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Lexical origins of some foreign expressions in the Bahraini dialect: An approach to the phenomenon of linguistic borrowing in Bahrain’s vernacular dialect (Part 2)

Issue 39
Lexical origins of some foreign expressions in the Bahraini dialect: An approach to the phenomenon of linguistic borrowing in Bahrain’s vernacular dialect (Part 2)

By Dr. Hussain Ali Yahya, a Bahraini Anthropologist


The sample for this study consisted of 422 words and idiomatic expressions from selected traditional terms. The lexical field for ‘foods, beverages, medicines and old kitchen utensils’ included 88 words and structural patterns (21% of the total researched), with 36 words and idiomatic expressions of Persian origin, 25 of English origin, 15 of Indian origin, and 12 of Turkish origin.


The selected words automatically reflect the field and its intercultural heritage as represented in the diversity of food, traditional methods of preparation and cooking, and the customs with which it is served, especially at specific religious and social events in Bahrain such as celebrations for weddings, circumcisions, farewell ceremonies, visits to shrines and the making of vows, and picnics.


Communication that involves the use of words of non-Arabic origins does not signify that Bahrainis see other cultures (the ones from which these words were borrowed) as inferior. This communication represents a sort of interculture that is open to the Other from whom the words and structure were borrowed. This borrowing made it easier for Bahrainis to become acquainted with the Other’s culture, food, traditions and customs.


Bahraini society adopted other cultures' heritages when it came to food and medicine etc. This phenomenon merits an in-depth anthropological study that focuses on the common characteristics in the lexical fields and their impact on communication in Bahrain.


The lexical field for ‘weights, measures, currencies, transactions and counting etc.’ was the second largest in this study, with 80 words (18.5% of the total sample), and 33 original and hybrid words of Persian origin; 28 of English origin, 14 of Indian origin, and 5 items of Turkish origin.


This shows the dominance of Persian and English cultural expressions in the fields of legislation, currency, justice, commercial transactions etc.; these fields are necessary for the establishment of a state. The sample from these fields reflected the ethical values and heritage of what is known today as ‘The Time of the Kind People’, which reflects the openness of Bahrain’s people. Bahraini people adopted this large number of expressions, traits, and words, and this is a sign of their humbleness when interacting with others.


Communication that involves the use of foreign expressions and non-Arabic structural patterns does not reflect any form of cultural invasion with regards to Bahrain’s national identity and pan-Arabism, despite what one researcher suggested. He believed that the Bahraini dialect changed because foreigners have controlled the oil production facilities since 1932, and because Iranian and Indian people worked in trade. He said Bahrainis were forced to speak Persian and Indian languages in order to understand them. On the contrary, this proves the Bahrainis’ tolerance for and understanding of other languages and dialects.

Another Bahraini researcher observed that the vernacular language formed as a result of communication using foreign words. He added that there were new intelligent derivations in many cases.

This is evidence of the awareness of the ordinary Bahraini. So, does the impact of cultural invasion – if we believe that it exists – affect the national identity or pan-Arabism of the Bahrainis? In order to answer this question, we would need to conduct a socio-heritage study that investigates the linguistic identity of Bahraini society in the 1950s and 1960s, and the role of values and ethics in this society.

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