Language and Identity in Iraqi Arabic: A Gender-Based Study
Languages are more than a tool for communication; they carry the histories, cultures, traditions, and experiences of people who speak them. They represent collections of shared cultural values and customs that uniquely identify speakers in a social setting and, as a result, make it for them to be recognized hence giving them a sense of belonging; that is, identity. Although numerous studies have been conducted to explore the relationship between language and social identities, a few of them have explored how Iraqi Arabic has been chosen as a significant identity marker across genders. The study is an attempt to answer the question of how language choice serves as an identity marker for male and female speakers of Iraqi Arabic. It evaluates the relationship between language choice and identity from a philosophical perspective. Hence, it investigates language choice and identity at AL-Nasiriya Speech Community in relation to the use of the word cha. The study is based on the assumption that both genders, with a high level of education, have access to the Modern Standard Arabic, which is expected to be their educated variety of language. Therefore, 240 male and female university lecturers are randomly selected from the University of Thi Qar to participate in this study. Following Labov’s empirical work (1966), the rapid, anonymous observation technique is used for collecting data. The results of the study identified a strong correlation between language choice, identity and gender. They are the educated women in Nasiriya who use more of the stigmatized word cha in their speech than men do. The study concludes that female speakers have a strong connection with identity more than that of being prestigious or of high social status since cha serves as an identity marker.