Constructing the Standard from the Non-standard: Algerian Arabic within French Literature

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Written code-switching and in-text translations

Riikka Ala-Risku, University of Helsinki

Italy’s intricate sociolinguistic situation reflects its fragmented history and produces various language contact fenomena between standard Italian, based on 14th century Florentine, and numerous regional/local dialects, often mutually unintelligible (Berruto 2005). In spite of the Italianization process, which dialects have been undergoing since the Italian unification in 1861, dialects have resurfaced in narrative (Dardano 2010) and a number of contemporary authors have chosen to use them alongside Italian.

In my doctoral thesis, I examine code-switching in contemporary Italian narrative, a subject that lacks a comprehensive study. In this presentation, my aim is to analyse one peculiar aspect of the literary use of dialects, namely in-text translations (Bandia 1996). These translations represent a fundamental difference between oral and written code-switching: the audience for the former is assumed to be bilingual (at least to some extent), whereas the latter is aimed at a presumably monolingual audience (Callahan 2004: 114). Therefore code-switching writers use different types of in-text translations in order to guarantee the comprehension of potentially obscure elements within the text, that is “have their cake and eat it too” (Delabastita – Grutman 2005: 17). In-text translations constitute a widely used strategy with various forms, which range from highlighted explicit translations or even footnotes and glossaries to literal translations similar to monolingual synonyms or carefully hidden contextual translations. I claim that translations are also used, on one hand, to promote the local identity, especially concerning localized terminology and, on the other, to face the requirements imposed by the editors and the market.


Bandia, P. 1996. Code-switching and code-mixing in African creative writing: some insights for

translation studies. Traduction, terminologie, rédaction, 9(1), 139-151.

Berruto, G. 2005. Dialect/standard convergence, mixing, and models of language contact: the

case of Italy. Auer, P. – F. Hinskens – P. Kerswill (Eds.) Dialect change, convergence and divergence in European languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 81 – 95.

Callahan, L. 2004. Spanish/English Codeswitching in a Written Corpus. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Dardano, M. 2010. Stili provvisori. La lingua della narrativa italiana d’oggi. Roma: Carocci.

Delabastita, D. – Grutman, R. 2005. Fictionalising translation and multilingualism. Antwerpen: Hogeschool Antwerpen.

Constructing the Standard from the Non-standard: Algerian Arabic within French Literature

Khadija Belfarhi, University of Annaba Algeria

Modern literature paved its doors to non-literature in allowing its language to construct from the standard and non-standard forms texts whose identity is split between two cultures embedded in two different languages. The rejection of the standard is a growing interest in modern writers who find in the idiolect more space for inserting different literary objects. Dialectical writings, however, do not all keep inside the same linguistic system as it is the case, for example, of American writers writing in American vernaculars. There is another less recognised category whose literary representation goes out of the whole linguistic system by inserting idiolectical features in a well-structured way that successfully establishes the integration of the standard form with the non-standard being opposed not only in the linguistic system but too in the degree of formality and status. It is precisely the case of Algerian literature expressed in the French language. There are here two types of integration: the first is “objective” in Bernstein’s view because it keeps inside the standard language with little interference from the idiolect. The book of Nedjma by Kateb Yaccinen, for instance, makes use of rare forms which are purely taken from dialectical Arabic. The second is “constructive” (ibid) as it draws an alterity from the idiolect to the standard language which is linguistically strange to it as the idiolect is Arabic while the standard is French. This is due to the fact that writing becomes transcultural rather than local or interlocal (Shukla & Shukla, 2006) and the challenges of multiculturalism (Watten, 2003) melted radically divergent systems together whereby the case of Algerian Arabic within the French language is a good example. This itinerary channel, which melts the dialect in the standard language, takes the following features:

  1. The surface structure of the text is standard whereas the deep is ideolectical1.

  2. Alterity to Dialectal meaning occurs in the intimate descriptions.

  3. Alterity to standard meaning occurs in the general descriptions.

  4. The dominance of the standard language is the key to its construction2.

In brief, the present proposal discusses the construction of French literary texts from Algerian dialectical Arabic. Illustrations on this itinerancy are taken principally from the novelist Rachid Boujedra’s writings (eg. La répudiation), who is an Algerian writer known for his adherence to the dialectical form of literary texts.


Beinstein, C. (1996). Stein’s Identity, Modern Fiction Studies, 42, 3.

Boudjedra, R. (2002). La répudiation. Éditions ANEP, Algiers.

Shukla, S.B., & Shukla, A. (2006). Migrant voices in literatures in English. Sarup & Sons.

Yacine, K. (1966). Le polygone étoilé. Éditions Seuil, Paris.

Watten, B. (2003). The constructivist moment: from material text to cultural poetics. Wesleyan University Press.

At the Crossroads of Languages: The Postcolonial Text and the Promise of Translation

Simona Bertacco, University of Louisville

‘The postcolonial’, as Graham Huggan called it, is generally defined as an interdisciplinary field in which cultural practices are studied alongside the more practical – i.e. historical, political, legal, etc. – aspects of colonization. Yet, as a scholarly field, the postcolonial is almost always studied within the boundaries of one language, one colonial empire, one cultural framework, and one academic discipline. A single-language approach to postcolonial literature is indeed unfaithful to one of the basic features of the postcolonial world – its multilingualism – no matter how careful the research. What happens, then, when we acknowledge hearing variations of standard English in the background when reading a poem, a novel, a play by a ‘postcolonial’ writer? What kind of reading is demanded by a textuality that explicitly toys with several languages or that mixes standard language and dialect?

In my paper I will argue that the challenge facing postcolonial studies today is to become, literally and crucially, a discourse of and on translation. In particular, by scrutinizing the ‘busy borders’ between languages in writers such as Dionne Brand, Brian Friel, Tomson Highway, M. NourbeSe Philip, I will argue for the recognition of the central and creative role of translation in shaping the poetics of postcolonial texts. A translation-oriented approach to the postcolonial text would ground our textual analyses in more complex contexts and, through a comparative perspective, would promote new and fresh engagements with texts, territories and cultures at the crossroads of languages and dialects.

Robert Burns, stereotypes and stylization

Alex Broadhead,University of Liverpool

Robert Burns’s posthumous role as a stereotypical icon of Scotland is well-documented. His reliance on linguistic stereotypes, however, has been overlooked by literary critics and linguists alike, perhaps as a result of a historical tendency to undervalue the perceivedly ‘inauthentic’ aspects of his language. In this paper, I argue that the significance of Burns’s use of stereotypes might most fruitfully be understood not in terms of misrepresentation or inauthenticity, but rather in terms of the sociolinguistic concept of ‘stylization’ (Coupland 2001, 2007).

In Coupland’s account, stylization is a socially-meaningful form of linguistic variation which ‘brings into play stereotyped semiotic and ideological values associated with other groups, situations or times,’ and which ‘radically mediates understanding of the ideational, identificational and relational meanings of its own utterances’ (2007: 154). Put simply, stylisation projects stereotypical personas, but it also calls them into question. Accordingly, throughout Burns’s work, stereotyping and stylisation are employed in order to invoke as well as to reconfigure different kinds of Ayrshire, Scottish and British identity. On the surface of things, Burns’s use of Scots stereotypes might appear to reflect a desire on his part to pander to the expectations of English readers and to promote a narrow and false image of Scottish culture. But far from reinforcing a univocal image of Scottishness, these features were in Burns’s hands a means by which the regional and national identities he shared with different sections of his readership were reinvented and renewed in startling ways.

The stylistic turn that sociolinguistics has taken since the mid-1990s means that it will not come as a surprise to sociolinguists to discover that their theories are applicable to poetry. More unexpected, perhaps, is the revelation that the self-reflexive, ambivalent and performative forms of linguistic variation associated with late modernity can be observed fully-formed in the writing of an eighteenth-century poet. Burns’s use of stereotypes, I suggest, forces us to rethink the points of continuity between early dialect literature and modern mass media-influenced conversational practice.


Coupland, Nikolas (2001), ‘Dialect stylization in radio talk’, Language in Society, 20, 345-375

---------------------- (2007), Style: Language Variation and Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Them was funny lines’: Corpus Linguistics, Literary Dialect, and Martin McDonagh

Meaghan Connell, National University of Ireland, Galway

Since the opening of The Beauty Queen of Leenane in 1996, playwright Martin

McDonagh has attracted a great deal of attention and controversy. Some of this attention has been focused on McDonagh’s choice to represent Irish English dialect in the five plays that he has set in Ireland. To some, the use of certain non-standard features in the dialect of McDonagh’s Irish plays invokes reminiscence of, or even helps to perpetuate, the “Stage Irish” stereotype, a negative view of the Irish people as backwards, unintelligent, and violent. For these critics and audience members, McDonagh’s dialect is more a reflection of the theatrical language of writers like Synge than a representation of actual Irish English speech. The present paper seeks to address some of these issues by examining the dialect of McDonagh’s Irish plays through a linguistics-based lens. In this paper, elements of corpus linguistics, sociolinguistics, and literary criticism are employed to analyze McDonagh’s dialect in an attempt to answer questions about the language’s authenticity and function.

By digitizing and collecting the dialogue of McDonagh’s plays in corpus form, I have made it possible to analyze it using the tools of corpus linguistics, just as one would analyze any other language. In treating McDonagh’s dialogue as a linguistic variety in its own right, it then becomes McDonagh English, a sort of ‘daughter language’ of Irish English. I have examined how similar McDonagh English is to – or how divergent it is from – its parent (in the form of the International Corpus of English – Ireland Component) statistically through the frequency of syntactic, lexical, and discourse features believed to be common to both varieties. Using this quantitative analysis of the dialect as a basis, I offer a more qualitative analysis of the literary dialect’s effect on the works themselves, and on critical and public response.

It takes a Yorkshireman to talk Yorkshire” : towards a framework for the historical study of enregisterment

Paul Cooper, University of Sheffield

In this paper I consider the phenomenon of enregisterment and whether it can be studied in historical contexts. Following Johnstone et al’s definition of enregisterment as an instance where a feature has ‘become associated with a style of speech and can be used to create a context for that style’ (2006:82), I am investigating whether their notions of second and third-order indexicality can be applied to historical texts. I am specifically focussing on a stereotypical feature of the Yorkshire dialect: the phenomenon of Definite Article Reduction; as this feature is, to some extent, enregistered.

The historical context of this paper is the nineteenth century, due to the evolution of a strong interest in dialects in that century (Milroy in Watts & Trudgill (eds) 2002:14); the role that the resulting dialect dictionaries played in enregistering dialect features (Beal 2009:141-145); and the sheer quantity of examples of DAR in nineteenth-century Yorkshire dialect literature (a pilot study showed that around 80% of all definite articles were reduced).

My data for this paper comes from a corpus of dialect literature, literary dialect (Shorrocks 1999), and texts which discuss dialect such as Wright’s English Dialect Dictionary (1905) and Hunter’s Hallamshire Glossary (1888). I shall also consider data from contemporary newspapers such as The York Herald (October 25 1889), which mentions ‘the abbreviation...of the definite article’.

I am attempting to answer the following questions: (1) are comments like: ‘The absence of þ or th in the definite article is remarkable in the Sheffield dialect’ (Addy 1888:xviii) and ‘it is said the ghost of a t' is always to be recognised’ (Easther 1883:134) evidence for the nineteenth-century enregisterment of DAR?; (2) do textual representations of DAR highlight the feature’s enregisterment?; (3) is it possible to create a framework for the historical study of enregisterment?


Addy, S. O. (1888). A Glossary of Words used in the Neighbourhood of Sheffield including a Selection of local names, and some Notices of Folk-lore, Games and Customs. London: Published for the English Dialect Society by Trubner & Co. Ludgate Hill.

Beal, J. C. (2009) ‘Enregisterment, Commodification, and Historical Context: “Geordie” versus “Sheffieldish”’. American Speech 84 (2): 138-156.

Easther, Alfred (1883). A Glossary of the Dialect of Almondbury and Huddersfield. London: Published for the English Dialect Society by Truber & Co, Ludgate Hill.

Hunter, Joseph (1888). The Hallamshire Glossary. William Pickering.

Johnstone, B, Andrus, J, and Danielson, A. E. (2006). ‘Mobility, Indexicality and the Enregisterment of “Pittsburghese”. Journal of English Linguistics 34 (2): 77-104.

Milroy, J. 2002. ‘The Legitimate Language’ in Watts and Trudgill (eds). Alternative Histories of English. pp 6-27. Routledge.

Morris M.C.F. (1892). Yorkshire Folk-Talk with characteristics of those who speak it in the North and East Ridings. London: Henry Frowde.

Shorrocks, G (1999) ‘Working-Class Literature in Working-Class Language: The North of England’ in Hoenselaars, T and Buning, M (eds). English Literature and Other Languages. pp.87-96. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

Wright, Joseph (1905). The English Dialect Dictionary. Published by Henry Frowde, Amen Corner, E.C. - accessed 10/11/2010 16:50 (York Herald acquired here)

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