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Dialects of Written Arabic: Syntactic differences in the treatment of object pronouns in Egyptian and Levantine newspapers

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Despite the notion that written Arabic is invariable across the Arab world, a few researchers, using large corpora to discover patterns of usage, have demonstrated regional differences in Arabic writing. While most such research has focussed upon the lexicon, this corpus-based study examines a syntactic difference between Egyptian and Levantine writing: the treatment of object pronouns. A search of an entire year of writing in regional newspapers found that Levantine writers tend to use the free object pronoun iyyā-, placing the direct object after the indirect, about twice as often as Egyptian writers do, who for their part prefer to place the direct object before the indirect. A proposed reason for this is that the free object pronoun is used to mark the direct object in spoken Levantine vernaculars but not in Egyptian. This seems to indicate that local spoken vernaculars exert a fundamental influence on writing.

Affiliations: 1: American University of Beirut


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