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Title: Two ethnicities, three generations : phonological variation and change in Kuwait
Authors: Taqi, Hanan
Issue Date: 2010
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This study investigates accent variation in the speech of three generations of two Kuwaiti ethnic groups: Najdis (originally from Saudi Arabia) and Ajamis (originally from Iran). The ethnic groups were chosen due to their varying social status: the Najdis have held a prestigious status in Kuwait for historical reasons, while Ajamis have held the least prestigious status on the social scale. The two groups have over the years gradually come into contact with each other, and this study explores the outcome of dialect contact by focusing on a set of phonological variables which traditionally had accent-specific realisations. The phonological variables (ʤ) (typically realised by Najdis as [j] and by Ajamis as [ʤ]), (s) (realised by Najdis as [s] more often than Ajamis, who use [sʕ] in exclusive co-articulatory environments) and (Ɣ) (realised by Najdis as [q] and by Ajamis as [Ɣ]) were investigated. These variables were analysed in relation to the social variables (of ethnicity, age and gender). Social networks and the correlation between identity and dialect levelling were also considered. Data were collected from 48 Kuwaiti speakers representing the two ethnicities, three ages groups (chosen according to relevant milestones in the history of Kuwait), and a balanced number of males and females. A variety of techniques (picture-naming, map task, interview, and questionnaires) were used to collect data. Results show that the Najdi accent is generally more stable across generations than the Ajamis’. The Ajami accent seems to be moving towards the Najdis’. The accent of the old generation of Ajamis resembles the Najdi accent the least, while the young generation of Ajamis use Najdi variants the most. The female Ajamis are the forefront of this change, followed by young Ajami males. (ʤ) and (s) showed change the most across the Ajami generations, with the young speakers actively avoiding the original Ajami realisations due to their social connotations. Language and linguistic differences used to be the largest barrier against welcoming Ajamis to the Kuwaiti community; the reported accent transformation seems to be playing a major role in bringing the two ethnic groups closer to each other.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences

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