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Saudi University students' attitude towards the use of Arabic and English: implications for language planning

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posted on 28.03.2022, 13:31 by Mahmoud Abdullah Almahmoud
"This research used an integrated approach to investigate the research participants' attitudes to standard Arabic, colloquial Arabic and English, and also to examine how the participants actually used these language varieties. In addition, the study aimed to gain an insight into the factors behind such attitudes. The integrated design of the research included a questionnaire to investigate participants' conscious attitudes, a matched guise test to examine their subconscious attitudes, and a focus group protocol to examine the factors behind these attitudes. The research population was based on a random cluster sample of Saudi male undergraduate students at King Saud University. About 260 students took part in the questionnaire and the matched guise test and 17 participants were involved in the focus group protocol. In regard to actual use, the findings showed that standard Arabic and English were 'rarely' used in comparison to colloquial Arabic which was found 'always' to be used, particularly in social interactions. Although the use of standard Arabic was rare, it was used more in the media than in social interactions and in education. Remarkably, the research participants were of the opinion that they used English more than they used standard Arabic. An additional surprising finding was that colloquial Arabic was used widely in informal written discourse. Broadly speaking, the overall results from both the overt and covert investigations of attitudes were similar. While the findings revealed that the participants clearly had a positive attitude to English, their attitudes to the two varieties of Arabic were found to be similar but less positive than their attitude to English. However, in some statements it was found that attitudes were different based on the level of consciousness. That is, whereas the participants overtly agreed that standard Arabic was superior to colloquial Arabic and English, the outcome of the indirect investigation revealed that subconsciously they believed that English was superior. In the direct investigation it was found that the participants generally had a positive attitude to standard Arabic in all three aspects of attitude: knowledge, emotion and action. This attitude was positively influenced by religious, linguistic and cultural factors. The participants strongly believed that using standard Arabic was important because it is the language of the Qur'an. On the other hand, the participants had a positive attitude to colloquial Arabic for both emotion and action, although their attitude to colloquial Arabic was negative for knowledge. These views had been constructed by the influence of several linguistic, social and cultural factors. It was found that participants had a common belief about the simplicity of colloquial Arabic. As for social factors, the acquisition of colloquial Arabic is an aspect that the participants recognised had positively influenced their attitudes. The knowledge aspect of attitude to colloquial Arabic has been negatively affected by its impact on Arabic culture, identity and pan-Arabism. English was evaluated positively for knowledge, emotion and action. The findings revealed several linguistic, social and instrumental factors behind the participants' favourable attitude to English, including self-image, the prestige associated with using English, and the occupational opportunities afforded by knowledge of English. In the investigation of subconscious attitudes to language, the standard Arabic guises were evaluated positively for both competence and personal integrity but negatively for social attractiveness, which may have been affected by the position of standard Arabic as a high variety of the language used in formal settings. On the other hand, the colloquial Arabic guises received a positive assessment for both social attractiveness and personal integrity but was viewed negatively for competence, due to its position as a low variety of the language. The English guise commonly received a positive judgment for competence and personal integrity but the evaluation was slightly negative for social attractiveness. The results of the investigation into the participants' conscious and subconscious attitudes have implications for language planning in Saudi Arabia." -- Abstract.


Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Introduction -- Chapter 2. Theoretical background -- Chapter 3. Methodology -- Chapter 4. Research findings -- Chapter 5. Discussion -- Chapter 6. Conclusion, implications and recommendations -- References.


Bibliography: pages 210-224

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Linguistics

Department, Centre or School

Department of Linguistics

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Ilija Casule

Additional Supervisor 1

Jan Tent


Copyright disclaimer: http://www.copyright.mq.edu.au Copyright Mahmoud Abdullah Almahmoud 2012.




1 online resource (xiii, 289 pages) illustrations (some coloured)

Former Identifiers

mq:33484 http://hdl.handle.net/1959.14/307332 2134240