2014-15 Research Report
French loanwords in Algerian Arabic
Due to a long history of language contact in Algeria, languages such as Tamazight (the language spoken by the natives), Turkish, Spanish (mainly in western Algeria), and French have all influenced spoken Algerian Arabic to varying degrees. Arabic and Tamazight have been involved in language contact for more than a thousand years. As a result, there was a considerable lexical influence between these two languages. Some Algerian Arabic words were borrowed from Turkish, especially in big cities such as Algiers and Constantine, and from Spanish as in the case of Oran, a coastal city in western Algeria. The case for French was rather tragic because of a deliberate policy by the French colonial administration to culturally assimilate (i.e., “Frenchify”) the country, by eradicating the Arabic language (mistakenly equated with Islam) and Muslim culture and replacing it with the French language and culture. As a result, some French words were borrowed into Algerian Arabic. However, they did not retain their original form but rather underwent what is known as nativization, so much so that a lay person would not recognize their French origin. These loans impede comprehension if an Algerian speaks with an Arab from the Middle East. My goal is to examine the processes (at the phonetic, phonological, and morphological level) involved in the nativization of these French loans, which comprise the largest group of loanwords into Algerian Arabic.