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What is bedouin-type Arabic? The linguistic and socio-historical realities behind the millennia-old dichotomous concept of nomadic and sedentary people in the Middle East and North Africa

Objective

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.

Call for proposal

ERC-2020-ADG
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Host institution

UNIVERSITAT WIEN
Address
Universitatsring 1
1010 Wien
Austria
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 2 200 751

Beneficiaries (2)

UNIVERSITAT WIEN
Austria
EU contribution
€ 2 200 751
Address
Universitatsring 1
1010 Wien
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
OESTERREICHISCHE AKADEMIE DER WISSENSCHAFTEN
Austria
EU contribution
€ 255 140
Address
Dr. Ignaz Seipel-platz 2
1010 Wien
Activity type
Research Organisations