Diglossia and developmental language disorder (DLD) in Arabic: The role of linguistic distance and linguistic proximity?

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


'Diglossia' is a sociolinguistic context characterized by a stable co-existence within the same community of two linguistically related language varieties that are mostly used in different settings/functions. In Arabic, Spoken Arabic (SpA) vernaculars are used for everyday speech whereas (Modern) Standard Arabic (StA) is used for conventional reading/writing and for formal oral language functions. The aim of this chapter is to address the role of diglossia in language acquisition and disorder in Arabic with focus on speakers of Palestinian Arabic (PA). It also aims to position diglossia as a cornerstone of clinical practice. The chapter starts by delineating some of the key features of linguistic distance between PA spoken in Northern Israel and StA in the domains of phonology, morphology and lexis. Against this background, the chapter discusses research addressing the role that linguistic distance vis-à-vis proximity in these domains plays in language acquisition in children with typical language development (TLD) and with Developmental Language Disorder (DLD). The results from this research converge on two insights: (a) linguistic distance makes it harder for all children, TLD and DLD, to acquire unique StA linguistic structures that are not within their SpA vernacular. Yet, this effect is more prominent in children with DLD than TLD; (b) linguistic proximity facilitates the acquisition of structures that are shared in the two varieties. Nonetheless, this facilitation is more clearly observed in children with TLD than DLD. Given these findings, it is concluded that linguistic distance is a complexity factor that should be considered in task construction and interpretation for all children. Moreover, it is concluded that practitioners should identify areas of linguistic proximity between StA and the child's spoken vernacular and target those areas in the diagnosis of DLD.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStudies in Bilingualism
EditorsKleanthes K. Grohmann
PublisherJohn Benjamins Publishing Company
Number of pages30
StatePublished - 2024

Publication series

NameStudies in Bilingualism

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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