Exploring the effect of sect and gender on language attitudes: A case study of Urban Hasawi dialect in Saudi Arabia

Al Owdah, Fahad (2022) Exploring the effect of sect and gender on language attitudes: A case study of Urban Hasawi dialect in Saudi Arabia. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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The current study examines the attitudes of speakers of the urban Hasawi dialect towards their dialect; Hasawi is spoken in Alhasa, a city in Saudi Arabia. It also investigates whether the participants’ gender and sect (Shiite and Sunni) have any impact on their perception of their dialect or how it is perceived by non-native speakers of the dialect. To this end, this study adopted a mixed methods approach, combining qualitative (interviews) and quantitative (Match-guise Techniques). For the interviews, the present study uses a semi-structured interview consisting of 17 questions that were divided into three sets. The first set of questions was designed to explore the participants’ views about other Saudi dialects. The second set was designed to explore attitudes towards the Hasawi variety. The third set was more precise and related to their attitudes from a sectarian perspective.

For the MGT, a 7-point-Likert-scale questionnaire for seven traits was designed, with 6 recordings for four local speakers (from both sects and gender) and two speakers of Supra-local dialect, requiring participants to rate their attitudes towards these dialects. The sample included 40 participants; whose first language variety is the Hasawi dialect of Arabic. On the basis of the two dependent variables, namely, gender and sect, the participants were divided into four groups: Hasawi Shiite female speakers, Hasawi Shiite male speakers, Hasawi Sunni female Speakers and Hasawi Sunni male speakers.

The results reveal that in general gender impacted attitudes to the dialect very little in comparison to religious sect. Hasawi Shiite male and female participants demonstrated a sense of responsibility towards their dialect, positively making their attitudes towards it, particularly in regard to their belief that it forms part of their identity as minority group in Saudi Arabia. However, Hasawi Sunni male and female participants had negative attitudes toward the local dialect. This is attributed to the social ideology that the dialect spoken by Shiites in Alhasa is either widely regarded as a reference point for the Hasawi dialect or as a dominant dialect in Alhasa. In addition, the results reveal that participants from both sects believe that there is a dichotomous dialect situation; as Hasawi Shiite dialect represents the traditional dialect, while the Sunni Hasawi dialect represents the urbanised dialect that converges with Supra local variety that is spoken ii in the capital city (Riyadh). Moreover, the participants from both sects perceiver that outsiders have an inferior view toward their dialect as a result of linguistic features.

Regarding gender, the results show that Sunni male and female participants have similar views to their dialect in term of the level of prestige, as they perceived it to be of lower prestige than the Supra local variety. For Shiite participants, the results differed somewhat when looking at gender. Shiite female participants expressed the view that the Hasawi dialect was more prestigious, possibly because they are less mobile than other groups included here. This was contrasted by Shiite male participants who believed that the Supra dialect was more prestigious.

The importance of this project is contributing to the research on language attitudes and religion as asocial factor by focusing on Alhasa, that is inhabited by people belonging to different sects. To date, there have been no attitudinal investigations of the dialects spoken in Alhasa in related to Sectarian affiliation. Ascertaining how the Hasawi people feel about the local variety in Alhasa, and how they construct their sectarian affiliation was crucial thought. Defining the linguistic situation of Alhasa positions and interprets Hasawi people's language attitudes and sectarian affiliation within a specific linguistic framework and in the general socio-sectarian and historical context of Alhasa and shows how the double relationship between language attitudes and sectarian affiliation functions in Alhasa.

The key findings for this research found that the religious affiliation had a fundamental role to construct the attitudes of Hasawi participants toward the local dialect at the expense of linguistic, national or the local affiliation, similar to finding of other studies whom investigated the language attitudes from religious perspectives (Baker and Bowie 2010; Yilmaz 2020). Regarding the gender as asocial factor, the results of this study contradict with the common generalisations, that is comparing to men, women are more inclined to approximate prestigious linguistic forms (Labov 1972; Trudgill 1986; Cheshire 2002; Tagliamonte 2011). However, in this study found that men from both sects have positive attitudes toward the supra local dialect, and Shiite women found the local dialect is more prestigious.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communication Studies
Depositing User: Kitty Laine
Date Deposited: 15 Dec 2022 14:16
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2022 14:16
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/90215

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