In the Arab world, native Arabic speakers commonly grow up with two varieties of Arabic: Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), which is acquired through schooling, and the local dialect, which is acquired in the home. This language duality is known diglossia, a situation in which two language varieties are used under different conditions and contexts. MSA is typically used in academic, professional, legal, and religious affairs and is therefore perceived as the higher variety, while colloquial varieties are used in all other casual contexts, therefore perceived as the lower variety. Native Arabic speakers who were born and raised in an Arab country not only experience diglossia but also cross-dialectal communication on a regular basis; they communicate in their local variety, and they are exposed to input from MSA and other varieties at school and through media outputs on a regular basis.
The reality of the aforementioned speakers, especially as pertaining to their cross-dialectal competence, stands in stark contrast with Arabic heritage speakers (AHS) who were born and raised in an Arab household in the United States. Heritage speakers cover a vast range of profiles, but in this study, I will focus on heritage speakers who have a functional level of proficiency in both English and Arabic in order to test their cross-dialectal competence. This study means to investigate the cross-dialectal competence of AHS in comparison with that of native speakers from the Arab world by having AHS communicate with other AHS of different dialects.