Date of Award

12-9-2008

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Jeannine M. Fontaine, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Lynne Alvine, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Abbas Ali, Ph.D.

Abstract

This dissertation explores the extent and the ways Omani Muslim women’s identity is affected when writing in English as a second language. This study seeks to gain insight into the relationship between these women’s current lives and views and writing in ESL. The participants were Omani women with advanced levels of education. I used the qualitative research design as a method of collecting the data using an open-ended questionnaire and individual interviews. In sum, the results confirm the hypothesis of the study, which is that the Omani women’s identity/s and experiences are affected by learning English and writing in English as a second language, though some were reluctant to express this directly. These variations ranged from some participants’ view that they had been forced to develop a second identity for the English world, to the view that their experience with English had only modified and changed aspects of their identity. Still, no matter which position they took, all participants acknowledged the existence of two worlds, the Arabic and the English. It is safe to assume that English provides the participants with the means to feel free and confident, and to believe in themselves; at the very least this gives them hope to be independent in their opinions. The English language may help these Omani women in developing their identity and exploring certain issues and topics, but it does not erase the borders and constraints associated with their culture and language. These women all cited changes they hope to see in their society, especially with respect to women’s position and status. The dissertation concludes with suggestions and recommendations for Omani women and other English learners. It complements what is known about second language writing and identity. This study has also introduced previously silenced Omani women and their experiences to the outside world and assisted them in exploring larger issues about their own experiences and identities, as it provided a platform for these women to present their experiences and beliefs to the world outside their community. Also, the results informed educators who teach English or writing skills in Oman and elsewhere.

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