Arab nationalism and/as language ideology

Authored by: Keith Walters

The Routledge Handbook of Arabic Linguistics

Print publication date:  January  2018
Online publication date:  December  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138783331
eBook ISBN: 9781315147062
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter examines Arab nationalism as a political and language ideology during the last century and a half or so, arguing that it was unable to achieve its goal at least partly because of the exceedingly heavy role it assigned Arabic and more particularly the fu??aa, or standardized supra-national variety of the language, which was given the task of uniting individuals and countries from Mauritania to Syria into a single nation. This ideology developed at a time when the Arab world sought to create a sense of political unity while struggling against outside forces, including Ottomanism, European colonialism, and Zionism, as well as internal divisions. Those living in the Arab world did not share an ethnicity or religion (though many argued that they shared a history, common myths, and historical memories) – all building blocks of nationalism for many Western theorists. Hence, this language variety was recruited to serve as the “moral glue” that held the Arab world together (Choueri 2000, p. 94). To achieve its goal, this chapter is structured as follows: section 2 offers background on Arab nationalism, analyzing it as a political and language ideology; section 3 focuses on the topics of diglossia and standard language ideology as well as nationalism and linguistic purism; and section 4 discusses directions for future research.

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