Women, Gender, and Language in Morocco

Women, Gender, and Language in Morocco

Women, Gender, and Language in Morocco

Women, Gender, and Language in Morocco

Synopsis

This volume deals with the complex but poorly understood relationship between women, gender, and language in Morocco, a Muslim, multilingual, multicultural, and developing country. The hypothesis on which the book is based is that an understanding of gender perception and women's agency can be achieved only by taking into account the structure of power in a specific culture and that language is an important component of this power. In Moroccan culture, history, geography, Islam, orality, multilingualism, social organization, economic status, and political system constitute the superstructures of power within which factors such as social differences, contextual differences, and identity differences interact in the daily linguistic performances of gender. Moroccan women are far from constituting a homogeneous group, consequently the choices available to them vary in nature and empowering capacity, thus 'widening' the spectrum of gender beyond cultural limits.

Excerpt

This book is a product of more than a decade of reflection and research on the complex and fascinating link between women, gender, and language in Morocco. Being a theoretical syntactician who is deeply impregnated by the generative view that the grammar of a language is in the speaker's mind, I have always been intrigued by the paradoxical fact that while speakers (men and women) acquire the same linguistic 'competence' in their mother tongue, they seldom use it in the same way in their everyday 'performances'. I gradually became convinced that gender, itself a complex concept, may be used as an analytical tool in deconstructing linguistic performances. This, in turn, made me realize that such a deconstruction carries little meaning outside a specific culture.

In an endavor to reconcile my linguistic background with my status as a Moroccan woman, I chose to locate some of my research in the area of the intersection of language, gender, and women in Morocco, a multilingual, multicultural, and Muslim country. As a starting point, I asked myself a number of questions such as: what do the terms 'gender' and 'feminism' mean to Moroccans, and to Arabs and Muslims in general, as opposed to people from Western cultures where these terms were first used? What is the impact of history, geography, Islam, orality, and traditions on gender perception and gender performance in Morocco? What is the appropriate theoretical framework within which these questions may be raised and discussed, granting that reflection never grows in a theoretical vacuum? Could this particular theory be separated from power relations in the Moroccan socio-cultural context where power not only regulates, but significantly influences, men-women relationships in everyday life? How can one highlight women's agency through language within the overall structure of power in Morocco? These questions are not trivial and possible answers to them are inevitably entangled in deep-rooted personal and cultural beliefs that I felt I had to understand before embarking on writing this text.

This book partly grew out of years of teaching linguistics, and partly from my own experience as a multilingual Moroccan woman. When I started to teach linguistics, I was in a comfortable situation . . .

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