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PHD Thesis

Mrs. Bariaa Skaf successfully defended her PHD thesis entitled: «Variantes graphiques numériques dans le contexte libanais: Description sociolinguistique des pratiques et des représentations », at the University of Grenoble, France, on July 11, 2018. This PHD is a joint thesis between the University of Balamand and the University of Grenoble, France.

Two co-supervisors oversaw the thesis: Professor Carla Serhan, from the University of Balamand and Professor Marinette Matthey from the University of Grenoble.

Reports were written by two reviewers: Pr. Jean-Christophe PELLAT, University of Strasbourg, France and Pr. Marie Noëlle Rispail, University of Saint Etienne, France. The jury was composed of Dr. Cyril Trimaille, University of Grenoble, France, Pr. Claudine Moise, University of Grenoble, France, Dr. Lily Dagher, Lebanese University and the two supervisors.

In her thesis, Skaf describes how digital and multimedia technologies favor, in various sociolinguistic contexts, the emergency of written communication modes by presenting linguistic and graphic characteristics (Crystal, 2001) named digital graphic variants (VGN). The electronic written exchanges studied were conducted by writers from different age groups (pre-teens, teenagers, young adult students, and adults from 28 to 63 years old). All these writers mainly use the Lebanese dialect; they transliterate it through the means of Latin graphemes and add numbers to transcribe Arabic phonemes that have no match in this writing system. They enrich their instant multilingual messages by using abbreviations, acronyms, phonetic-based rebuses and many other graphic processes that mimic orals. They use the same code used when writing, but their electronic exchanges are conducted in a form that evokes the spontaneous oral, as it has already been shown by Anis (1999). They use different means to compensate the lack of multimodality, which is known to be so relevant for face-to-face interaction.

Due to the trilingualism of the Lebanese context, these digital usages are also associated with multilingual practices (Lüdi and Py 2002,) or translanguaging (Garcia, 2009). Skaf also analyzes the implications and modalities of contact between Arabic, French and English.

In parallel with these formal descriptions, Skaf provides new descriptions of a wide range of contexts and modalities of the use of VGN in the north of Lebanon. This study shows the distribution of VGN and forms of contact in different types of writing such as digital and non-digital, private and public, synchronous and asynchronous, formal and informal messages on Facebook. These exchange analyses are completed with student writings, done by students attending both private and public schools and universities. These last writings show the spreading of the VGN from the electronic communication towards the paper writings for private use.

This open corpus finally includes different kinds of public writing as signs and menus of restaurants and sidewalk cafes, commercials, screen shots, Lebanese singers' song titles, Lebanese channel television programs, Lebanese textbooks, one novel, press articles and also photos taken in a public garden and in a public school. This dissertation shows that VGN have gained significant visibility in Lebanese society, becoming, as Henri Boyer (1997) writes, “a linguistic object under the scope of the media”, and that they are now widespread regardless of the media. These VGN testify a mode of vernacular writing recognized and used by the Lebanese society in contexts other than digital. Thus, this thesis shows that VGN are no longer limited to teenagers and youth who initially used them, but include all age groups. They are now a means of communication sought to reach a wider audience.

After studying the representations and attitudes of the writers, users or not of the digital tools, users or not of VGN, appears the importance of the interindividual and situational variation and the ambivalent representations that the Lebanese have of these VGN. ​​​
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Balamand Al Kurah,
Lebanon

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