By Mohammed Massouad
By Mohammed Massouad
Morocco World News
Mohammedia, April 8, 2012
The linguistic situation in Morocco is distinguished, just like in many other countries, by a linguistic multiplicity where Apart from standard Arabic – Morocco’s official language – the colonizers’ languages, namely French and Spanish, together with native dialects (Tashelhit, Tamazight and Tarifit), all decorate the linguistic map in Morocco. This linguistic multiplicity qualifies Morocco as a multilingual country. However, Moroccan Arabic remains a lingua franca for all Moroccans for communication purposes.
Overall, amid this linguistic atmosphere, Moroccan Arabic appears, in general, to be a receptive speech system, open to the existing languages, namely the natives’ and the colonizers’ as referred to earlier. In this linguistic reality, Moroccan Arabic has been exposed to flexibility and ability to borrow and adopt from different languages.
Each day, there appear new words and expressions, sometimes strange ones. These words and expressions, mostly originating from rich sociolinguistic resources, tend to obligatorily be lexicalized and eventually therefore are inserted in the Moroccan Arabic lexicon systematically and occasionally, and both smoothly and flexibly at the expense of violating, mostly, standard Arabic grammar and lexicon.
Sociolinguistically, these uttered words and expressions mostly tend to express the feeling of belonging to a particular community, usually urban or rural. A minor part of these words is mostly used to contextually express adherence to a specific professional group like craftsmen, fishermen, tradesmen, etc., while the major part is mainly used by the youth, delinquents, drug dealers, thieves, those who have criminal records and so on and so forth. Also, such expressions and lexical entries are amply used to express belonging to some adolescence vogue like Hip-Hop, Tecktonik, etc. However, the latter is considered as impolite linguistic codes of communication to be used only with intimate friends and adolescent youngsters more particularly.
More importantly, these new words and expressions are generally popular, i.e., they are coined in popular regions. They should therefore not be used within families, especially with parents, wives and husbands, and also with people one has just gotten to know. Below are some examples of such newly coined words and expressions which I tend to sort them thematically:
1- The youth
Word transliteration: Sat
Meaning: intimate friend
Word transliteration: lkala
Meaning: Ground marijuana put between the gum and lip and used as drug.
3- Those with judicial antecedent
Word transliteration: wald lmdrasa
Meaning: person with judicial antecedents
4- Older generation
Word (transliteration): “komer”
Meaning: Bread stick
New coined version: Parisien
Lexicographically, some Arab linguists claim that even if Moroccan Arabic is judged as flexible and receptive, all the borrowed words and expressions do compulsorily adapt to the phonological, syntactic and semantic framework of standard Arabic. However, it is up to the youth to lexicalize or not lexicalize newly coined words or expressions into the Moroccan Arabic as they are uncontestedly allowed to affect it by updating its entries and make them keep up with the sociolinguistic changes in Morocco – especially in the west-central areas – and also codify them to make one belong to some juvenile sociolinguistic speech community such as Medini (townsman), Mebli (drug addicted), Hip-hop, Tecktonik …etc.
Interestingly, having considered the latter the following curious but important question should be posed: Is there any prior semantic or semiotic agreement that leads to the choice of such newly coined words or expressions, or is it but an arbitrary choice? And, if one may venture to claim an agreement, then what catalyzing needs are believed to trigger these linguistic choices?
To be continued …
Messaoud Mohammed is a Moroccan English teacher, poet and short stories writer. He lives in Mohammedia, Morocco, where works at a junior high school in Fkih Ben Saleh delegation. He obtained his M.A. (Langues, Informatique et Traduction) from Moulay Slimane University, Beni Mellal (Morocco) in 2011. He is interested in languages and creative writing.