Language Attitude towards the Urban and Bedouin Dialects in Najd, Saudi Arabia

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Ayoub Othman A Alothman
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Nonlinguists’ attitudes towards language are a major factor in the process of language change. Therefore, linguists are interested in examining how language varieties are perceived. Several studies around the world have demonstrated that ideologies play a major role in shaping how people perceive certain dialects, how social meanings are associated with these varieties, and how linguistic communities are shaped in part by these beliefs. However, little attention has been given to language attitude in the Arab region, and in the Saudi context particularly. Moreover, none of the attitudinal studies in the region have tried to investigate Najdis’ attitudes towards their own dialects. Using a conceptually presented attitudinal approach, this study bridges the literature gap by examining 1041 Najdis’ language attitudes towards two of the main dialects there: The Najdi Urban and Najdi Bedouin varieties. The study answers the following questions: How do Najdis perceive the Najdi Urban and Bedouin dialects, and what are the frequently associated characteristics with these varieties? The results of the quantitative analysis show that Najdis’ language attitudes can be discussed with and reduced to two themes: modernity and traditionality. The Urban Najdi dialect was perceived as modern. Contrarily, the Bedouin Najdi dialect was considered traditional. Each social group tended to rate their dialect higher than the other group did in both factors, indicating in-group loyalty. Also, both groups showed high levels of linguistic security.
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