Sociolinguistics Lunch: Soubeika Bahri (University of Colorado, Denver)

NOV 20, 2020 | 2:00 PM TO 3:30 PM



Online Event


November 20, 2020: 2:00 PM-3:30 PM




Soubeika Bahri (University of Colorado, Denver) will present:
Ettounsi and Tamazight writing variations: Is Facebook leading the change towards vernacular literacies in the context of Tunisia?

Digitally mediated discourse has facilitated the processes and practices of orthographies for languages that were deemed oral prior to the “Social Networking Sites” (SNS) age. This study will examine this phenomenon as it applies to Ettounsi, commonly known as Tunisian Arabic or El-Darija Tounsya, and to Tamazight, the indigenous language of the country. Each of the two languages is now presented through different scriptural variations in social media and Facebook in particular. Ettounsi is written in Arabizi (a mix of Roman letters and numbers) or Arabic letters whereas Tamazight is presented in three forms of scripts: Tifinagh, Roman, and/or Arabic.  Drawing on research from Sociolinguistics of Writing and Literacy Studies (Jaffe 2000; Sebba, 2000, 2012; Androutsopoulos, 2007; Spitzmuller 2012; Lillis 2013), this study aims at investigating the sociolinguistic implications of these orthographic and scriptural choices and the social meanings they carry in the context of Tunisia. Data analysis of 63 Facebook interactions involving 436 messages such as timeline postings and comments reveal two findings: the use of Arabizi and Arabic in literacy practices opens the possibility to a positive revaluation of Ettounsi and possible shift away from diglossia. The use of Tifinagh, Roman, and/or Arabic scripts in writing Tamazight is motivated by deliberate choices linked to notions of “identity reclamation” “modernization”, and “religiosity”.  The study will then discuss the prospects of the competing literacies in face of an already existing hegemonic ideology that places high value on Arabic language while frames Ettounsi as oral language, even if it has become written, and Tamazight as primordial  even if it is reviving.

This is an online event. Register online now to recieve the Zoom link.