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Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language in Its Diglossic Situation: Is Formal Spoken Arabic an Ideal Solution?

Zainab Shahad Marzouk Al-Zaghir, Ghsoon Reda


Due to the complex diglossic situation in Arabic, the question of what variety of the language to teach has always occupied a central position in work on teaching Arabic as a foreign language (AFL). Basic Standard Arabic may have been the most supported answer to the above question, but the field is not short of proposals for teaching dialectal varieties. Moreover, in quest of a way to help learners achieve full “Functionally Native Proficiency” (Ryding 1991, 216), Formal Spoken Arabic (FSA) was proposed as a bridge between a standard variety and a dialectal one. The present study argues against such a proposal at beginner levels on the following grounds: (1) FSA is different from the standard and dialectal varieties of Arabic and (2) FSA users can always shift to their dialectal varieties and employ features lying beyond AFL learners’ scope of competence. The argument is supported by examining variation in the use of the Arabic relative clause induced by the tendency toward different relativisation strategies (i.e. the pronoun retention strategy or the gap strategy) in different Arabic varieties. Considering that the relative clause can be embedded into any construction to modify a head noun, variation in its use can affect learners’ ability to make sense of the language input. This variation is demonstrated by examples selected from texts written in Classical Arabic, Modern Classical Arabic, and Iraqi Arabic. The study has implications for AFL course writers.


AFL; Arabic language varieties; Arabic relative clause; diglossia; relativisation strategies.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7358/lcm-2021-002-alre

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Lingue Culture Mediazioni - Languages Cultures Mediation
Registered by Tribunale di Milano (27/11/2013 n. 380)
Online ISSN 2421-0293 - Print ISSN 2284-1881

Dipartimento di Scienze della Mediazione Linguistica e di Studi Interculturali
Università degli Studi di Milano

Editors-in-Chief: Paola Catenaccio (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Giuliana Garzone (IULM, Milano)
Editorial Board: Marina Brambilla (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Maria Vittoria Calvi (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Gabriella Cartago (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Lidia Anna De Michelis (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Giovanni Garofalo (Università degli Studi di Bergamo) - Dino Gavinelli (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Antonella Ghersetti (Università di Venezia Ca’ Foscari) - Maria Grazia Guido (Università del Salento) - Elena Liverani (IULM, Milano) - Stefania Maci (Università degli Studi di Bergamo) - Andrea Maurizi (Università degli Studi di Milano Bicocca) - Chiara Molinari (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Stefano Ondelli (Università degli Studi di Trieste) - Davide Papotti (Università degli Studi di Parma) - Francesca Santulli (Università di Venezia Ca’ Foscari) - Girolamo Tessuto (Università degli Studi della Campania Luigi Vanvitelli) - Giovanni Turchetta (Università degli Studi di Milano) - Stefano Vicari (Università degli Studi di Genova)
International Scientific Committee: James Archibald (McGill University, Montreal) - Natalija G. Bragina (Institut Russkogo Jazyka im. A.S. Puškina; RSUH, Mosca) - Kristen Brustad (University of Texas at Austin) - Luciano Curreri (University of Liège) - Hugo de Burgh (University of Westminster) - Giuditta Caliendo (Université de Lille) - Giorgio Fabio Colombo (Nagoya University Graduate School of Law) - Daniel Dejica (Universitatea Politehnica Timisoara) - Anna De Fina (Georgetown University, USA) - Claudio Di Meola, (Sapienza Università di Roma) - Denis Ferraris (Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris) - Lawrence Grossberg (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) - Stephen Gundle (University of Warwick) - Décio de Alencar Guzmán (Universidade Federal do Pará, Belém,  Brasile) - Matthias Heinz (Universität Salzburg) - Rosina Márquez-Reiter (The Open University) - Samir Marzouki (Université de Manouba à Tunis) - (John McLeod, University of Leeds) - Estrella Montolío Durán (Universitat de Barcelona) - M'bare N'gom (Morgan State University, Baltimore) - Christiane Nord (Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences) - Daragh O'Connell (Cork University) - Roberto Perin (York University, Toronto) - Giovanni Rovere (Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg) - Lara Ryazanova-Clarke (University of Edinburgh) - Françoise Sabban (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris) - Kirk St.Amant (Louisiana Tech University, University of Limerick/University of Strasbourg) - Paul Sambre (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) - Srikant Sarangi (Aalborg University) - Junji Tsuchiya (Waseda University, Tokyo) - Xu Shi (Zhejiang University)
Section editors: Maria Matilde Benzoni, Università degli Studi di Milano (Modern history) - Paola Cotta Ramusino, Università degli Studi di Milano (Russian linguistics and translation) - Mario de Benedittis, Università degli Studi di Milano (Sociology) - Kim Grego Università degli Studi di Milano (English linguistics and translation) - Giovanna Mapelli, Università degli Studi di Milano (Spanish linguistics and translation) - Bettina Mottura, University of Milan (Chinese studies) - Mauro Giacomo Novelli, Università degli Studi di Milano (Contemporary Italian literature and culture) - Letizia Osti, Università degli Studi di Milano (Arab studies) - Maria Cristina Paganoni, Università degli Studi di Milano (English linguistics and translation) - Giuseppe Sergio, Università degli Studi di Milano (Italian linguistics) - Virginia Sica, Università degli Studi di Milano (Japanese studies)

Editor of LCM - The Series: Marie-Christine Jullion

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