A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, December 5, 2014

Diglossia Watch: Marzouki Lashes Out at Reporter for Saying "Plutôt"

We often discuss diglossia here, usually in terms of the interplay of colloquial Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic. Bit in the Maghreb (and in Lebanon), the use of French, either in its own right or by peppering one's Arabic conversation with French words, is criticized by some linguistic purists, Lameen Souag at Jabal al-Lughat, the Algerian linguist who knows the territory well, has a post called "Good prescriptivism?" stemming from this interchange between Tunisia's current President, Moncef Marzouki (who ran second in the Presidential elections and is in this month's runoff) lambasting a reporter in October (I think) for dropping  "plutôt" in an Arabic sentence:
"Respect the Arabic language! Plutôt, what does plutôt mean? You say plutôt, what's that? My sister in Douz won't understand plutôt. [...] [Interviewer: It's a chance for her to learn...] No, she needn't learn - you learn the language of Tunisians!"
For those who know Arabic (and this mixes Standard and Tunisian colloquial) here's the exchange:

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