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date: 23 April 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article provides a critical overview of the application of sociolinguistic principles, methods, and analysis to Arabic data with reference to research conducted over the past three decades or so in various Arabic-speaking societies. It focuses on linguistic variation and change, the major concerns of (variationist) sociolinguistics. The article begins with an outline of the relationship between traditional dialectology and sociolinguistics, the ways dialectological data are incorporated into sociolinguistic analysis, and the benefits of maintaining the link between the two disciplines. Then an outline is presented of the basic principles of the variationist paradigm, which are intricately bound up with sociolinguistic methodology and theory; where relevant, research practices in studies on Arabic are cited. The article then critically reviews the “diglossia” model as an approach to analyzing variation in Arabic. Finally, an alternative and up-to-date model of analysis is given, with case studies from recent research used as illustration.

Keywords: sociolinguistic principles, Arabic, linguistic variation, linguistic change, dialectology, diglossia model

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