Contrastive Studies of Arabic and English: The Diglossic Parameter


1. The Comparison of English with Arabic enjoys a long history and wide popularity in modern language research conducted by Arab or Arabist linguists. The earliest of such studies go back to the fifties, probably exhibiting the then new focus on language comparison with pedagogical objectives. 1 It is thus interesting to ponder on the various aspects of this line of research: its history, its relation to other lines of research, the issues it generates, its position within the research movement, its points of focus, the theoretical modifications it underwent, or changes in research attitudes towards it. In any survey of the state of the art, these and other _ questions will be pertinent. Unfortunately nothing much has been done in this respect. Therefore, these questions remain unansY'ered. The present paper concerns itself with one aspect of these studies. This is the noticeable alternation in the form of Arabic that researchers have chosen to compare with English in their studies. Arabic is one of those languages that exhibit diglossia - a situation whereby two distinct forms of the language live side by side in the community. In all Arabic-speaking communities two distinct forms of Arabic - Standard Arabic (SA) and the regional spoken colloquial- co­ exist. Both are eligible for comparison. Any researcher who sets out to compare English, or any language for that matter, with Arabic will face the question as to which of these forms he wants to choose for the comparison. All the studies that concern or involve a comparison of English with Arabic make this choice before getting involved in the actual task of description and comparison . I have not encountered a contrastive study of English and Arabic in which no decision is explicitly made as to which form of Arabic the comparison with English is going to be carried out.


Murtadha J.Bakir