Language Use and Identity within the Virtual Community of Mahjoob.com

Abstract

This paper introduces the virtual community of the Mahjoob.com website, a global community of 1,261 web forum posters, where globalizing and localizing techno-linguistic trends are simultaneously manifested by web forum posters who strategically select between English, Arabic, and 3arabizi, an online Arabic-English hybrid language, in order to project different online identities. To illustrate these trends, the paper first takes a macro-level look at language use within the Mahjoob.com virtual community. Next, the paper takes a micro-level look at an online debate that occurs between four posters from two opposing groups: 1) supporters of the religious and governmental establishment in Saudi Arabia and 2) critics of this same establishment. The presentation reveals that the pro-establishment posters tend to use Standard Arabic as well as 'Muslim English' whereas the anti-establishment posters prefer 3arabizi throughout the debate. This occurs despite the fact that some of these same posters use their opponents' preferred languages in other discussion forums on the website. The paper indicates that, through use of formal language and style, pro-establishment debaters create online identities linked to Islamic orthodoxy. In contrast, the relatively informal style of the anti-establishment debaters serves to position them as bona fide members of the 'Arab street'. The presentation highlights that both groups appear to approximate and recreate face-to-face stylistic patterns in their own written texts. Thus, in an entirely asynchronous online context, identity is both fluid and highly contextualized and Arabic-English bilinguals are sophisticated language users who exploit stylistic variations within their texts to project divergent identities.



Author Information
Robert Bianchi, Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar, Qatar

Paper Information
Conference: ACSET2013
Stream: Education

This paper is part of the ACSET2013 Conference Proceedings (View)
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