Language Shift and Gender in Dilling, Sudan: Who Leads the Process?


  • Abdelrahim Mugaddam Jouf University /khartoum University



Language shift from a local language to Arabic bilingualism to the exclusive use of Arabic is occurring in vernacular speech communities in Dilling town, in the Nuba Mountains. Females are further along in the direction of shift than males. The contrast between males and females within the framework of language shift reflects the social change resulting from migration from rural areas to the urban ones. Language choice in everyday interaction appears to have been part of a speakers’ identity. Women in Dilling are increasingly attracted to Arabic for the practical function the language plays in their life. The growing role of women in the changing society of the Nuba Mountains has contributed much to the process of language shift among themselves, as they have to use Arabic in more domains of communication. Women go to school, are employed in government institutions, and participate actively in the sociopolitical and socioeconomic life in the region. In this perspective women tend to move away from their traditional domain, the house, to a more open and interactive setting involving people from different ethno linguistic background whose only lingua franca is Arabic. The paper confirms Gal’s (1978) findings that women’s speech choices may best be understood within the framework of their social status, their life choice, and the symbolic values of the code at their disposal.   



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