This project will investigate the linguistic differences between originally nomadic and sedentary people, i.e. one of the key concepts in the history of the Arabic language and the grouping of its contemporary spoken varieties. While the dichotomy between Bedouins and sedentary communities is of crucial importance for the (social) history, economy, and linguistic identity of the Arabic speaking Middle East and North Africa, it is still insufficiently understood. WIBARAB aims to establish for the first time a robust set of linguistic phenomena that characterize the bedouin-sedentary split. To this end, it not only considers (1) phonological and morphological features as hitherto has been done, but also (2) typology, grammaticalization pathways, syntax, phraseology, and lexicon, and (3) the influence of intra-dialect contacts and historical migrations. WIBARAB will provide new data from three under-researched Arabic varieties and investigate linguistic attitudes towards bedouin-type dialects on the basis of five case-studies with different social and geographical settings. Its holistic approach challenges well-established views and methodically shows how diachronic linguistic data can provide proxy data for history and vice versa. WIBARAB also studies the impact of social settings, particularly tribal and patriarchal structures, as possible factors for the linguistic conservatism of contemporary bedouin-type Arabic. It includes recent findings in human genome analysis where appropriate and ethically acceptable, and makes ample use of the possibilities provided by digital humanities.
WIBARAB adopts methods grounded in general linguistics, sociolinguistics, and historical interpretation to shed light on a phenomenon of fundamental importance in the history and the present of one of the world’s largest languages.
Fields of science
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