Debating Darija: Language Ideology and the Written Representation of Moroccan Arabic in Morocco.

by Jennifer Lee Hall

Institution: University of Michigan
Department: Anthropology
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Keywords: literacy; language ideology; Morocco; Moroccan Arabic; Anthropology and Archaeology; Social Sciences
Record ID: 2058701
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/111375


Morocco has witnessed the emergence of new literacy practices in private and public space. Moroccan Arabic, the colloquial, traditionally ???unwritten??? variety of Arabic, is now represented in written form in a number of new spaces such as non-formal education, SMS text messaging, street billboard advertisements, the scripts for dubbed foreign TV series, and a weekly news magazine. This dissertation examines these varied contexts and considers issues regarding when, how and by whom Moroccan Arabic literacy practices are performed in each site. In doing so, this dissertation finds useful the analytic of ???language ideologies,??? beliefs people have about language, in that they serve a mediating role between social structures and forms of talk. I argue that the emergence of Moroccan Arabic literacy practices may create a sense of ideological disjuncture for Moroccans who believe that Moroccan Arabic is solely an oral language that should not be written. Ideologies linking Moroccan Arabic closely to notions of intimacy and hchuma ???shame,??? figure centrally in how new forms of Moroccan Arabic are received. The success of some written forms of Moroccan Arabic in certain domains opens the question as to a positive revaluing of Moroccan Arabic in these new contexts and a possible shift away from diglossia as an ideology of language. This dissertation productively uses the term ???fractal recursivity,??? the semiotic process by which an opposition at one level can be either embedded or expanded to another level, to understand how written representations of Moroccan Arabic are understood across these different contexts and linguistic forms according to an oral/written binary. I argue that individuals and institutions actively maintain Moroccan Arabic???s lower position in the linguistic hierarchy through the reproduction of already dominant language ideologies that frame mother tongue languages in Morocco as oral, even when represented in writing. I show that while the use of Moroccan Arabic in literacy practices associated with modernity and innovation may be seen as challenging hegemonic ideologies, recently, public debates about language policy in education reveal that Moroccans place a high value on diglossia and thus a future institutionalization of Moroccan Arabic literacy practices is ambiguous.