Khuzestani Arabic: a case of convergence

© Maryam Shabibi

Persian, the official language in Iran and the dialect of Arabic spoken in Khuzistan province to the south of Iran (henceforth, Khuzistani Arabic, abbreviated as Kh. Arabic) have been in a very close contact for a long time.

Background of the contact situation

The contact situation - Iran - is an ethnically and linguistically diverse country in the Middle East with a population of over seventy million. This diversity in race and language has provided a suitable situation for languages of the region to come into contact, as a result of which different kinds of changes have occurred in the languages involved. Such is the case in Kh. Arabic.

Kh. Arabic, a Mesopotamian dialect, is oral and is not taught or even offered as an optional course in public or private schools. Nevertheless, Modern Standard Arabic (henceforth, MSA) is taught across Iran as a subject in the secondary school education curriculum. All children and most of the adult speakers of Kh. Arabic are educated.

Most Kh. Arabic speakers are bilingual. Arabic is strictly used as a language of the extended family and of occasional communications with Arabic speakers in streets or shops. Persian, the contact language, however, is used everywhere.

The contact of Kh. Arabic and Persian has brought about a series of linguistic changes in this dialect. The main areas that have been influenced are: