ARABIC IN THE LEAD-UP TO THE ARAB SPRING: FUSION OR DIFFUSION
This article aims to place the Arabic language in its recent historical context and proposes to describe the situation of Arabic in the period preceding and leading to the Arab Spring from the perspective of the degree to which Arabic language change and variation are moving in the direction of more fusion or diffusion. By diffusion I mean a situation in which divergences among the dialects of one language continue to grow and fragment, causing them eventually to develop into separate and largely mutually unintelligible systems. Fusion, on the other hand, is a process where dialectal variations in one language contract and gain wider acceptance, bringing more vitality for the Standard dialect at the level of social use and resulting in higher levels of mutual intelligibility among the dialects. I dedicate Part One of this paper to an overview of nomenclature and the ideological controversies surrounding Arabic language variation and where this variation is heading. In Part Two, I review the various arguments advanced by a substantial number of researchers who are of the view that forces of Arabic diffusion are solid enough to lead Standard Arabic and the dialects in the direction of a growing chasm. Part Three is the antithesis of Part Two and represents the major contribution of this paper. Here, I argue, based on the literature review and on oral and textual observations and analyses, that the forces of fragmentation notwithstanding, the changes that have obtained since the post-independence era at the level of rates of literacy militate for consolidating the role of Standard Arabic, for increased intelligibility among the dialects, and for closing the gap between the dialects and the Standard, albeit slowly, especially with the increased use of Arabic as one medium of expression of the Arabic Spring, on the Web and on the street.