The Dialect of Hasawis and Bedouins in Al-Ahsa (Saudi Arabia): A Comparative Study

Keywords: Linguistics, dialects, speech community, marked code, identity.


Introduction. This paper is a sociolinguistic study that aims to investigate the speech of two groups in Al-Ahsa (Saudi Arabia) for the purpose of making a comparison between their speech.

Methods. This study is empirical in its methods in that it is fully dependent on naturalistic speech. All the interviews, which were conducted in Al-Ahsa were conducted using the face-to-face technique for obtaining data with regard to linguistic variation. In this, the focus is on the Hasawi people and the Bedouins.

Results. The study indicates that these two groups manipulate their dialect, in particular the key features of their dialects, to emphasize distinctiveness and negotiate identity. The study shows that while the linguistic behavior of the elderly in both groups is similar both within and outside of the group, the young generations show differences in their speech behavior. Additionally, group identity is very important to them. Outside the group, the possibility of interacting with members of the other group occurs, and, within this context, strong correlations appeared between linguistic factors and social factors, in particular the group identity among young males and gender distinctness among young females in both groups. Young males stereotypically tend to use the local linguistic forms, in particular the forms that are considered "the most salient feature which carries the social meaning of locality (Al-Wer, 1991: 75) and symbolizes local identities. The linguistic behavior of young males in both groups exhibits almost the same trends. Both are proud of the identity of the group to which they belong, particularly in gatherings in which other identities are present. Thus, unlike the two other age groups, the use of the /ts/ by the young Bedouin males and the use of the /EL/ by Hasawi young males increase in these settings rather than inside their own groups. This indicates that displaying one’s group identity is of significance to the young males in each group when a possible interaction takes place. While the use of the /EL/ among young Hasawis inside the group is 55.0%, its use was 70.0% in contexts outside the group and in the presence of other identities. The use of the /ts/ variant inside the group is 40%, while it is 60.0% outside the group. It also shows that the linguistic behavior of the Hisawi elderly is almost identical to the linguistic behavior of the elderly in the Bedouin group. In both groups, age (young, middle-aged or elderly) appears to be significant.

Conclusion. The study shows that social competition is primarily expressed in the linguistic forms used. The more this social competition increases, the more unlikely the possibility of giving up one's social dialect becomes. People say much more through an accent than through the semantic content of the speech itself. To conclude, the study shows that social competition is frequently expressed in the linguistic forms used.


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El Salman, M., & Al Fridan, A. (2021). The Dialect of Hasawis and Bedouins in Al-Ahsa (Saudi Arabia): A Comparative Study. PSYCHOLINGUISTICS, 29(2), 173-194.