. Discourse in action: introducing mediated discourse analysis. London; New York: Routledge.

Scollon, Ron. 2001. Mediated Discourse: The Nexus of Practice. London: Routledge.

Session: Workshop
Doing things with an attitude: Interdisciplinary explorations of the relationship of language attitudes and social action
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 10:30-12:00
room: 02