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One of the most important concerns for the modern Arabian linguists, the aspect of the language development requires thorough considerations. It must be admitted that the theories of Ferguson did have sufficient authority and were based on the solid fundament of facts and logical train of conclusions.
Yet the consequences of the language change might be somewhat different from the ones predicted by the linguist. In this paper, I am going to write about whether the predictions of the philosopher came truth and what predetermined such results.
Taking the High and the Low Roads
It is necessary to mark that Ferguson (1963) split the Arabic language in the high and the low dialect to explain the processes that were occurring in the linguistic sphere.
According to the ideas expressed by the scientist (Ferguson 1963), it was quite likely that the “low” variant of the Arabic language would finally oust the “high” one, thus making it closer to the spoken variation of the Arabic: ”A brief and superficial glance at the outcome of diglossia in the past and a consideration of the present trends suggests that there are only a few general kinds of development likely to take place” (20), the linguist warned.
Therefore, Ferguson saw the final triumph of the “low” Arabic as the one and only possible ending of the linguistic process taking place then. Therefore, it was highly likely that the language of the lower layers of society would finally oust the “noble” dialect of the Arabian elite.
Taking a retrospective into the times of Ferguson’s theory, one can possibly claim that these ideas did have sufficient basis. In addition, there were enough of historical examples to support this idea. However, as time passed, the credibility of Ferguson’s theory was slowly decreasing. At present, it is highly probable that the initial idea that Ferguson suggested was erroneous.
However, it is still worth mentioning that Ferguson’s theory is scientifically based. There is no doubt that Ferguson suggested the idea that both was rather witty and contained a grain of truth. It is remarkable that Ferguson was the first to notice the language split – as it turned out, the phenomenon exists in the modern Arabian world as well. Therefore, even with the plethora of criticism aimed at Ferguson’s theory, it still proves to have its major points established in the right way, as Bassiouney (2009) explained:
Despite all the subsequent criticism of Ferguson’s theory, his proposal that there are two poles, an H and an L, is still valid, although they both formally and functionally overlap, perhaps more than Ferguson suspected or was ready to admit. (13)
Therefore, it can be considered that the switch from the high Arabic to the low language variation was an erroneous statement. According to the latest researches held in the given sphere, the Arabic language maintains a clear distinction between the two language variations, yet the low dialect does not substitute the high one at present.
Surprisingly, the idea that Ferguson suggested seems to take rather unexpected shapes – it is the high variation of the Arabic language that is slowly ousting the low one. As Owens (2000) marked, this is rather reasonable process. Thus, Owen explained that the further fusion of the two dialects might led to the extinction of the “low” variation o the Arabic language:
Furthermore, the mixing of the Nigerian Arabic with Standard Arabic forms, arrested most vividly perhaps in Table 11 indicating a high degree of (Nigerian Arabic) affixing with Standard Arabic loanwords, is typical of what is found in the Arabic world (332)
Thus, it is clear that the predictions of Ferguson were erroneous. Mixing with the low Arabic, the high dialect is slowly dissolving. Perhaps, the process is not over yet.
Bassionery, R. (2009) Arabic Sociolinguistics. Edinburgh, Scotland, UK: Edinburgh University Press.
Ferguson, C. (1969) “Diglossia”. In Anwar Dil (Ed.), Language Structure and Language Use. (325-340) Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press.
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Owens, J. (2000) Arabic as a Minority Language. New York, NY: Walter de Gruyer.