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An examination of the situation of pidgin Arabic in Saudi

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction. 3

1.1.       Significance of the research. 3

1.2.       Research objective and questions. 3

  1. Literature review.. 4
  2. Methodology. 5

3.1.       Review of literature. 5

3.2.       Interviews. 6

3.3.       Data analysis. 6

3.4.       Research ethics. 6

  1. Conclusion. 7
  2. References. 7


  1. Introduction

Pidgin is described by Almoaily (2012) and Smart (1990) as a language that develops in a situation where persons need to communicate by are hindered by their local dialects. Pidgin therefore is the emergent contact language that is born to bridge the lingual gap. The Saudi region is a perfect setup for this, with many expatriates especially from Asia. According to Almoaily (2012) and Al-Zubeiry (2015), almost all venders and workers in shops, retail stores, and services among others are expats; there is an urgent need for communication between the Gulf Arabic speakers who form the customer base, suppliers, and government agents with the expats, thus the development of pidgin Arabic (Al-Ageel 2015). This paper examines the situation of pidgin in Saudi and I n particular seeks to determine; pidgin affects the performance of young Arabic learners, why Arabic speakers use pidgin, and the attitude towards Arabic pidgin speakers. This will be done through review of literature material.

  • Significance of the research

Pidgin Arabic in the gulf region is considered a textbook example of a situation where pidgin is breed (Al-Bakrawi 2012). The situation is characterized by demographic imbalance where the native Arabic speakers are outnumbered by the pidgin Arabic speakers but still, the clear cut lines between the two languages still persist. This study therefore is important in understanding the status of pidgin Arabic in Saudi.

  • Research objective and questions

The objective of the study is to determine the situation of pidgin Arabic in Saudi. This objective is to be realized through determination of the following research questions:

  1. How and to what extend does pidgin Arabic affect young learners of standard Arabic performance pronunciation, morphology, and syntax?
  2. Why is pidgin Arabic used?
  • What is the attitude of Arabic speakers to pidgin Arabic?


  1. Literature review

Pidgin Arabic is as a result of instant contact between Arabic and expats and the need to communicate. As a result, through interlangaue, pidgin Arabic is created through the learners’ imperfect learning of the standard Arabic language. The objective of pidgin speakers is to learn and speak standard Arabic, but due to the less ideal learning condition, the result is pidgin Arabic (Al-Azraqi 2010; Al-Zubeiry 2015; Avram 2014), a linguistic system that is short of standard Arabic, and distinct of the speakers mother tongue. According to Nass (2008) and Almoaily (2012), the substrate influence hypothesis can also be used to explain why pidgin Arabic is spoken. According to this hypothesis, the relative similarity between the structures of the target language, standard Arabic, and the various local dialect leads to development of pidgin Arabic. According to Almoaily (2012) and Dashti (2013) pidgin Arabic is spoken because of the differential association between the speakers and their speakers of standard Arabic. Another reason why the Saudi region migrants speak pidgin Arabic is because of the linguistic complexity of the standard Arabic primarily its morpho-syntax and phonology.

Pidgin Arabic and the standard Arabic have quite some significant differences, which are a source of conflict for a pidgin Arabic speaker learning standard Arabic (Alshammari 2010). Phonologically, pidgin Arabic avoids the use of difficult sounds with tone being used to distinguish words. In speech, all the consonants that occur in pidgin Arabic are the stops of the standard Arabic /b/, /t/, /d/, /k/, and /g/ (Nass 2008; Salem 2013). Morphologically, pidgin Arabic has no, or very few if any, inflections for example, there is no morphologically marked number (singular-plural), gender, case (subject-object), grammatical agreement or tense (Alghamdi 2014; Alshammari 2010; Salem 2013). Pidgin uses analytic constructions to mark possessive form. Pidgin Arabic has no ‘complemetizers’ and has limited question words among them; minu (who), sinu (what), kam (how many), and ween (where). Syntax of pidgin Arabic include absence of definite or indefinite articles, absence of copula to be especially in present tense, absence of complex sentences, no passive forms, and tense, aspect, modality and negation are marked extremely to the verb (Almoaily 2012; Al-Bakrawi 2012). Pidgin Arabic uses analytic structures hence, world order to determine grammatical functions (Bakir 2010; Isa, Halilu & Ahmed 2015).

According to Nass (2008), there is a significant social divide between the standard Arabic population which is the dominant majority of native Arabs of the region and the non-dominant community composed of migrant workers. According to Almoaily (2012) a study conducted on acceptability of pidgin Arabic by locals showed that only 1% support pidgin Arabic as a permanent language with 89% against. As to whether pidgin Arabic is a mixture of Arabic and other languages, 52% agree with 32% considering it not part of Arabic. Thus, even though there isn’t sufficient research to determine the attitude towards pidgin Arabic speakers by virtual of their speaking of the dialect, it is obvious that resident of Saudi and the native speakers of Arabic have a negative attitude towards pidgin Arabic.


  1. Methodology

The study will employ two research instruments of data collections; review of literature and interviews.

  • Review of literature

Research for relevant materials will be done on two major databases, Google Scholar and the Saudi Digital Library (SDL). Most of the articles on the subject are available on open access. Inclusion criterion for articles is those that involve raw data and were published between 2010 and 2015. Therefore, the research sample will be confined to applied linguistics publications with particular interest on quasi-experimental studies. A research will target a sample of 20-30 articles (Paltridge & Phakiti 2015).

  • Interviews

The interviews done will be two-fold, one for a group of both pidgin Arabic speakers and standard Arabic speakers and the other for standard Arabic school teachers. The location for the study will be Riyadh and the target sample size is ten residents of the city and five active language teachers. The requirements for participation are an adult of 18 years and above. Other factors to consider include diverse professional background, and gender so as to ensure diverse responses (Al Zumor 2015; Paltridge & Phakiti 2015). Selection of participants will be done through random convenience sampling. An interview will be done face to face at the participant’s place of work. The interview will be guided with open ended questions and each session will run for on average 30 minutes. The interview will be done by the principal researcher and recorded for reference.

  • Data analysis

The quantitative data collected will be analyzed through descriptive and inferential methods.

  • Research ethics

The research will be done as per the requirements of the Ethical Guidelines for Good Research Practice (Almoaily 2012). This requires among others; free informed consent by participants and protection of participant’s information. Each participant will be required to sign the consent form before participation.


  1. Conclusion

The study findings will determine the situation of pidgin Arabic in Saudi by establishing how and to what extend pidgin Arabic affects young learners of standard Arabic performance pronunciation, morphology, and syntax, why pidgin Arabic is used, and what the attitude of Arabic speakers to pidgin Arabic is.


  1. References
  2. Al Zumor, A.W. 2015. Applied Linguistics Research Concerns at King Khalid University: A Review Study, International Journal of Humanities and Social Science 5, No. 3
  3. Al-Ageel, H. 2015. Requests in Saudi Pidgin Arabic, Business Management and Strategy, Vol. 6, No. 1
  4. Al-Azraqi, M. 2010. Pidginization in the Eastern region of Saudi Arabia: Media Presentation, in Arabic and the media, linguistic analysis and application (Book), Ed. Reem Bassiouney, Brill, Leiden. Boston, 159-173.
  5. Al-Bakrawi, Hussein. 2012. The Linguistic Effect of Foreign Asian Workers on the Arabic Pidgin in Saudi Arabia. Research on Humanities and Social Sciences 127-134.
  6. Alghamdi, Emad A. 2014. Gulf Pidgin Arabic: A Descriptive and Statistical Analysis of Stability. International Journal of Linguistics, 6, No. 6
  7. Almoaily, Mohammad. 2012. Language Variation in Gulf Pidgin Arabic. Newcastle University. 278pp. (Doctoral dissertation).
  8. Alshammari, W. 2010. An Investigation into Morpho-syntactic Simplification in the Structure of Arabic Based Pidgin in Saudi Arabia. MA Dissertation: Mu’tah University, Jordan.
  9. Al-Zubeiry, Hameed Yahya A. March 2015. Linguistic Analysis of Saudi Pidginized Arabic as Produced by Asian Foreign Expatriates. International Journal of Applied Linguistics & English Literature, 4 No. 2.
  10. Avram, A. 2014. Immigrant workers and language formation: Gulf Pidgin Arabic. Lengua y migración, 6(2), 7-40.
  11. Babbie, E. R. 2010) The practice of social research (12th ed. ed.). Australia; United Kingdom: Wadsworth Cangage Learning.
  12. Bakir, M. 2010. Notes on the verbal system of Gulf Pidgin Arabic. Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages, 25 (2), 201–228. doi.10.1163/000000010792317884.
  13. Dashti, Abdulmohsen A. 2013. Interacting with Domestic Workers in Kuwait: Grammatical Features of Foreigner Talk. A Case Study. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 224. 63-84.
  14. Isa, B.Z., Halilu, K.A. & Ahmed, H.K. 2015. “The Concept of Pidgin and Creole”, IOSR Journal Of Humanities And Social Science, Volume 20, Issue 3, Ver. V, 14-21
  15. Nass, Unn Gyda. 2008. “Gulf Pidgin Arabic”: Individual Strategies or a Structured Variety? A Study of Some Features of the Linguistic Behaviour of Asian Migrants in the Gulf Countries. University of Oslo. (MA thesis).
  16. Paltridge, B. & Phakiti, A. 2015. Research Methods in Applied Linguistics: A Practical Resource.
  17. Salem, A. 2013. Linguistic Features of Pidgin Arabic in Kuwait. English Language Teaching, Canadian Center of Science and Education, 6 (5), 105-110. doi.10.5539/elt.v6n5p105.
  18. Salem, Ashraf Atta M. S. 2013. Linguistic Features of Pidgin Arabic in Kuwait. English Language Teaching, 6: 5, 105-110.
  19. Smart, J. 1990. Pidginization in Gulf Arabic: A First Report. Anthropological linguistics, 32(1-2), 83-119.

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