Linguistic practice on contemporary Jordanian radio: publics and participation
Fras, Jona Jan
Contemporary studies of media Arabic often pass over issues of media form and the broader relevance of language use. The present thesis addresses these issues directly by examining the language used in Jordanian non-government radio programmes. It examines recordings and transcriptions of a range of programme genres – primarily, morning talk shows and “service programmes” (barāmiž ḳadamātiyya), and Islamic advice programmes, both of which feature significant audience input via call-ins. The data are examined through an interpretive form of discourse analysis, drawing on linguistic anthropological theory that analyses language as a form of performance, through comparison of radio programmes as ‘units of interaction.’ This is supported by sociolinguistic data obtained from the recordings, including phoneme frequency analysis, in addition to the author’s experience of 6 months of fieldwork in Jordan in 2014-15. The analysis focuses on four major themes: (1) the influence of media context, specifically the sonic exclusivity and temporal evanescence of radio, on language use, as well as the impact of digital media; (2) the indexicality of certain locally salient sociolinguistic variables, and the use to which they are put in radio talk; (3) the role of language in constructing the identity, or persona, of broadcasters; and (4) the role of language in constructing and validating authoritative discourse, in particular that of Islamic texts and scripture in religious programming. Through its analysis of these themes, using selected recording excerpts as demonstrative case studies, this thesis shows that specific strategies of Arabic use in the radio setting crucially affect both the publics – the addressed audiences – of radio talk, as well as the frameworks of participation in this talk – how and to what extent broadcasters and members of the public can participate in mediated discourse. The results demonstrate the unique value of an interpretive study of linguistic performance for highlighting broader social issues, including the inclusion and exclusion of particular segments of the society through linguistic strategies – Jordanians versus non-Jordanians, Ammanis versus non-Ammanis, and pious Muslims versus non-believers; and the use of language to reassert, or occasionally challenge, dominant ideologies and discourses, such as those of gender, nationalism, and religion. This study thus contributes an examination of contemporary Jordanian non-government radio language in its social and political context – something which has not been attempted before, and which provides important insights regarding both the nature of contemporary Arabic media language and its broader social and cultural import.