Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Cecelia Cutler

Committee Members

Gita Martohardjono

Matthew Garley

Subject Categories



Arabic, MSA, Lebanon, Social Media, Twitter


This dissertation explores the language and orthographic practices of different social groups on Lebanese Twitter. It draws on a specific event in Lebanon, namely the Lebanese presidential elections of 2016. The data, a collection of tweets from three different social groups (politicians, celebrities, and activists) during the month leading up to the announcement of the Lebanese president, delve into the choices of languages, orthographies and spelling that these groups exhibit on Twitter. My analysis shows that politicians use MSA mostly in alignment with their identity, linguistic hegemony and traditional media practices. Celebrities show more flexibility by choosing different languages and language practices reflecting changing roles and identities, as well as less alignment with traditional top-down models of language practices. Activists are the most flexible in their uses and practices reflecting hugely innovative moves away from linguistic hegemony and fixed roles in society.

In a diglossic, multilingual, and digraphic environment, where MSA is the unmarked writing language, I argue that Twitter is allowing different social groups more freedom in their writing practices which span on a continuum between MSA and Lebanese, including translanguaging, in ways that challenge MSA-only practices by traditional power holders. This freedom is widening to include the use of local Lebanese features that allow writers to project local identities and open up the space to more marginalized participants, as well as global EMC features and international languages like English that reflect an awareness of world events and trends.

This work is embargoed and will be available for download on Saturday, February 01, 2025

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