Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Modern Standard Arabic and The Iraqi Arabic Dialect: Prestige and Differences In Lexicon

Modern Standard Arabic and The Iraqi Arabic Dialect: Prestige and Differences In Lexicon

Ahmed Alaboosi

The Arabic language encompasses many different dialects, but the Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) variety is the language that is shared among the Middle Eastern Arabic speaking countries. Every Arabic-speaking country uses its own coined dialect but manages to keep MSA as their default language, though it is not used in informal daily conversation. There are certain settings that either of the varieties are used in, and there are differences in the lexicon between both varieties. Diglossic languages like Arabic face serious challenges like teaching and learning the language, especially when learned at an older age. The linguistic differences between both varieties of the language and the settings that they are used to raise the issue of intelligibility and usage in conversation. There is a long history of the use of Modern Standard Arabic and the formation of dialects among Arab countries. This study discusses diglossia, its challenges, and the differences between the lexicon of the Iraqi colloquial dialect and the Modern Standard Arabic varieties of the Arabic language. The research addresses what the sociolinguistic lexical differences are between Modern Standard Arabic and Iraqi colloquial Arabic and in what context and setting either of them is relevant, especially in the aspect of prestige. The research uses a comparative study of the Iraqi colloquial dialect and the Modern Standard Arabic variety of the Arabic language and how they can be used in different settings and contexts. A sociolinguistic side of the research identifies any differences in using either variety among different genders, age groups, religions, politics, or geographical locations within the country of Iraq.

April 16, 2020 - Posted by | abstract


  1. The concept of a diglossia is fascinating. You said that Arabic speaking countries keep Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) as their “default.” Is MSA really these speakers default language if they normally speak a different dialect in normal life? Is MSA the first dialect children normally learn or the second?

    Comment by Jeff Dempsey | April 20, 2020 | Reply

  2. Looking at sociolinguistic lexical differences in diglossic situations is super interesting, but I am curious what an example of this might be. I also wonder what it means for a country to have a default language; is that the official language?

    Comment by Shannon Yee | April 22, 2020 | Reply

  3. I’m very interested to hear what situations warrant a specific dialect. I have coworkers from multiple Arabic speaking counties including Iraq and Jordan and I have heard first hand how frustrating it can be to communicate in Arabic due to the different dialects. It makes me curious if there’s a reason why Arabic speakers in that situation avoided switching to the more mutually intelligible MSA.

    Comment by Matthew Worpell | April 27, 2020 | Reply

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