The University of Oklahoma hosted this year’s Annual Symposium for Arabic Linguistics, and I had the very good fortune to volunteer while listening to some of the talks. Since I am majoring in both linguistics and Arabic, this was a perfect opportunity to learn more about both.
First of all, I realized how much linguistic variety is found in the array of Arabic dialects. In addition to the standard national dialects, there were talks on dialects I had never heard of, such as Jazani and Najdi from Saudi Arabia and Coastal Dhofari from Libya. These dialects contained diminutive and even augmentative forms. I also learned that Moroccan Arabic’s syllabic structure differs significantly from that of English, being simplex instead of complex. Other interesting dialectal talks concerned the generic in Tunisian Arabic and the use of dialectal or formal causal discourse markers by speakers of Algerian, Moroccan, and Egyptian Arabic.
Some of the talks expanded on topics I had covered in my linguistics classes. The notation we studied for the prosodic skeleton was especially useful, as many of the more morphological topics, such as the augmentative and diminutive, referred to it. There was also a discussion of emphasis in Cairene Arabic. Last semester, for my phonology class, I had the chance to look at emphasis in a few different dialects. Since there is no single explanation, it was interesting to hear another argument.
I also got a glimpse into areas of linguistics that I have not yet studied, such as language acquisition and pragmatics. One of the language acquisition presentations considered the retention of feminine, broken, and masculine human plurals by heritage speakers. A pragmatics talk covered attitude datives, where a dative pronoun is added even if the action is not done to the speaker, as an expression of authority. I particularly enjoyed the final comparison to the attitude or personal dative in Southern American English, which has evaluative connotations of satisfaction, as in I love me some ice cream.
The conference was inspiring, both in the information I learned and in the glimpse it gave me of how I might use my growing love for and increasing skills in linguistics and Arabic. I even learned about a group of minority languages in the Arab World that I was heretofore unfamiliar with, the Nubian languages. I look forward to stretching my knowledge of linguistics and Arabic more in the future.