The Linguistic Landscape on the Streets of Kuwait: A Challenge to the Concept of Diglossia

Rahima Akbar, Hanan Taqi, Nada Al-Gharabally


Linguistic landscape (LL) is a representation of language(s) visibility in public space. This study aims to draw a comprehensive profile of LL as adopted by private firms on billboards alongside the main streets of Kuwait, shedding light on the status of Kuwaiti vernacular, Standard Arabic (SA), and English in the country. The study utilises a quantitative approach through which billboards on the main streets of Kuwait were photographed, categorised based on the language of the script, then quantified to assess the popularity of the language. Billboards representing the main displayed language varieties were presented to a heterogeneous sample of respondents to assess their views across the two dimensions of status and solidarity through a digital questionnaire. The study also utilised a qualitative approach through informal interviews to gain the language specialists’ perspective on the issue. The results indicate that Kuwaiti vernacular has a growing positive attitude because of its perceived charisma and promotion of solidarity. When SA is mixed with English, or when English is transliterated into SA orthography, it tends to appeal to the public eye. Kuwaiti sociolinguists reflected a strong rejection of the trendy Kuwaiti vernacular over SA. Yet, English has not been viewed as a threat to SA.

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Copyright (c) 2020 Rahima Akbar, Hanan Taqi, Nada Al-Gharabally

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