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The book by Roni Henkin discusses Negev Arabic, a group of Bedouin and Bedouinized dialects spoken in the Negev desert in southern Israel. Due to the heterogeneity of the Negev Bedouin community in terms of origin as well as period and routes of arrival, Negev Arabic displays many unique and significant dialectal, sub-dialectal, social, and cultural traits. These distinguish it, on the one hand, from neighboring Bedouin dialects, all of which are peripheral to the Bedouin dialectal and cultural focus in Arabia; on the other hand, it is quite radically distinct from the rest of the Palestinian dialect area, to which it is also peripheral.
Henkin presents the highly complex system of Negev Arabic, combining three major axes of variation: dialectal, sociolinguistic, and stylistic. She shows how the migration history and coexistence patterns have shaped the dialect in each of these dimensions. The main focus is on the oral narrative styles of elderly speakers, as displayed in the ten stories that accompany the book dealing with Nabatiy poetry, typically integrated in men’s legends, and formulas, magic chants, and other stylistic means characteristic of women’s folktales. Sadly, these genres and styles are disappearing very rapidly.