Diglossia and Literacy: The Case of the Arab Reader
Keywords:Reading, Diglossia, MSA, Arabic, Literacy
Using life-history interviews as a method of data collection and NVivo as a data analysis tool, this article presents a case study that focuses on how literacy, mainly reading, is practiced by four Arabic speakers from different parts of the Arab world. The narratives elicited from the interviews paint a picture of the Arab reader as dispassionate, whose exposure to reading rarely goes beyond the walls of the classroom. They attribute this situation partly to the diglossic nature of the Arabic language wherein users are oftentimes more proficient in the regional spoken varieties of the language than they are in Standard Arabic, the language of written discourse. This paper argues that the lack of a “reading culture” in the Arab world is due to an amalgamation of cultural and linguistic factors, among which is diglossia.
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