Volume 33, Issue 2
  • ISSN 0920-9034
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9870
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In this paper, I propose that the Arabic-based migrant pidgin Gulf Pidgin Arabic (GPA) is shaped by the initial work environment of its speakers. My data consist of recordings of conversations with 16 GPA speakers living in Oman and the United Arab Emirates, who have learned the language working either as shopkeepers or as maids in private homes. By looking at the use of verb forms, I find that the maids use significantly more verbs derived from imperatives than the shopkeepers, and argue that this is the result of the social context in which they work. I then compare the speech of the maids to the speakers of Pidgin Madam (PM) in Lebanon, who work in a similar environment, and show that while these two varieties share the preponderance of imperative verbs, the feminine-derived forms which make up most of the verbal inventory of PM are comparatively rare in maids’ GPA. I attribute this to the existence of similar yet distinct foreigner talk norms in the Gulf and in Lebanon, each of them reflecting the composition of the migrant population in their respective regions.


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