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A Study of Language Use, Language Attitudes and Identities in Two Arabic Speaking Communities in the UK

Bichani, Sanaa (2015) A Study of Language Use, Language Attitudes and Identities in Two Arabic Speaking Communities in the UK. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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This thesis investigates patterns of language use, language attitudes, identity and attitudes towards learning Arabic, within two Arabic speaking communities in the UK. An important motivation is to investigate a rarely researched group to explore language practices, language proficiency, language attitudes and identity within this group. It is also an opportunity to investigate the relationship between Islam and the Arabic language and the relationship between Islamic and Arabic identities within Arab migrant groups from various national backgrounds. The two communities were approached and accessed via two complementary schools, one in Ealing in London, the other in Leeds, West Yorkshire. The members of these communities were adults (teachers and parents), as well as children (pupils) in the two complementary schools. The data consists of interviews with children and adults at the two research sites, pupil participants’ questionnaires and informal tests of proficiency in Arabic, supplemented by field notes based on participant observation. The findings show that subjects’ attitudes to the heritage language, in both its varieties, namely standard (Fusha) and colloquial Arabic, were generally positive. The children studied were dominant in English and used English with their siblings and peers. However, they typically used a mixture of English and colloquial Arabic with adults. Informal Arabic proficiency tests in vocabulary and reading conducted in the complementary school classrooms suggest that the pupils’ Arabic proficiency was rather low, and certainly lower than they reported. Differences were discovered between the Ealing and Leeds communities. For instance, Leeds children showed a higher level of Arabic proficiency and reported using Arabic more frequently at school and at home than the Ealing children. One possible reason for this difference is the greater proportion of children at the Leeds site who were born outside the UK; and the greater religiosity of the Leeds participants, which may have inclined them to more regular use and a higher valuation of Arabic than their Ealing counterparts. Moreover, there was variable language use in terms of intergenerational difference. Arab adults expressed support for the association between language and identity. However, children had diverse perspectives toward this relationship, expressing negative attitudes to learning standard Arabic outside the home, i.e. in complementary schools. Despite the differences between the communities, there was clear evidence of language shift being underway in both cohorts. This study contributes to the literature on language and identity within ethnic minorities in the UK, while at the same time showing that Arab minorities are internally different and far from homogenous.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.675541
Depositing User: ms sanaa bichani
Date Deposited: 15 Dec 2015 11:40
Last Modified: 03 Oct 2016 13:06
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/10502

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