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Title: Imams' language use in mosque sermons
Author: Alsaawi, Ali Abdulkarim A.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7429 9412
Awarding Body: Newcastle University
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2017
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Religion plays a pivotal role in some societies, but the interaction between language and religion from a bilingualism perspective has not been fully explored. The overlap between the two, including “the way that religion and language interact to produce language contact” (Spolsky, 2003, p. 81), has recently been considered by Omoniyi and Fishman (2006). Many studies have been conducted regarding language use within institutional settings, such as schools, universities, workplaces and courtrooms. However, less attention has been paid to language use outside of these settings, such as within religious contexts, although mosques are viewed as institutional in nature. In particular, imams may switch between languages in their sermons in the mosque, perhaps similar to priests’ practices in churches where they may switch between Latin and English. The shortage of such studies regarding this phenomenon could be a result of the assumption that secularism is increasingly dominant and widespread, especially in Europe. This assumption can lead to an underestimation of the depth of religion in peoples’ lives and of the significance of the languages to express it. Another salient aspect may be that prayers tend not to change much over time and thus there is no need for such studies to be conducted. Yet, this is not actually true, especially in the case of Friday sermons, which tend to be less formulaic than prayers and in which ordinary talk also occurs. To explore this phenomenon, a qualitative study was undertaken by means of simulated recall interviews and non-participant observation with imams (n=10) and mosque audiences (n=7). The study reveals that employing more than one language in one-way religious speech is a means of increasing historical authenticity, exposing audiences to Arabic, overcoming a lack of easy equivalents in English (such as for the word bidah), emphasizing religious authority (given the very close links between Arabic and Islam), an assumption of audiences’ knowledge of some Arabic features (mostly in the form of words), or accommodating the iv diverse backgrounds of the audience, some of whom have knowledge of Arabic. This has been described as having spiritual, historical and emotional significance, invoking religious links associated between Arabic and Islam. Stakeholders, especially audiences, claim benefits beyond the language used in the sermons themselves. Imams, in addition, also tend to see the use of both English and Arabic as socially and culturally salient, a means of uniting people in an otherwise often fractured world, or one frequently presented as such in the media. Attitudes towards this phenomenon in mosques have been reported by all those involved as being very positive.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (Saudi Cultural Bureau in London)
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available