The extensive Arabic-Berber contact gave rise to new social aggregations and ethnic networks of different types across various social hierarchies in Batna community, Algeria. Using a modified version of Milroy’s Social Network Model, called ‘the Syncretic Social Network Model’ (SSNM), this study set the task to examine the association between interethnic contact, ethnic network strength and patterns of dialect change among Chaoui speakers in Batna community. In essence, it seeks to: a) investigate the extent to which lexical change in Chaouia correlates, systematically, with speakers’ ethnic network density, b) examine how Arabic lexical borrowing in Chaouia operates, its mechanisms and sociocultural and ideological motives, and c) explore the embodiment of ethnic identity formation in the linguistic habits of friendship networks. Framed within sociolinguistics, and informed by social constructivist views, this ethnic network study integrates methods and concepts from variationist sociolinguistics, sociology and anthropology. It incorporated a variety of research tools, including social network questionnaires, participant-observations, note taking and ethnographic interviews. Thus, ethnic network questionnaires of 1003 Chaoui informants were examined in relation with their lexical choices. In addition, intensive ethnographic observations were conducted to explore two ethnically based friendship networks, which vary on several sociocultural grounds. A set of Network-based analyses and field-observations were carried out to gauge both networks’ ethnic cohesiveness, dynamics of lexical change and linguistic practices. The main result indicates that ethnic strength and cohesiveness co-vary, significantly, with dynamics of lexical change in Chaouia dialect. Respondents who contract strong Chaoui ties are more likely to adopt Chaoui words, whilst respondents who contract weak ties are less immune to Arabic influence and, hence, are more prone to use Arabic loanwords. The ethnographic study of Chaoui youngsters in Batna ville elucidated that ethnically dense friendship networks support dialect stability and maintenance, whereas weak and multiethnic friendship networks promote lexical change. In urban interethnic settings, migrant Chaoui youngsters use various Chaouia linguistic practices, stylistically, as a socioindexical function of membership, Ethnic loyalty, bi-ethnic identity, and urbanity. Sedentary, urban youngsters, in contrast, cross into salient Chaouia dialect norms to mark distance from their Chaoui counterparts. The results, also, demonstrated the major role of weak ethnic ties, Brokers and geographically mobile speakers in the dissemination of Arabic loanwords into different social groups and rural landscapes. The extended Syncretic Social Network Model was discussed at the end of the thesis, along with its practical considerations and guidelines.
Keywords: Arabic, Chaouia, Ethnic network, Ethnic ties, Lexical borrowing, lexical change, Identity construction, Milroy’s Social Network Model