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By Nadia R. Sirhan (auth.)

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Additional resources for Folk Stories and Personal Narratives in Palestinian Spoken Arabic: A Cultural and Linguistic Study

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Indeed, it was only in the fifth and sixth centuries CE that an Arabic written alphabet was derived from the Phoenician alphabet (Reynolds 2007: 5). The ancient civilisations of the region, including ancient Egypt, Babylon and Mesopotamia, all had strong oral traditions, and even those narratives which survive as recorded texts were first and foremost oral narratives. Recording them certainly served to preserve them for future generations, a notable example being the Mesopotamian epic of Gilgamesh: since we now have only the tablets on which the epic was recorded, it is largely considered to be a written text; yet it is believed to have originated as an oral epic (see George 2009: 10).

We could, in fact, date the start of folktales to the time when people first started talking to each other. This is true all over the world, not just in Mongolia’ (in Metternich 1996: 13). Evidence of oral discourse can be seen from as far back as the most ancient civilisations. One of its main purposes seems to have been a way for man to come to terms with and to explain his vast and mystifying surroundings. Storytelling is still 22 Folk Stories and Personal Narratives in Palestinian Spoken Arabic widely practised in most cultures and has taken on various forms and functions.

There is no doubt an area of overlap between (written) literature and folklore. It is the differences, however, which are of interest and need to be explained. The most glaring difference is that folklore has not one author but is considered to have been collected and created by the masses. The second difference is the mode of transmission. Written literature is necessarily immutable; the voice, however, can change in timbre, intonation and expression within the narration. The spoken word requires a performance, a performer and an audience.

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