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International Journal of the Sociology of Language

Ed. by Fishman, Joshua A. / García Otheguy, Ofelia

6 Issues per year

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR): 0.578
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP): 1.388

ERIH category 2011: INT2



Representations of women in Moroccan Arabic and Berber proverbs

Moha Ennaji1


Citation Information: International Journal of the Sociology of Language. Volume 2008, Issue 190, Pages 167–181, ISSN (Online) 1613-3668, ISSN (Print) 0165-2516, DOI: 10.1515/IJSL.2008.017, March 2008

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The ideas and practices of gender are shaped and transmitted through language as the spoken word/s and the written word/s, and through gestures and the body. Language, in its various modes and registers, helps to disseminate ideas and practices of gender. Language is vehicle, knowledge, and power. It shapes images and representations of women through stereotypes, namely through proverbs, tales, adages, advertising, etc. Proverbs in particular have been tools of affirmation and resistance, of continuity and conversation, of rupture and innovation in the complex grid of gender and culture.

Focus here is on the images of women in Moroccan Arabic and Berber proverbs and on orality (the heard and spoken language). The latter plumbs memories of feeling and events in which language itself is implicated, both in first producing and in later unlocking; proverbs are thus considered as cultural products and language use as an integral part of social ritual.

Proverbs can operate negatively for women; however, as women move into literacy and other forms of “emancipation,” we must keep sight of the crucial functions of orality and the ways Moroccan culture perpetuates gender discrimination and relations through oral modes such as proverbs. The latter remind us of the roles women have played, and still play, as guardians of orality. Proverbs do not simply reflect the social reality of women, but help construct it.

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