A moving target: literacy development in situations of diglossia and bilingualism

  • Lotfi Sayahi State University of New York at Albany


The present paper analyzes the challenges of literacy development in cases of classical diglossia and bilingualism. The main argument is that the diverse levels of proficiency in the varieties present in a given linguistic market have implications for and are shaped by processes of literacy development, feelings of linguistic insecurity, and the overall outlook for educational and socioeconomic success. With a special focus on Tunisia, where diglossia and bilingualism are part of the students’ linguistic reality, this paper argues that surmounting the initial marginalization of the native vernacular in favor of literacy in Standard Arabic does not seem to be enough of a guarantee for academic success since competence in French becomes indispensable as students move higher up the educational ladder. This results in a generalized feeling of linguistic insecurity and a shared skepticism about the proficiency levels achieved through the educational systems in the languages of instruction that adversely affect school success rates. The paper also shows that heritage speakers of Arabic face more challenges for language maintenance than heritage speakers of other languages that are not in a diglossic situation.
Jan 30, 2016
How to Cite
SAYAHI, Lotfi. A moving target: literacy development in situations of diglossia and bilingualism. Arab Journal of Applied Linguistics, [S.l.], v. 1, n. 1, p. 1-18, jan. 2016. ISSN 2490-4198. Available at: <http://arjals.com/index.php/Arab_Journal_Applied_Linguistics/article/view/42>. Date accessed: 23 sep. 2021.