Ramifications of diglossia on how native Arabic-speaking students in Israel write


  • Hezi Brosh United States Naval Academy
  • Lubna Attili Bar-Illan University




diglossia, Arabic, variety, the Standard Variety, Ammiyya, lexical deviation, morphosyntactic deviation


This paper investigates the effect of diglossia in Arabic on the writing behavior of native Arabic-speaking high school students in Israel. Participating in this study were 30 students in the 12th grade. Each participant wrote an essay that was a part of the matriculation examination in the Standard Variety (SV) required for graduation by the Ministry of Education. The essays were analyzed for deviations from SV. The data used for this paper consisted of deviations from SV caused by interference of the participants’ Arabic vernacular. The findings clearly show that the linguistic distance in the two domains that were investigated – the syntactic and the lexical – significantly affected the writing behavior of the participants, who used structures and lexical items that are characteristic of their mother tongue, the Palestinian variety.

Author Biographies

Hezi Brosh, United States Naval Academy

Hezi Brosh is currently an Associate Professor at the US Naval Academy. He has specialized in Second Language Acquisition focusing on Arabic as a foreign language. In particular, he has explored the influence of cognitive and affective variables on the learning of Arabic as a foreign language by Hebrew speakers. He is the author of numerous conference papers, articles and textbooks.

Lubna Attili, Bar-Illan University

Lubna Attili is currently a doctoral student at Bar-Illan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel.


Abu-Rabia, S. (2000) Effects of exposure to literary Arabic on reading comprehension in a diglossic situation. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal 13 (1–2): 147–157. http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1008133701024

Abu-Rabia, S., Share, D. and Mansour, M. (2003) Word recognition and basic cognitive processes among reading-disabled and normal readers in Arabic. Reading and Writing 16 (5): 423–442. http://dx.doi.org/10.1023/A:1024237415143

Abboud-Haggar, S. (2010) Linguistic varieties in twenty-first-century Arabic novels: An applied study. In R. Bass (ed.) Arabic and the Media: Linguistic Analyses and Applications, 201–215. Leiden, Netherlands: Brill.

Abdulaziz, M. (1986) Factors in the development of modern Arabic usage. International Journal of the Sociology of Language 62: 11–24. http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/ijsl.1986.62.11

Al-Mamari, H. (2011) Arabic Diglossia and Arabic as a Foreign Language: The Perception of Students in World Learning Oman Center. Capstone Collection (Paper 2437). Brattleboro, VT: School for International Training Graduate Institute. Retrieved 2 May 2013, from http://digitalcollections.sit.edu/capstones/2437/

Alosh, M. (1991). Advanced Arabic II - Living Arabic. Foreign Language Publications.

Amara, M. (1995) Arabic diglossia in the classroom: Assumptions and reality. In S. Izre‘el and R. Drori (eds) Israel Oriental Studies: XV. Language and Culture in the Near East, 131–142. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

Amara, M. (2004) Language Education Policy: The Arab Minority in Israel. London: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Amara, M. and Spolsky, B. (1986) The diffusion and integration of Hebrew and English lexical items in the spoken Arabic of an Israeli village. Anthropological Linguistics 28 (1): 43–54.

Ayari, S. (1996) Diglossia and illiteracy in the Arab world. Language, Culture and Curriculum 9 (3): 243–253. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07908319609525233

Bassiouney, R. (2009) Arabic Sociolinguistics. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.3366/edinburgh/9780748623730.001.0001

Bassiouney, R. (2010) Identity and code-choice in the speech of educated women and men in Egypt: Evidence from talk shows. In R. Bassiouney (ed.) Arabic and the Media: Linguistic Analysis and Applications, 97–121. Leiden: Brill.

Bateson, M. C. (2003) Arabic Language Handbook. Washington DC: Georgetown University Press.

Brown, H. D. (2000) Principles of Language Learning and Teaching. Fourth edition. White Plains, NY: Pearson Education.

Cadora, F. J. (1975) The teaching of spoken and written Arabic. Language Learning 15 (3– 4): 133–136.

Dekel, N. and Brosh, H. (2012) Languages in contact: Preliminary clues of an emergence of an Israeli Arabic variety. Journal of Arts and Humanities 1 (3): 1–17.

Eid, M. (1990) Arabic linguistics: The current scene. In M. Eid (ed.) Perspectives on Arabic Linguistics I, 3–37. Amsterdam and Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.

El-Hassan, S. A. (1978) Variation in the demonstrative system in educated spoken Arabic. ARLI 9 (1): 32–57.

Elgibali, A. (1996) Understanding Arabic: Essays in Contemporary Arabic Linguistics in Honor of El-Said Badawi. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press.

Ellis, R. (1985) Understanding Second Language Acquisition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Eviatar, Z. and Ibrahim, R. (2000) Bilingual is as bilingual does: Metalinguistic abilities of Arabic-speaking children. Applied Psycholinguistic 21 (4): 451–471. http://dx.doi. org/10.1017/S0142716400004021

Eviatar, Z. and Ibrahim, R. (2009) Language status and hemispheric involvement in reading: Evidence from trilingual Arabic speakers tested in Arabic, Hebrew, and English. Neuropsychology 23 (2): 240–254.

Faerch, C. and Kasper, G. (1987) Perspectives on Language Transfer. Applied Linguistics 8 (2): 111–136. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/applin/8.2.111

Ferguson, C. (1959) Diglossia. Word 15: 325–340.

Fischer, W. (2002) A Grammar of Classical Arabic (J. Rodgers, Trans.). New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Gass, S. M. and Selinker, L. (eds) (1983) Language Transfer in Language Learning: Rowley, MA: Newbury House.

Gass, S. M. and Selinker, L. (1994) Second Language Acquisition: An Introductory Course. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Haeri, N. (2003) Sacred Language, Ordinary People: Dilemmas of Culture and Politics in Egypt. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/9780230107373

Hary, B. (1996) The language continuum in Arabic multiglossia. In A. Elgibali (ed.) Understanding Arabic: Essays in Contemporary Arabic Linguistics in Honor of El-Said Badawi, 69-90. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press.

Hary, B. (2009) Translating Religion: Linguistic Analysis of Judeo-Arabic Sacred Texts from Egypt. Boston, MA: Brill. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/ej.9789004173828.i-360

Holes, C. (2004) Modern Arabic: Structures, Functions, and Varieties (Georgetown Classics in Arabic Language and Linguistics). Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.

Ibrahim, R. (2009) The cognitive basis of diglossia in Arabic: Evidence from a repetition priming study within and between languages. Journal of Psychological Research and Behavior Management 2: 93–101. http://dx.doi.org/10.2147/PRBM.S5138

Ibrahim, R. and Aharon-Peretz, J. (2005) Is literary Arabic a second language for native Arab speakers? Evidence from a semantic priming study. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 34 (1): 51–70. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10936-005-3631-8

Ibrahim, R., Eviatar, Z. and Aharon-Peretz, J. (2007) Metalinguistic awareness and reading performance: a cross language comparison. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research 36 (4): 297–317. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10936-006-9046-3

Ibrahim, Z. (2009) Lexical Variation in Modern Standard Arabic. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Ibrahim, Z. (2010) Cases of written code-switching in Egyptian opposition newspapers. In R. Bassiouney (ed.) Arabic and the Media: Linguistic Analysis and Applications, 23–45. Leiden: Brill.

Lado, R. (1964) Language Teaching: A Scientific Approach. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Khamis-Dakwar, R. (2005) Children’s attitudes towards the diglossic situation in Arabic and its impact on learning. In Z. Zakharia and T. Arnstein (eds) Languages, Communities and Education, 75–86. New York: Columbia University Teachers College.

Khamis-Dakwar, R. and Froud, K. (2007) Lexical processing in two language varieties: An event-related brain potential study of Arabic native speakers. In M. Mughazy (ed.) Perspectives on Arabic Linguistics XX, 153–168. Amsterdam and Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.

Larsen–Freeman, D. (2000) Techniques and Principles in Language Teaching. New York: Oxford University Press.

Larsen–Freeman, D. and Long, M. H. (2000) An Introduction to Second Language Acquisition Research (Applied Linguistics and Language Study). Abingdon: Routledge.

Maamouri, M. (1998) Language education and human development: Arabic diglossia and its impact on the quality of education in the Arab region. Paper presented at the Mediterranean Development Forum, Marrakech, Morocco.

Mahmoud, Y. (1986) Arabic after diglossia. In J. Fishman (ed.) The Fergusonian Impact, 239–251. Berlin: Moutton de Gruyter.

Mclaughlin, B. (1987) Theories of Second Language Learning. London: Edward Arnold.

Mejdell, G. (2006) Studies in Semitic Languages and Linguistics: Vol. 48. Mixed Styles in Spoken Arabic in Egypt: Somewhere between Order and Chaos. Boston, MA: Brill.

Mellor, N. (2005) The Making of Arab News. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Mitchell, T. F. (1982) More than a matter of ‘writing with the learned, pronouncing with the vulgar’: Some preliminary observations in the Arabic Koine. In W. Hass (ed.) Standard Languages: Spoken and Written, 123–156. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Mitchell, T. F. (1986) What is educated spoken Arabic? International Journal of the Sociology of Language 61 (1): 7–32. http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/ijsl.1986.61.7

Nation, P. (2003) The role of the first language in foreign language learning. The Asian EFL Journal 5 (2). Retrieved on 10 December 2007 from http://www.asian-efl-journal.com/ june_2003_PN.html

Odlin, T. (1989) Language Transfer: Cross-Linguistic Influence in Language Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139524537

Or, I. (2012) Arabic teaching materials and their suitability to the curriculum. In E. LandauTasron, M. Milson, E. Olshtein, O. Efrati and G. Ron-Gilboa (eds) The Teaching of Arabic in Israel: From Where and to Where, 35–56. Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences. (Hebrew).

Owens, J. and Bani-Yasin, R. (1987) The lexical bases of variation in Jordanian Arabic. LING 25 (4): 705–738. http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/ling.1987.25.4.705

Piamenta, M. (1968) Speak Arabic: An Introduction to the Spoken Arabic of Palestine. Tel Aviv: Ma’ariv Publishing House. (Hebrew).

Ringbom, H., Jarvis, S. (2011) The importance of cross-linguistic similarity in foreign language learning. In M. Long and C. Doughty (eds) The Handbook of Language Teaching, 106–118. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rosenhouse, Y. (1997) Morphological and syntactical acquisition of spoken Arabic as native language: Preliminary findings. Hilkat Lashon 27: 76–93. (Hebrew)

Rosenhouse, J. (2007) Some aspects of diglossia as reflected in the vocabulary of literary and colloquial Arabic. In E. Ditters and H. Motzki (eds) Approaches to Arabic Linguistics: Presented to Kees Versteegh on the Occasion of his Sixtieth Birthday, 653–674. Leiden: Brill.

Ryding, K. C. (1991) Proficiency despite diglossia: A new approach for Arabic. Modern Language Journal 75 (2): 212–218. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4781.1991.tb05352.x

Ryding, K. C. (1995) Discourse competence in TAFL: Skill levels and choice of language variety in the Arabic classroom. In M. Al-Batal (ed.) The Teaching of Arabic as a Foreign Language: Issues and Directions, 223–231. Birmingham, AL: American Association of Teachers of Arabic.

Ryding, K. C. (2005) A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511486975

Saiegh-Haddad, E. (2003) Linguistic distance and initial reading acquisition: The case of Arabic diglossia. Applied Psycholinguistics 24 (3): 431–451. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/ S0142716403000225

Saiegh-Haddad, E. (2005) Correlates of Reading Fluency in Arabic diglossic and orthographic factors. Reading and Writing 18 (6): 559–582. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/ s11145-005-3180-4

Saiegh-Haddad, E. (2012) Literacy reflexes of Arabic diglossia. In M. Leikin, M. Schwartz and Y. Tobin (eds) Current Issues in Bilingualism: Cognitive and Socio-linguistic Perspectives, 43–56. London: Springer.

Shohamy, E. and Spolsky, B. (2003) New Israeli language education policy: From monolingual to plurilingual? In Y. Dror, D. Nevo and R. Shapira (eds) Turns and Returns in Israeli Education: Policy Guidelines for the 2000s, 193–208. Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, School of Education.

Suleiman, S. (1986) Jordanian Arabic Between Diglossia and Bilingualism: Linguistic Analysis. Amsterdam and Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.

Swan, M. (1985) A critical look at the communicative approach (2). English Language Teaching Journal 39 (2): 76–87. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/elt/39.2.76

Weinreich, U. (1967) Languages in Contact: Findings and Problems, 5th printing. The Hague: Mouton & Co. Publishers.

Wranger, D. A., Spratt, J. E. and Ezzaki, A. (1989) Does learning to read in a second language always put the child at a disadvantage? Some counter evidence from Morocco. Applied Psycholinguist 10 (1): 31–48. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0142716400008407

Zoble, H. (1980a) Developmental and transfer errors: Their common bases and (possibly) differential effects on subsequent learning. TESOL Quarterly 14 (4): 469–479. http:// dx.doi.org/10.2307/3586235

Zoble, H. (1980b) The formal and developmental selectivity of L1 influence on L2 acquisition. Language Learning 30 (1): 43–57. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-1770.1980.tb00150.x

Zoble, H. (1982) A direction for contrastive analysis: The comparative study of developmental sequences. TESOL Quarterly 16 (2): 169–183. http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/3586790



How to Cite

Brosh, H., & Attili, L. (2015). Ramifications of diglossia on how native Arabic-speaking students in Israel write. Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice, 6(2), 165–190. https://doi.org/10.1558/japl.v6i2.27495