Moroccan and Hassaniya Arabic                                                    back to home page           

During the 1980’s, more accurately the period 1979-1989, I shifted my fieldwork focus from Australia to Morocco, where I worked primarily on Moroccan Arabic (MA). I had been trained in Arabic as a Harvard undergrad with some follow-up at U Chicago. I had chosen Arabic because I wanted to study a major non-Indo-European language at Harvard, the choices were Arabic or Japanese or Chinese, the latter two had introductory courses meeting at 9am, Arabic met in the afternoon, and I had noisy night-owl roommates.

On my two round-trips between the US and Australia (1973-75 and 1976-77), I had made a point of stopping at many intervening countries for 3-5 days each. On one leg I had worked my way through Arab/Muslim countries: Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Algeria, Morocco. I was especially attracted to Morocco and chose it as my next field site, which would allow me to return to Arabic studies. Since there was already a body of literature on MA going back to the French colonial linguists, such genres as reference grammars and dictionaries were not needed, so beginning 1979 I did several topical projects. First, MA in its language contact milieu. Second, a detailed modeling of MA phonology, especially its rich ablaut (apophony) system. Third, a study of the networks of Muslim and Jewish dialects of MA. The first two projects were done mainly in the Fes-Meknes zone in interior central Morocco, between the Rif and the Middle Atlas ranges. The projects were funded by three separate grants from National Science Foundation.

The main takeaway from the language-contact book is that real-time “borrowing” of French words including verbs into MA is channeled by borrowing routines that have been perfected by the bilingual community. In other words, there is no real break between “code-switching” and “borrowing.” The main point of the phonology/ablaut book is that the so-called consonantal roots are extracted from fully-spelled out stems in the course of deriving variants of those stems.

The dialectology project took me all over Morocco (except for the disputed Western Sahara), and to Israel. The Moroccan part of the project was made difficult by red tape; although I had government permission to do the research, each of the many provinces wanted province-specific authorizations from the secretive Interior Ministry which were impossible to get. I did the best I could under difficult conditions. In Israel I was able to work with Prof. Moshe Bar-Asher of Hebrew University and his family (originally from Ksar Es-Souk in Tafilalt). With the help of Prof. Joseph Chetrit (or Shitrit) of Haifa University (originally from Taroudant) I was able to arrange to spend a month in the mostly MA-speaking settlement town of Shelomi near the Lebanese border. There I was able to work for a couple of hours each with natives of many Moroccan Jewish communities. I added additional material from contact with native speakers in Jerusalem. Most of the Moroccan Jews living in Israel had left Morocco around 1951, so in the early 1980’s there were still plenty of individuals who had grown to adulthood in their original Moroccan community.

My three books on MA appeared between 1987 and 2004. A few articles published since are side products of the dialectology project. Recently I have returned to MA as a historical linguist, focusing on the initial formation of the most archaic dialects. I argue that the oldest MA reflects the combination of Late Latin-speaking women with Arabized Berber troops (mostly from Tunisia or nearby), and try to explain the collapse of vowel length oppositions and the development of d-possessives in this sociolinguistic context.

In 1986 I had a multi-country Fulbright fellowship which I used to complete the Moroccan dialectology (6 months) and spent one month each in Tunisia, Mauritania, and Mali where I did initial work on local Arabics. I became seriously interested in Malian Hassaniya, a beduin variety sharply distinct from most MA, and returned to Timbuktu and Gao in 1989 and 1990, where I complete work on Hassaniya and began my long engagement with sub-Saharan African languages.

      2004            Hassaniya Arabic (Mali) - French - English dictionary. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
                                    ISBN 3-447-05012-8
2003            Hassaniya Arabic (Mali) poetic and ethnographic Texts. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
                                    ISBN 3-447-04792-5
      2002            Jewish and Muslim dialects of Moroccan Arabic. London: Curzon. Pp. 559 including some 100 pp. of maps.
                                    ISBN 0-7007-1514-2
      1987            Ablaut and ambiguity: Phonology of a Moroccan Arabic dialect. Albany: State University of New York Press. Pp. 355.
                                    ISBN 0-88706-511-2 (hardb.), 0-88706-512-0 (paperb.)

      in press       Vowel-length merger and its consequences in early Moroccan Arabic. Zeitschrift für arabische Linguistik.
      *2015          D-possessives and the origins of Moroccan Arabic. Diachronica 32(1):1-33.
      2007a          Stretching ablaut: morphological adaptation of new *CCu and *CCi stems in Moroccan Arabic. In: Mustafa Mughazy (ed.), Perspectives on Arabic linguistics XX, pp. 3-24. Philadelphia: Benjamins.
      2007c          Moroccan Arabic. In: Alan Kaye (ed.), Morphologies of Asia and Africa, vol. 1, pp. 249-59. Winona Lake IN: Eisenbrauns.
      2003            Arabic derivational ablaut, processing strategies, and consonantal 'roots'. In: Joseph Shimron (ed.), Language processing and language acquisition in a root-based morphology. Amsterdam/New York: Benjamins.
      2000a          SIFT-ing the evidence: adaptation of a Berber loan for 'send' in Moroccan Arabic. In: S. Chaker & A. Zaborski (eds.), Études berbères et chamito-sémitiques: Mélanges offerts à Karl-G. Prasse, 223-32. Paris/Louvain: Peeters.
      2000b         Crawling toward enlightenment: the verb HBU in Moroccan Arabic. In: Christiane Schaner-Wolles, John Rennison & Friedrich Neubarth (eds.), Naturally! Linguistic studies in honour of Wolfgang Ulrich Dressler presented on the occasion of his 60th birthday, 183-93. Torino: Rosenberg & Sellier.
      1999            Sino-Moroccan citrus: borrowing as a natural linguistic experiment. In: Lutz Erhard & Mohammed Nekroumi (eds.), Tradition und innovation: Norm and deviation in Arabic and Semitic linguistics, 168-76. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
      1997a          Moroccan Arabic phonology. In: Alan Kaye, ed., Phonologies of Africa and Asia. Vol 1, pp. 205-18. Winona Lake IN: Eisenbrauns.
      1991a          Autour des réseaux dialectaux dans l'arabe des Juifs et des Musulmans marocains. In: Issachar Ben-Ami, ed., Recherches sur la culture des Juifs d'Afrique du Nord, xlix-lvi. Jerusalem: Communauté Israélite Nord-Africaine, 1991.
      1991c          Moroccan Arabic plurals and gemination: Some data to sleep on. In: Semitics studies: In honor of Wolf Leslau, Vol. 1, ed. by Alan Kaye, 627-633. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
      1989            Moroccan affricates. In: Paul Wexler et al.,eds., Studia Linguistica et Orientalia Memoriae Haim Blanc Dedicata, 133‑35. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
      1987a          Hasta la mujerra! and other intances of playful language mixing in Morocco. Mediterranean Language Review 2:113-16.
      1983a          On structural determinism in borrowing: Moroccan Arabic. In: P. H. Nelde, ed., Theorie, Methoden und Modelle der Kontaktlinguistik, 52‑58. Bonn: Dümmler.
      *1982d        [J. Heath and Moshe Bar‑Asher] A Judeo‑Arabic dialect of Tafilalt (southeastern Morocco). Zeitschrift für arabische Linguistik 9:32‑78.

      2014            Maas, Utz & Abderrahmane Assini. Marokkanisch arabische Texte. Mediterranean Language Review. 21:159-160.
      2005            Suleiman, Yasir. The Arabic language and national identity. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 15(2):281-3.
DOI: 10.1525/jlin.2005.15.2.281
      1998            Elgibali, Alaa. Understanding Arabic: Essays in contemporary Arabic linguistics in honor of El-Said Badawi. Language 74(3):662. [book notice]
                                    DOI: 10.2307/417825
      1998            Al-Ani, Salman & Dilworth Parkinso, Arabic linguistics bibliography 1979-1995. Language 74(3):662. [book notice]
                                    DOI: 10.2307/417824
      1991            Feghali, Habaka, with notes by Alan Kaye, Moroccan Arabic reader. Canadian Journal of Linguistics 36:187-8.
      1986            Versteegh, Kees. Pidginization and creolization: The case of Arabic. Language 62(4):952‑53. [book notice]
                                    DOI: 10.2307/415201
      1986            Talmoudi, Fathi. The diglossic situation in Northern Africa. Mediterranean Language Review 2:147-8.
      1985            Nebes, Norbert. Funktionsanalyse von ka:na yafʕalu: Ein Beitrag zur Verbalsyntax des Althocharabischen. Language 61(1):228. [book notice]
                                    DOI: 10.2307/413458
      1984            Heine, Bernd. The Nubi language of Kibera: An Arabic creole. Language 60(4):991‑92. [book notice]

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[last update Nov 2017]