Some aspects of dialect variation among nomads in Syria and Lebanon
This thesis looks at a selection of typologically salient features that characterise the dialects
of a number of Bedouin tribes in Syria and Lebanon. Most of these dialects have never
previously been described. For those that have, the most recent published data usually
dates from at least the 1930s, and often much earlier. Thus in its descriptions of previously
undescribed dialects, the present thesis helps to fill a number of gaps in the nomadic dialect
geography of the Syro-Lebanon region. In respect of those dialects for which data is
available, further data is offered, changes that have apparently occurred during the past
century are highlighted, and at times, the validity and accuracy of the available published
data is challenged.
Traditionally much work in north Arabian Arabic dialectology has been driven by the desire to
discover or reconstruct older forms of the language, or at least to describe an 'unadulterated'
dialect. Often there is a focus on answering questions about earlier speech patterns, based
on poetry and traditional narratives. In contrast, the present work concentrates solely on the
contemporary, spontaneous everyday speech of the tribes.
The data was collected largely in 2003 and 2004 from recordings and observations of natural
speech as spoken in the house or tent. Poetic forms and traditional narratives have been
deliberately excluded from the study. Data has been collected from younger and older
members of the community, and (where possible, given the cultural context) from women as
well as men.
In addition to descriptions of the dialects, the thesis also addresses some issues of
classification, particularly for the seven Lebanese nomadic tribes that are looked at, but also
in revisiting some of the classifications offered by previous dialectologists for Syrian nomadic