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International Journal of Legal Discourse

Editor-in-Chief: Cheng, Le

Managing Editor: Gong, Mingyu

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A forensic linguistics problem: Asylum seekers’ dialect identification difficulties in under-documented adjacent Arabic dialects

Judith Rosenhouse
Published Online: 2017-06-20 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijld-2017-0005


Forensic linguistics includes dialect identification also named Language Analysis for the Definition of Origin (LADO). LADO is used mainly for defining asylum seekers’ mother tongue as reflecting the speaker’s origin. The focus here is on linguistic aspects of adjacent Levant Arabic dialects in Israel (I), Jordan (J) and the Palestinian Authority (PA). Arabic has many spoken dialects in addition to Modern Standard Arabic, its written variety. Differences and similarities between dialects create confusion regarding speakers’ origin. Rich Arabic dialectal literature studies the Levant dialects, but not the precise differences between adjacent dialects. We discuss examples of adjacent under-documented Arabic dialects, which cause difficulties in LADO. The paper presents the linguistic issues involved in examples of phonological, morphological and lexical elements of Arabic dialects spoken in I, J and the PA. In Arabic dialects of these areas, some “Shibboleth” features could identify a speaker’s “mother dialect”. Linguists might use such forms for identification, if speakers use them in spontaneous speech. If they do not occur in a speaker’s recording, however, the interviewer should try to elicit them in the recording session. Currently, inter-dialect language contacts are frequent and complex, and therefore more research is required to provide the missing information.

Keywords: dialect identification; forensic linguistics; Arabic dialects features; urban Arabic dialects; South Levant dialects


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About the article

Received: 2016-08-30

Accepted: 2016-10-10

Published Online: 2017-06-20

Published in Print: 2017-06-27

Citation Information: International Journal of Legal Discourse, Volume 2, Issue 1, Pages 113–123, ISSN (Online) 2364-883X, ISSN (Print) 2364-8821, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ijld-2017-0005.

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