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Title: Acquisition of modern standard Arabic by speakers of different Arabic colloquial varieties
Author: Alresaini, Sami Saleh
ISNI:       0000 0004 2749 9542
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis conducts an empirical investigation of Arabic speakers' underlying ultimate knowledge of Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). The goal is to determine whether these speakers' end-state MSA grammar can be classed as a native language (L I) type grammar or a second language (L2) type grammar. The motivation for this research comes from the frequent claim in the literature that there are no native speakers of MSA (e.g., Kaye, 1970; Maamouri, 1998). This claim has been made because MSA is not spoken at home and it is acquired through literacy and formal schooling which does not start for most children until age 5 or 6. Another factor that can support such a claim is that children who start acquiring MSA at school already speak their colloquial varieties which were acquired naturally from birth. Because there are differences between the colloquial varieties and MSA in all linguistic domains (e.g., Altoma, 1969; Ayari, 1996; Maamouri, 1998), this has been assumed to have possibly affected the ultimate attainment of MSA and resulted in different end-state grammars; a characteristic of a second language. However, the claim that there are no native speakers of MSA has not been investigated empirically. In fact, there is a clear scarcity of empirical works in the literature that investigate and discuss Arabic speakers' end-state underlying knowledge of MSA. The current thesis aims to fill in this gap. The current research examines the impact of age of first exposure (AoE) and knowledge of the previously acquired dialect (L I) on the ultimate attainment of MSA acquired by Arabs across three regions of the Arabic-speaking world: Egypt, the Levant and the Gulf regions. The main objective is to explore how MSA's end-state underlying grammar is represented by native speakers of different colloquial varieties whose first exposure to MSA also varied between exceptionally 'early' exposure (from age two or three in MSA immersion nurseries and kindergartens) and typically 'late' exposure to MSA (from age five or six in normal primary schools). Based on results of a corpus study of colloquial varieties, the syntactic variables for investigation were identified as: i) resumption in definite object relative clauses, ii) collective subject-verb agreement in SV sentences, and iii) word order preference in conversational and narrative contexts. 147 adolescent participants were recruited to take part in an experiment designed to examine their underlying knowledge of the three syntactic phenomena in MSA. The participants completed two tasks: an acceptability judgement task and a conversation role-play task. Using ANOV A and planned comparisons, the differences in participants' performance in these tasks were evaluated across five groups corresponding to different AoE and the colloquial varieties the participants speak. The analysis of the data showed no significant effect of AoE or of the L1, and post hoc tests showed no significant differences between the groups of participants. These results were discussed in relation to previous views on L 1 influence and effect of age of onset on the ultimate attainment of a second language. Uniform performance in the tasks of the study, despite variant AoE and LIs, was interpreted to indicate success of typical Arabic speakers in attaining a native-like competence in at least the three MSA syntactic phenomena investigated. Further research that involves investigation of end-state knowledge of more grammatical phenomena in different linguistic domains is required to make a comprehensive assessment of typical Arabic speakers' end- state knowledge of MSA.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available