INTRODUCTION by Rania Habib
As a linguist, my work focuses on language variation and change with special focus on dialectal variation in the Arab World. My research is interdisciplinary, combining a number of subfields in linguistics and applying formal linguistic theory to sociolinguistic variation. My present research deals with the naturally occurring speech of rural migrants to the city of Hims in Syria. I propose a new model for analyzing sociolinguistic variation. By using Optimality Theory and the Gradual Learning Algorithm, I analyze the effects of social factors, such as gender, residential area, social class, and age, on language. I show that incorporating social constraints in formal linguistic theory is essential for arriving at predicted percentages that match real life oc- currences. In addition, social constraints determine the ranking values of other constraints and the grammar chosen by a speaker at a certain time and place.
Most of my research has been predominantly field-based and centered broadly on Arabic, but does not exclude other languages given my interest in cross-cultural communication. My teaching experience is broad and diverse. I served as the Associate Director of the Language Institute in Al-Baath University in Hims, Syria, and when I first came to the United States from 2003-2005 I was funded by the Fulbright Scholarship program. I am currently a member of the Linguistics Society of America and the American Association for Applied Linguistics. I look forward to joining the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics as well as the Middle Eastern Studies Program at Syracuse University. I hope to build the Arabic Program and develop courses in Arabic language, culture, and linguistics. The linguistics component will eventually include courses related to gender and society, the structure of Arabic, and language variation and dialectology in the Arab World.