Sociolinguistic Studies, Vol 12, No 2 (2018)

Globalization in the periphery: Arabization and the changing status of Siwi Berber in the oasis of Siwa

Valentina Serreli
Issued Date: 26 Feb 2019


New media and communication technologies, heritage tourism and new reproductions of local identity are forms of globalization characteristic of the peripheries (Wang, Spotti, Juffermans, Kroon, Cornips and Blommaert, 2014:30). This article discusses some effects of globalization in a peripheral area of Egypt, where relative isolation delayed Arabization and favoured the maintenance of the indigenous Berber language, called Siwi. Globalization materialized in important socioeconomic changes that affected the linguistic attitudes and practices of the oasis dwellers. Following Milroy’s (1980) social network approach and Gumperz’ (1982) further elaboration, it is argued that such variation is not related to socioeconomic changes directly, but connected to the structural variation of the community’s social network they provoked. Based on qualitative attitudinal data collected through interviews and participant observation, the study shows that although Egyptian Arabic is widespread and acquires prestige, Siwi not only remains a strong marker of group solidarity but is also becoming a symbol of the Siwan identity.

Download Media

PDF Subscribers Only

DOI: 10.1558/sols.35565


Sayahi, L. (2014) Diglossia and Language Contact: Language Variation and Change in North Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Doi:

Serreli, V. (2016) Society, Languages and Ideologies in the Oasis of Siwa (Egypt): Listening to People’s Voices. Unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Sassari and University of Aix-Marseille.

Serreli, V. (2018) Language and identity in Siwa Oasis: Indexing belonging, localness and authenticity in a small minority community. In R. Bassiouney (ed.) Identity and Dialect Performance: A Study of Communities and Dialects 226–242. London: Routledge.

Shaaban, K. (2006) Language policies and language planning. In K. Versteegh, M. Eid, A. Elgibali, M. Woidich and A. Zaborski (eds) Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics. Volume II 694–707. Leiden: Brill.

Shraybom Shivtiel, S. (1999) Language and political change in modern Egypt. International Journal of Sociology of Language 137: 131–140. Doi:

Souag, L. (2013) Berber and Arabic in Siwa (Egypt): A Study in Linguistic Contact. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag.

Suleiman, Y. (2013) Arabic folk linguistics: Between mother tongue and native language. In J. Owens (ed.) The Oxford Handbook of Arabic Linguistics 264–280. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Vale, M. (2014) Siwa: Jewelry, Costume and Life in an Egyptian Oasis. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press.

Wang, X., Spotti, M., Juffermans, K., Kroon, S., Cornips, L. and Blommaert, J. (2014) Globalization in the margins: Towards a re-evaluation of language and mobility. Applied Linguistic Review 5(1): 23–44. Pre-print version 10.1515/applirev-2014-0002. Doi:

Wilmsen, D. and Woidich, M. (2007) Egypt. In K. Versteegh, M. Eid, A. Elgibali, M. Woidich and A. Zaborski (eds) Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics. Volume II 1–12. Leiden: Brill.

Zuhur, S. (2014) Claiming space for minorities in Egypt after the Arab Spring. In M. Ennaji (ed.) Multiculturalism and Democracy in North Africa: Aftermath of the Arab Spring 246–274. London and New York: Routledge.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Equinox Publishing Ltd - 415 The Workstation 15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, S1 2BX United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)114 221-0285 - Email:

Privacy Policy