Abstract and Keywords
This article explores the relationship between linguistic form and function in the varying cultural landscapes of the contemporary Arabic-speaking world, including spontaneous speech, the contemporary electronic media (television, radio, the Internet), cinema, theater, and traditional performed oral literature, which have been revived and “reinvented.” It is shown that the relationship between orality and language in Arabic is complex. The layman’s mental landscape is of a “high,” literary, codified variety of the language strongly identified with a unifying religion (Islam) and a “golden age” of past imperial and literary glories, carrying great cultural prestige; and a “low,” chaotic (often regarded as grammarless) but homely variety associated with domesticity, intimacy, and the daily round. The emotional resonances of the two varieties are and always have been different. Consequently, they have, through the ages, occupied separate functional niches in all linguistically mediated communication, be it speech, writing, song, poetry, cinema, or theater.
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