Darija “is the term used by speakers of Maghreb Arabic to name the varieties they speak” (it’s also called darja); Lucy Melbourne, an American professor and creative writer who teaches English and American literature at Mohammed V University in Rabat, has an interesting discussion of it in the Morocco Times:
Darija, what the participants at the Salon du Livre clearly recognized as the real deal, is the spoken vernacular Arabic of Morocco and, aside from a few songs, has rarely been written down. Hence it is a kind of fluid, oral medium in which people swim in common but never see themselves in the fixed reflection of individual reading.
Animated by the rhythms of Morocco’s hypnotic storytellers and stinging with the barbs of village gossip, Darija reaches deep into the Moroccan soul, shaping its psyche and its often irreverent wit.
The written language, on the other hand, is in its turn rarely spoken: the sinuous curves dotted and dashed of classical Arabic are reserved for the print media—and the Koran.
When spoken, classical Arabic, like most languages cut off from their umbilical in sound, is pontificated as sermon or filtered through the sterilized, hot potato equivalent of a BBC announcer anxious to disguise his class origins.
In short, Moroccans are linguistic schizophrenics: if literate—and only 51% are—they must leap a thousand times a day the chasm between body and mind, between the organic timbre and gestures of their mother tongue and the patriarchal reverberations of a silently echoing script.
She describes the attempts of some Moroccans to write books in dialect, and the opposition evoked (reminiscent of the language controversy in Greece, which saw riots break out over a vernacular translation of the Gospels). A fascinating read, and I thank Liosliath for bringing it to my attention.
Incidentally, I learned about darja from Lameen Souag, whose Grammar of Algerian Darja is no longer available at its former Geocities site. Lameen says, “I hope to reestablish my website sometime soon – can anyone recommend a good free/very cheap website hosting service other than Geocities?” Anyone who can help him out will be doing a service both for linguistics and for me: I need to update my links!