Migration and lexical variation in the dialect of Tirat Haifa

Document Type


Publication details

El Salman, M & Roche, T 2009, 'Migration and lexical variation in the dialect of Tirat Haifa', Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 61-71.

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This study investigates the nature of lexical variation in the speech of the Tirawi who emigrated from Tirat Haifa (Palestine) to Irbid (Jordan) as a result of the Arab–Israeli war in 1948. Based on data collected in naturalistic interviews with 48 participants, the authors argue that their migration, which brought about the abandonment of traditional farming practices, lead to a great number of lexical items associated with that lifestyle disappearing from use. While elderly group members interviewed categorically preserve lexical items from their native dialect when talking about farming, middle-aged and young group members use Tirawi lexical items at a very low rate if at all. The study also shows that prestige has not played a crucial role in the variation studied as no new local lexical items have replaced the abandoned items. The study suggests that when a community migrates and abandons traditional practices (farming or otherwise) lexical items relating to that lifestyle disappear. Descriptions of practices and tools last slightly longer than names for the constituent parts of those tools. Whereas non-work related dialect items such as /xayta/ ' my sister', /xayya/ 'my brother', /siidi/ 'my grand dad' and /sitti/ 'my grand mum' are more readily preserved even by the younger generation.

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