Macquarie University
01whole.pdf (1.36 MB)

Initiating and responding with a wAllah prefaced turn: a study of contemporary Arabic interactional grammar

Download (1.36 MB)
posted on 2022-10-07, 05:40 authored by Eman AlharbiEman Alharbi

This thesis examines the sequential placements of an Arabic token wAllah at the turn construction unit initial placement, using conversation analysis. Turn-beginnings are a prime location to accomplish sequence orderliness in talk at interaction and a place at which interactants can resist various constrictions previously set upon them. The central question of this study is what linguistic resources are employed by interactants when initiating their actions and further arbitrarily labelling upcoming actions as tentative and performed for a further purpose. The analysis reveals that the token wAllah-prefacing in response to content questions has local interfering interactional activities within a sequence to resist presuppositions and agendas in questions, allowing speakers to push back on the question either partially or completely. When wAllahs are used to preface sequence-initiating turns, the contrast is found to be non-literal, the wAllah-speaker reset the sequential context, effecting transitions in the conversation. The findings emphasized the global interactional role of wAllah to the general ongoing activities, in resetting the sequential context to a more serious discussion (e.g., transition in the course of action and claiming seriousness). Overall, the study demonstrates that turn designs and grammatical structures provide resources for speakers to solve interactional problems. This contributes to a growing, cross-linguistic body or research examining the ways that language structure relates to social action. Although most of the interactional roles in this study have not been discussed in the existing literature, the study explored the use of these wAllahs in Egyptian, Levantine, and Peninsular contemporary spoken Arabic, across both everyday, technology-mediated conversations and radio interviews. Therefore, this study excludes any arguments regarding the contrasts that can be applied to Modern Standard Arabic for future studies. 


Table of Contents

Chapter 1: introduction -- Chapter 2: literature review -- Chapter 3: method -- Chapter 4: examining wAllah-prefacing in responsive turns -- Chapter 5: exploring wAllah in sequence-initiating turns -- Chapter 6: discussion and conclusion -- References -- Appendix A international phonetic alphabet for Arabic (IPA) -- Appendix B Jefferson's Transcription System (Hepburn & Bolden, (2017)) -- Appendix C ethical approval letter


A thesis presented in candidature for the degree of Master of Research

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


Thesis (MRes), Macquarie University, Faculty of Medicine, Health and Human Sciences, Department of Linguistics, 2021

Department, Centre or School

Department of Linguistics

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Scott Barnes

Additional Supervisor 1

Joe Blythe


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:




134 pages

Usage metrics

    Macquarie University Theses


    Ref. manager