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Inshallah: Religious invocations in Arabic topic transition

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 May 2010

Rebecca Clift
Affiliation:
Department of Language and Linguistics, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, Essex CO4 3SQ, United Kingdomrclift@essex.ac.uk
Fadi Helani
Affiliation:
Faculty of Arts and Humanities, University of Aleppo, Aleppo, Syriafadi.helani@gmail.com

Abstract

The phrase inshallah ‘God willing’ is well known, even to non-Arabic speakers, as a mitigator of any statement regarding the future, or hopes for the future. Here we use the methods of conversation analysis (CA) to examine a less salient but nonetheless pervasive and compelling interactional usage: in topic-transition sequences. We use a corpus of Levantine (predominantly Syrian) Arabic talk-in-interaction to pay detailed attention to the sequential contexts of inshallah and its cognates across a number of exemplars. It emerges that these invocations are used to secure possible sequence and topic closure, and that they may engender reciprocal invocations. Topical talk following invocations or their responses is subsequently shown to be suspended by both parties; this provides for a move to a new topic by either party. (Arabic, religious expressions, conversation, conversation analysis, topic)*

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010

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