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Annual Review of Applied Linguistics (2006) 26, 125–148. Printed in the USA. Copyright © 2006 Cambridge University Press 0267-1905/06 $12.00



Yasir Suleiman

This chapter surveys recent work on the linguistic construction of national identity in the Middle East, against the backdrop of political conflicts of different intensities. It does so by discussing the language situation in Lebanon, Israel/Palestine, and Jordan in so far as these situations involve conflict between Arabic and other languages (French and Hebrew), Arabic and one of its dialectal variants, or different Arabic dialects. The chapter shows the dynamic nature of linguistic identity construction and the variety of modes this construction takes. It highlights the significance of linguistic subtraction as a marker of identity, the relevance of power differentials to language maintenance, and language shift as tropes of identity construction and shows that linguistic boundary setting is as much related to structural forces in society as it is to specific political conflicts that speed up the progress of these forces and their inevitable outcomes.1

The relationship between language and society in the Arabic-speaking world has been the subject of extensive research in the past three decades. Most of this research has been based on two organizing principles: variation and correlation, whereby linguistic, mainly phonological, variants are statistically correlated with social variables such as the age, education, gender, class, and religious background of the speakers (Owens, 2001). Although this research has generated valuable information on the Arabic language situation in different countries and communities in the Arabic-speaking world, still its quantitative thrust and logico-positivist impulses have discouraged researchers from delving into less quantifiable explanations of different aspects of this situation. In recent years, anthropologists and ethnographers have contributed valuable insights to fill some of this deficit in understanding the Arabic language situation, highlighting the role of ideology in thinking about Arabic against the background of modernization and authenticity, westernization and tradition, and innovation versus subversion (Haeri, 2000).

However, most of this research, whether in the variationist/correlationist or the anthropological/ethnographic mode, has not engaged the role of Arabic in nation-


or state-building, what I have called “charting the nation” in the title, in any significant way. This is surprising in view of the fact that (1) nation- and state- building in the Arabic speaking world are two of the most important sociopolitical projects of the modern era, with thick manifestations that extend to other semiologies of nationalist signification (rituals, objects of symbolic representation and modes of discursive practice); (2) that these two projects construct language as one of their cornerstones (Suleiman, 1994, 2003); (3) that the role of language in these projects is the subject of ideological contestation and political conflict which involve language in complex ways (Amara, 1999; Suleiman, 1997, 2004); and (4) that active conflict has been an endemic part of the political culture of the Middle East for almost a century. The confluence of language, national identity and conflict will, therefore, constitute the subject of this review. Readers interested in the variationist/ correlationist and the anthropological/ethnographic dimensions of the Arabic language situation can refer to the two review articles by Owens (2001) and Haeri (2000) respectively. For an earlier review of Arabic sociolinguistics readers may refer to Daher (1987).

This review will proceed as follows. I will deal with three sites where the nation and the politics of identity, insofar as these relate to Arabic, interact and have interacted in the shadow of conflict: Lebanon, Israel/Palestine, and Jordan. I have chosen to restrict the review to this limited geography to achieve focus and a degree of comprehensive coverage. However, the compact nature of this physical geography masks its dense human geography and the intensity of the geopolitical forces that animate its conflicts. To this end, the review will conclude with a general synopsis in which issues of intraregional relevance for the Middle East and North Africa will be highlighted for crosslinguistic purposes.

Charting the Nation: Arabic and the Politics of Identity in Lebanon

To understand the Lebanon of today and the place of language in constructing its national identity, we must delve into its modern history. Since the mid-19th century, Lebanon has been at the centre of some of the most highly charged debates about language and identity in the Middle East. In the second half of the 19th century, Lebanese, mainly Christian, writers played an instrumental role in the modern Arab renaissance (nahda). Although this renaissance was literary and cultural in nature, it nevertheless contained major impulses of a nationalist kind by virtue of its championing Arabic as the bond of identity, over religion, among those for whom the language is a common tongue. Ibrahim Al-Yaziji (1847–1906), an influential figure in this renaissance, explicitly and famously advocated this position in his extensive output (Suleiman, 2003).

In the politics of the period, this was a truly revolutionary idea. It sought to challenge a deep-rooted assumption that linked Arabic exclusively to Islam. In this context, it is revealing that this orientation was present in the writings of one of the earliest champions of Arabic, the Maronite Germanus Ferhat (1670–1732) whose interest in the language paved the way for its reinvigoration in the 19th century. Ferhat made his mark in writing pedagogic grammars which he explicitly cast in a


Christian mode of expression (Qasim, 1998); thus, he declared that his grammars were written for the benefit of Christian students to stop them from falling prey to foreign languages and their corrosive effects. To this end, Ferhat did not follow the usual practice in canonical Arabic grammars in choosing the personal names he used in his examples; instead, he chose Christian names, for example Butrus (Peter), in place of Muslim ones (the famous Zayd and ‘Amr). In addition, Ferhat culled some of his attested materials from Christianity not Islam. Witness his use of “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” instead of the Islamic expression “In the name of Allah the Compassionate, the Merciful” to exemplify the rule of dropping the alif, the long vowel /ā/, in writing from words with high frequency, in this case bism (in the name of). Equally significant is his invocation of the name of the Lord, His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in the introduction to his earliest pedagogical grammar, published in 1708, instead of the equivalent of this invocation in Islam (Qasim, 1998). These are ideologically impregnated decisions on the part of Ferhat. From the perspective of the debate about Arabic in Lebanon in the 20th century, it is revealing that Ferhat thought of Arabic as a bulwark against the “foreignization” of the Christian, mainly Maronite, youth.

Attempts at decoupling, or loosening, the exclusive link between Arabic and Islam in the 19th century served as the foundation for launching the argument that the ties of language between Muslims and Christians, for whom Arabic is a mother tongue, were (or ought to be) more important in group identity terms than the bonds of Islam that linked the Arab Muslims to their Turkish coreligionists in the Ottoman Empire. This was a bold argument to make. Thus, in the second half of the 19th century the elite used the mobilizing role of the language to resist the Turkification policies of the Ottoman authorities in education and the administration of the Arab provinces (Suleiman, 2003). Hence, the references to this resistance in a set of secret placards that were distributed in Beirut, Tripoli, Sidon, and Damascus in 1880 and 1881. In Lebanon, therefore, the main conflict during this period, as conceived by some Christian elites, was, fundamentally, not between Arabic and Turkish per se, although this had great immediacy in the struggle against the Ottoman authorities, but between two notions of self-definition, the one based on Arabic and the other based on religion, namely Islam. For the former to succeed, Arabic had to be made to loosen its ties to Islam by allowing more inclusive bonds of association that would enable Christians to feel at home in the language, to use it as a marker of their identity, with all the Christian connotations this would have. The fact that, as late as the 1960s, the Christian Lebanese writer and poet Yusuf Al-Khal (1917–1987) was vehemently criticized for using strongly Christian themes and motifs in his writings goes to show (1) the strength of the assumption about the exclusivity of the link between Islam and Arabic, and (2) the abiding nature of the debate about Arabic and identity in the Lebanese context (Al-Salsi, 2004).

Arabic and Turkish were not the only languages in Lebanon in the 19th century. French (replacing Italian), English, and Russian were also present in the expanding educational system owing to the involvement of Christian missionaries (Shabaan, 1997). In broad terms, the traditional picture in Lebanon at the time looked like this: French was associated with the Maronites and the Catholics,


Russian with the Orthodox communities, and English with the Protestant and Druze communities. This picture was not, however, uniform. Many Christians, Maronites, and Catholics included, never ceased to think of Arabic as their native language and as the most important marker of their group identity, thus challenging the attempts to dislodge the language from this ideological position (Daniëls, 2002; Khuri, 1991). The picture however started to change when France assumed control over Lebanon in 1920. The battle for linguistically constructed identities was fought on several fronts, but none was more important than education.

On assuming power in Lebanon, France declared Arabic as the official language, but it went on to amend the constitution in 1926 to make French an official language alongside Arabic in all public schools, and as the language of instruction for mathematics, science subjects, and social studies. The amendment also required all private schools to follow the official curricula, which in effect meant adopting the preceding measures with their strong French bias. English medium schools were granted an exemption from this stipulation and were allowed to continue to in the language (Shabaan, 1997). Thus, under the French mandate, which ended in 1943, French expanded from its already firm foothold in Lebanon, particularly among the Maronites, the Catholics, and the affluent classes regardless of their religious or confessional backgrounds. For the Maronites and the Catholics, French was invested with national identity meanings that competed with Arabic and its associated group- identity. English never acquired those meanings. Unlike French, English was not promoted as a language of culture and identity, but as a pragmatic option for use in the world of business, science, and technology.

This difference between French and English has persisted to this day (Shabaan & Ghaith, 2002); it is evident in kindergarten education where teachers using French explicitly set out to endow their pupils, partly in response to parents’ aspirations, with a French cultural identity that directly competes with an Arabic- based alternative. The curricula, teaching aids and classroom environments in these kindergartens thus have greater affinity with France and French culture than they do with Lebanon and Arab culture (Bashshur, 1996). They have the effect of imagining Lebanon as being in the Arab Middle East but not of it. In general terms, this seems to be different for English. In their empirical study of multilingualism in Lebanon, El-Amine and Faour (1998) have found that Anglophone university students were more competent in Arabic than their francophone counterparts, although testing for this variable (competence in Arabic) seems to be sensitive to economic status for the francophones, with the lower classes displaying greater Arabic competence than their more affluent colleagues.

This situation did not change with independence in 1943, in spite of the fact that in 1946 the new government declared Arabic as the only official language of the state (Shabaan, 1993). French continued to compete with Arabic in education and in the highly charged arena of national self-definition. The Maronite and Catholic political and intellectual elites argued that Lebanon was “essentially a Mediterranean country, a bridge between East and West, belonging wholly to neither”, and that its mission, rather condescendingly, was to serve as the “channel through which


civilizing ideas and techniques reach the Arab hinterland” (Sayigh, 1965, p. 122). Owing to this special character, Lebanon, the argument went, must be bilingual and bicultural, and had to resist being constructed as (wholly) Arab in identity terms.

This position was embodied in an influential book by Abou (1962) in which he argued, among other things, that French was fundamental to the Christians of Lebanon spiritually, culturally and politically, notwithstanding the fact that the Greek Orthodox and the Protestants in Lebanon did not share this view and that, instead, they evinced a preference for English. Abou’s assertions must also be qualified by reference to some influential Maronite thinkers, for example Kamal Al-Hajj, who did not share his analysis or advocacy platform, but eloquently argued that Arabic, in its standard and dialectal forms, provided the only true and authentic identity symbol for the Christians of Lebanon, including the Maronites and the Catholics (Suleiman, 2003).

Thus, up to and during the civil war in Lebanon (1975–1989), Arabic-French bilingualism was indexical of the confessional structure of Lebanon, of the opposing constructions of where Lebanon belonged in identity terms. As Rosemary Sayigh described it, bilingualism symbolised Lebanon’s “split personality” (1965, p. 121); she further added that in spite of the incessant marshalling of evidence to support it on linguistic, psychological or metaphysical grounds, bilingualism was “basically a political phenomenon” (1965, p. 123). In symbolic and material terms, the Maronites and the Catholics thus tended to treat French as the mainstay of a “Franco-Christian” image of Lebanon which they did not want to lose (Bourhis, 1982), while the Muslims in particular—who resented the presence of French and its identity connotations (Shabaan & Ghaith, 1999, 2002)—treated Arabic as the locus of identity conceptualizations that embedded Lebanon firmly into its Arab milieu. These constructions of Lebanon were promoted and contested against the background of a simmering political conflict that eventually erupted into a deadly civil war in 1975. The war destroyed what these authors called a “shaky order,” with predictable consequences for the language situation in the country:

The war intensified the divisions and hostilities in the country, and these hostilities were often expressed in linguistic and cultural terms. Private schools mushroomed in the various parts of the country, coloured by the educational and confessional prejudices of their proprietors. In these schools, new history books were developed and used that presented a one-sided version of historical events, especially the ones relating to the formation of the Lebanese state. (Shabaan & Gaith, 1999, p. 7)

The civil war ended in 1989 when the combatants finally realized that victory could not be theirs. One could argue that the war consumed itself, but that the tensions that fuelled it were not completely extinguished. This is true of the language and national identity conflict in Lebanon, in spite of the provisions of the 1989 constitutional agreement (drawn up in Al Taif in Saudi Arabia) between the various Lebanese forces and political parties. The Taif agreement declared that


“Lebanon was Arab in identity and belonging” (arabiyy al-huwiyya wa-al-intima), thus replacing the fudge formulation of the 1943 constitution in which Lebanon was described as having “an Arab face” (‘arabiyy al-wajh), a description resented by the Muslims as a wishy-washy sop to their aspirations (Shabaan & Ghaith, 2000). Based on this agreement, the parameters of a future educational plan were promulgated, referring to Arabic as the ‘mother tongue’ (al-lugha al-umm) of the Lebanese who should be “committed to it” as a means of effective communication (2000, p. 32). However, instead of putting this plan into effect, successive Lebanese governments sought to circumvent it through ad hoc measures that maintained the status quo ante (Shabaan, 1993; Shabaan & Ghaith, 1999). This is an interesting example in language policy of the “gate-keeper” turning into a “poacher.”

Recent research has suggested that the struggle over language and national identity is no longer endowed with the confessional power it had before the onset of the civil war in 1975 (Gaith & Shabaan, 2000; Ghaleb & Joseph, 2002; Joseph, 2004; Shabaan & Ghaith, 1999, 2002). This is so in spite of the fact that, according to Shabaan and Ghaith (2000) French is more strongly associated with the Christians (97 percent with the Maronites, 85 percent with the Catholics, and 71 percent with the Orthodox) than with the Muslims and the Druze, who tend to favor English as a foreign language (82 percent for the Sunnis and 70 percent each for the Shiites and the Druzes). It is, therefore, suggested that, in Lebanese linguistic politics, the reduction in the power of Arabic and French to index group and national identity constructions is part of an ongoing realignment in favor of a more utilitarian perspective on languages that values them, first and foremost, for their economic relevance.

With its long standing pragmatic connotations and its unassailable position in globalization worldwide, English in Lebanon has, therefore, gained considerably at the expense of French, although French has gained new unlikely followers in the Muslim sector through the spread of French medium schools in poor Shia-dominated areas.2 As a global phenomenon, the dominance of English has been most keenly felt by francophone writers of Lebanese heritage, chief among them being the well- known writer Amin Maalouf who has devoted the best part of his book On Identity to this topic (2000). In a recent study, Abou, Kasparian, and Hadded (1996) showed that Francophones in Lebanon have rated English (61.5 percent) higher than French (38.5) for usefulness. This percentage for English was even higher than that among the Muslims whom the Christians normally associate with English. This result is corroborated by Shabaan and Ghaith (2000) and Ghaleb and Joseph (2002).

This inexorable advance of English as a prime resource in the cultural commodities market in Lebanon explains a number of societal practices that took place during the civil war, and have continued unabated since then. These include (1) the opening of new English medium schools and universities by the Maronites, the champions of French, in areas where Christians are demographically dominant; (2) the addition of English as a third language in French medium schools and universities to stem student drift to English medium schools; (3) the use of English as the medium of instruction in some business majors in French medium universities;


and (4) the increasing popularity of English in the electronic media (radio, television and information technology [IT]). Thus, instead of the traditional Arabic-French bilingualism, and the bifurcation of identities along its axis, Lebanon, it seems, has espoused a multilingualism in which Arabic, English, and French have carved for themselves domain specializations.

But these facts do not explain why Arabic is no longer the potent symbol of identity it once was in Lebanon. There are different sides to this issue. To begin with, because the force of Arabic as such a symbol derives from its opposition to a co-present Other, this being, historically, French; and because French has lost some of its vitality to index a dominant counter identity for Lebanon, it follows that Arabic is no longer called on, to the same extent as in the past, to act as an active marker of identity. Second, the diminution of pan-Arabism as an active political force in the Arabic-speaking world has been associated with a reduction in the deployment of Arabic as a marker of an Arab identity in sociopolitical discourse. This is true of Lebanon. Third, the ascendance of the state as a political and legal entity in the Arabic speaking world has meant that other non–language-based categories of national identity definition have had to be developed. Citizenship, not nationality, is the new idea in this sphere. Fourth, Arabic in Lebanon has suffered considerably in terms of prestige. Attitudes toward the language tend to be ambiguous, if not at times openly negative (Al-Jawhari, 1998). This militates against its use in identity construction. And, finally, the war weary Lebanese had their fill, during the war and in the period immediately following it, of identity politics and all that goes with it, including the struggle between Arabic and French in this regard.

The preceding goes some way towards explaining the diminution in the status of Arabic as an identity symbol since the end of the civil war. However, most of the empirical work on Arabic cited in this paper is wanting in sociolinguistic terms. In eliciting speakers’ attitudes, none of the research studies to which I have referred so far draws the obvious distinction between the Lebanese colloquial Arabic dialect (hereafter LC) and formal Arabic (fusha, F) as markers of the identity repertoire for Lebanon. This is perhaps because most of this research was done in the context of a language-in-education framework in Lebanon (Shabaan & Ghaith, 1999). Thus, rather than eliminating the conflict between Arabic and French as markers of different identity constructions for Lebanon, with the former marking an Arab identity and the latter a Franco-Lebanese Christian one, the debate over identity has shifted sideways to an all-Arabic arena between F and LC. Put differently, the struggle between French and Arabic as markers of identity has, for the time being, been downgraded and replaced by a more active struggle between F and LC.

The use of these two forms of the language in identity construction is not a postwar creation (Suleiman, 2003), but its application in the burgeoning electronic media in Lebanon (radio and TV), particularly the news, is definitely recent (Al Batal, 2002; Al-Khury, 2005). What makes these media interesting for our purposes here is their symbiotic association with the centres of political power in the country. Thus LBCI (Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation I) is strongly connected to the Maronite-dominated Phalange Party, which is committed to maintaining a Lebanese


identity for Lebanon in which the Maronites play a pivotal role. Al-Khury captures this fact when he describes LBC as the “translation of a political party into media and language” (innaha hizb siyasi mutarjam i‘lamiyyan wa-lughawiyyan) (2005, p. 271). The same is true of other private radio and TV stations vis-à-vis their political masters (Al-Khury, 2005). For example, Al-Manar TV champions F in its news broadcasts and moves toward it in other nonscripted programs, reflecting the Islamist ideology of Hizbollah, its sponsor.

In his paper on the Arabic of the local news at LBCI, Al Batal talks about what he calls the “tension,” rather than “conflict,” between LC and F in Lebanon (2002, p. 92). This is an interesting distinction that describes the intensity of the competition between F and LC at the time Al Batal conducted his field work in 1999. I would prefer to characterize this competition as low intensity/level conflict because we can never know or predict when “tension” turns into “conflict”. However, Al Batal’s research is important for this review because it firmly locates the extensive use of LC in the local news in the area of identity construction and contestation. He writes:

If language choice often reflects emotional, political, and ideological factors, then the choice(s) . . .made at LBCI may be linked to the current socio-political context of Lebanon, and specifically the question of identity. In this context, the linguistic tension between F and LC reflects a broader tension (one that reaches the level of conflict in certain circles) between “Arabism” and “Lebanonism.” The former ideology perceives Lebanon as an integral part of the Arab world both culturally and linguistically, while the latter stresses the cultural and linguistic uniqueness of Lebanon vis-à-vis the rest of the Arab world. (Al Batal, 2002, p. 112)

As described by Al Batal, the “tension” between “Arabism” and “Lebanonism” in spite of its different linguistic emphasis on the “Lebanonism” side, remains within the orbit of the old conflict between Arabic and French described above. Whether we talk about Arabic versus French or formal versus Lebanese colloquial Arabic, we are still talking about two constructs in identity terms: an Arab Lebanon versus a Lebanese Lebanon. The former is of the Arab Middle East and the latter is in the Arab Middle East. There is, however, a difference between the French and the LC constructed Lebanons. The former looks outside to a nonindigenous language, and the latter looks inside to an indigenous variant of the standard language. The former looks to a recent “colonial” past, and the latter looks to a much older tradition which, in some nationalist discourse, is made to encompass an ancient past, that of the Phoenicians. The former has an elitist tone; the latter, a populist one. The former is confessionally driven and the latter is of wider ethnic appeal. In this respect, LBC blazed a trail which other private radio and TV stations have followed, some of which, for example the late Rafiq Al-Hariri’s Future TV, are in the Sunni Muslim camp.


So widespread has become the use of LC in Lebanon that Al-Khury refers to its rival F as an “orphaned language” that is bereft of protection (2005, p. 306). Fusha Arabic is being elbowed out of domains that it dominated before the civil war, at least symbolically. For the most part, Al-Khury steers away from engaging the notion of national identity organically in his discussion of the struggle between formal and Lebanese colloquial Arabic, preferring instead to speak about the collapse of the social, political, educational/cultural, and religious order that in the past protected F against its enemies. Al-Khury goes on to talk about the drive to establish a Lebanese (Arabic) language that is closer to LC, at least in symbolic terms, than to F. However, there is a subtext in all of this: Once such an Arabic coagulates and firmly takes hold, it becomes difficult to dislodge from the domains it has acquired and consecrated in its name. Under this scenario, Lebanese colloquial Arabic will eventually do to fuscha what French has failed to do to it: create an amphibian identity for Lebanon that will gradually drift away from its Arab shores. For this to happen, assuming that Al-Khury’s reading of the Lebanese language situation is on the right track, time, political stability and the maintenance of the same sociopolitical forces that are at work in Lebanon at present will be needed. But this may prove to be too much to expect in a situation that is historically volatile.

Charting the Nation: Arabic and the Politics of Identity in Israel/Palestine

The choice of Israel to talk about the place of Arabic in national identity construction may strike some readers as an odd one. After all, Israel is perceived to be Jewish, defines itself in that way, and is closely associated with Hebrew as its marker of national identity and as its prime instrument in the sociopolitical socialization of Jewish immigrants to the country (Lefkowitz, 2004). There are, however, three reasons why Arabic is relevant in discussing the politics of national identity in Israel.

To begin with, Israel has an Arab minority that constitutes about 18 percent of the total population. Before the establishment of Israel in 1948 on parts of mandatory Palestine, this Arab minority was part of a Palestinian majority, making Arabic, not Hebrew, the majority language. Even with the cataclysmic change in its fortunes after 1948, Arabic retained its status as an official language of the state of Israel, mainly for use in Arab education. The Arabs in Israel therefore never lost their association with the language formally. In fact, it is possible that their awareness of the language and association with it became more accentuated soon after the establishment of the Israeli state than would have been the case had the status quo ante continued to prevail. For those Arabs who remained in the newly established state, with their extremely limited, if nonexistent, knowledge of Hebrew, Arabic must have been conceptualized as a sign of difference, as the antithesis of Hebrew. Furthermore, because of the circumstances under which this difference was constructed, the language must have been internalized in sociopsychological terms as a marker of weakness, defeat, disempowerment, and disenfranchisement, a topic that I address in more detail later.


Second, Arabic is the language of about 45,000 Druze in Israel who strongly identify with the state, its institutions, and its demographic majority. They serve in the Israeli army which, next to the Ulpan (Spolsky, 1997), is one of the most important instruments for sociopolitical socialization through Hebrew in Israel. The Druze are linguistically Arab, but have a good competence in Hebrew, towards which they have strong integrative attitudes. They are not Israeli Jews, but they share with the Israeli Jews a deep sense of commitment to the state of Israel, in spite of the fact that, as an ethnic democracy, Israel does not accord them equal privileges with the Jews. Although some Druze identify themselves as Arabs—mainly among the intellectual elite (for example, the poet Samih Al-Qasim or the fiction writer Salman Natur)—others do not. This difference of opinion is reflected in scholarly discourse (Spolsky & Shohamy, 1999). Lefkowitz captures this well when he refers to Druze identity as a blurred identity that “forms a signifier intermediate between ‘Arab’ and ‘Jew’ in Israel, since it represents an Arab cultural identity that supports the Israeli state politically” (2004, p. 97). The Druze, therefore, ought to be an interesting topic of inquiry in national identity terms, but there are few studies that tackle the subject from the linguistic perspective. One study by Abu-Rabia (1996, p. 416), however, characterizes the Druze as a “minority within a minority (presumably Arab . . .which [i.e., the Druze minority] emphasizes its wish to be integrated into Israeli society more than its desire to be united with the rest of the macro Arab community in the Middle East” (1996, p. 416). Basing himself on a 1978 master’s thesis on Druze identity in Israel (Al-Sheikh, 1978), Abu-Rabia further adds that the Druze are “Arab in terms of their language and culture, but not in terms of their emotions, principles or actions [and that they have] negative attitudes towards the establishment of a Palestinian state”; [they therefore have a sense of] “shame regarding [the] language and culture” with which they “do not emotionally sympathize” (1996, p. 416).

Based on this limited information, we provisionally conclude that Arabic does not serve for the Druze as a marker of national identity, specifically either Arab or Palestinian identity, but as the stigmatized language of a subnational group identity. However, more research is needed to confirm this. Also, a crossnational comparison with other Druze in Lebanon and Syria would help shed valuable light on the differential politicization of language within state boundaries as well as its role in identity definition in the shadow of conflict. Comparative research on the linguistic construction of Druze group identity in Israel and the occupied Golan Heights would yield invaluable information on the politicisation of language under conditions of conflict. However, for this research to provide reliable results, it would need to draw a distinction between the standard language and its associated dialects. Because of the dearth of information on these topics, I will not deal further with the Druze in the rest of this review.

Third, Arabic is/was the language of the first generation of the Mizrahim (Jews from the Arab lands) who immigrated to Israel in large numbers in the 1950s and 1960s. Under the onslaught of the Hebrew language ideology and other strong socialization pressures in Israel, Arabic among the Mizrahim became a home language for communication among older people and, to a lesser extent, inter-


generationally. Second generation Israeli Jews of Mizrahi heritage may have a passive facility in the language, but this has atrophied beyond repair. As a spoken language, Arabic hardly exists among third generation Mizrahi Jews, but in areas with high Mizrahi density the language retains some functionality as a kind of “argot” that sets Mizrahi from Ashkenazi Jews in conditions of interethnic tension (Bentolila, 2001; Lefkowitz, 2004; Suleiman, 2004). Here Arabic is a low level marker of ethnicity, and mainly in symbolic terms.

Several reasons have been adduced to explain the negative attitude of Mizrahi Jews towards Arabic, including: (1) Arabic was constructed as a language of the Diaspora for the Mizrahim,3 with all the negative connotations of weakness and subjugation this carries (Arabic is projected to share this status with other Jewish languages in the Diaspora, for example Yiddish); (2) Arabic is the nonprestigious language of an underprivileged Palestinian Arab minority with whom the Mizrahim compete towards the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum, making Arabic different from the languages of the Jewish Diaspora; (3) Arabic is the language of a suspect minority inside Israel and a hostile majority outside it. In a recent poll, 18 percent of Jewish Israelis said they felt hatred when they heard someone speaking Arabic (McGreal, 2006). These reasons reveal the extent to which language loss is grounded in its sociopolitical culture.

There is no doubt that the preceding factors are relevant reasons in the negative attitudes among Mizrahi Jews toward Arabic, but we need to dig deeper to understand this phenomenon, and to distinguish it from the negative attitudes in Israeli society toward other Diaspora languages. To achieve this we must take on board a basic fact of identity formation in Israel: interethnic differentiation in Israeli Jewish society and its impact on national identity construction vis-à-vis the Arab minority inside the state and the Arab majority outside it. Within this framework, Arabic, the active loss of it by Mizrahi Jews, becomes indexical of a Mizrahi Jew’s transition to full and unambiguous Israeli status in the Ashkenazi-dominated political culture of Israel. In metaphorical terms, the loss of Arabic and the adoption of negative attitudes toward it act as a “right of passage” on the way to full acculturation in the Jewish Israeli body politic. This loss cannot be compared to the loss of higher prestige languages such as Yiddish, Ladino, or Russian because of the contextual factors surrounding Arabic in Israel. In what follows, I will base myself on Seliktar (1984) to overcome some of the limitations in Suleiman’s (2004) study of the topic.

The starting point for this discussion is the following chain of sociopsychological arguments: (1) identity embodies “sameness and uniqueness,” on the one hand, and difference on the other (Seliktar, 1984, p. 42); (2) the acquisition of a new identity involves two processes: the maximization of sameness with the target or in-group and the concomitant maximization of difference with the out- group, both feeding the uniqueness construct; and (3) although it is known who the target or in-group in Israel is, this being the Ashkenazi Jews and their dominant culture, the out-group has double signification, depending on the vantage point one looks at it: at the end of the scale stand the Arab minority and half way on that scale


stand Mizrahi Jews. Lefkowitz captures the latter point when he says that “the Israeli ideology of identity constitutes Palestinians as inherently national, Mizrahim as inherently ethnic and only Ashkenazim as ‘Israelis’” (2004, p. 83). Lefkowitz then goes on to say that “the Arab/Jewish divide in Israel is heavily radicalised [to such an extent that] ‘Arab’ and ‘Jew’ are absolute, categorical, inalienable and official” (2004, p. 88). Two consequences follow from this. First, the Palestinians (Arabs in Israel) can never become full Israelis; second, the Mizrahim could—provided they became more like the Ashkenazi Jews and less like the Palestinian Arabs in Israel. Hence the allusion above to the maximization of sameness with the former and concomitant maximization of difference with the latter.

The significance of Seliktar’s research is that it provides discursive evidence, from Israel’s early days as a state and before, that the Ashkenazi political class saw the dilemma of the Mizrahim in precisely the above terms. Seliktar mentions that the pre-1948 Ashkenazi elite feared that the influx of Mizrahi immigrants into the new state would “Levantinize” Israeli society, and that every effort had therefore to be made to “‘purge’ any ‘Arab’ characteristic from the emerging Israeli identity of the new immigrants” (1984, p. 42). This attitude reached the very top of the Israeli political establishment. Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, feared the “primitive Arab mentality’ of the Mizrahi Jews. Abba Eban, his Education Minister, feared that the Mizrahi Jews could ‘drag Israel into ‘unnatural Orientalism’” (1984, p. 42). Seliktar further mentions the use of “approbium controls (a societal mechanism of disapproval, ridicule or ostracism) . . . against any display of Arab background by the [Mizrahi] immigrants and especially by their offspring;” to be fully acculturated, Mizrahi Jews had to dispose of what were perceived as Arab mental characteristics such as “laziness, lack of motivation and drive, and excessive individualism” (1984, p. 43).

Although Seliktar does not mention Arabic as one of the attributes that the Mizrahi Jews had to discard to become fully Israeli in an Ashkenazi-constructed interpretation of identity, it would be extremely surprising if this were not actually the case. As one of the most visible markers of identity, Arabic must have been subjected to severe self-censorship. For the first generation of Mizrahi immigrants, this is most likely to have taken two forms of expression. First, domain redefinition, whereby Arabic would have been restricted to the home environment and to intra- community use, thus denying it public visibility and the vitality that goes with it. Second, a more interventionist intergenerational strategy, whereby a choice was made, consciously or unconsciously, not to pass the language to second-generation Mizrahim. The fact that in Israel a reverse process of passing the “mother tongue,” that is, Hebrew, from child to “mother” is ideologized as the norm between second and first generation immigrants must have considerably aided this strategy of a break with the linguistic past and the identities this past might convey.

Two points emerge from this analysis. To begin with, the three-point explanation given above for the negative views toward Arabic constitutes only a partial explanation of Arabic language loss among Mizrahi Jews. Far more significant, in my view, was the pressure to fashion an Israeli national identity that


conformed to its hegemonic Ashkenazi-centered construction. In the process, Mizrahi Jews had to perform a double task: acquiring Hebrew as a sign of belonging, and discarding Arabic to signal the break with a discredited past and as an expression of acculturation into a new national identity. In this respect, the active loss of Arabic was and is of a different order, because of contextual factors, from the loss of other Jewish Diasporic languages. According to this, a new meaning must be read into language loss: It is as much a marker of national identity as language maintenance or language acquisition. This is why the dis-connection between Arabic (the language) and Mizrahi Jews is such an interesting phenomenon to study in the nationalist paradigm. In particular, it shows how language subtraction is as indexical of national identity formation as language acquisition or language addition. It is revealing in this context that Alcalay refers to this process as “de-Arabization” (1993, p. 51).4

Let us now turn to the Arabs/Palestinians in Israel mentioned at the beginning of this section. Arabic, in its dialectal and standard form, is the dominant language for the Arab minority in Israel in community use and in education. Although Arabic is an official language of Israel, its use in the public sphere is limited to areas where the Arabs are a majority: the Galilee, the Little Triangle in the central belt and the Negev in the south of the country. Here and in the so-called mixed cities, Haifa being the prime example, separate patterns of settlement have ensured that the status quo which existed before 1948 has more or less continued to exist to the present day (Lefkowitz, 2004). Interaction between the Palestinians in Israel and Israeli Jews does take place in the workplace and government institutions, leading to some language contact and linguistic accommodation between Arabic and Hebrew, but this accommodation is mainly in the direction of the latter. This power differential between the two languages indexes the dominance of the Israeli Jews as the superordinate group in relation to the Palestinian Arabs. Interest among Jews in the language is therefore weak, but it is at its strongest in the army for military and security purposes (Amara & Mar’i, 2002). But even here, Arabic is treated as the foreign language of an internal fifth column that never lost the capacity to conspire with the enemy outside.

These sociopolitical factors have constructed Arabic as a low-status language and as the language of the weak in the Hebrew-dominated public sphere. But, paradoxically, this low market value for the language has ensured its survival in Israel. Symbolically, however, this low market value had a detrimental effect on the role of the language to mark a positive definition of the self at the individual and group levels. Arabic seems to have acquired meanings of national exclusion, of exceptionalism not uniqueness, in the wider Israeli body-politic, and it is mainly in this sense that it marks an Arab identity for the Palestinians in Israel. Put differently, Arabic in Israel signifies Otherness, not just for the Israeli Jews, but, it seems, also for the Palestinian Arabs themselves whose language it is. As an out-group, the Palestinians in Israel have internalized the hegemonic discourse of the majority and turned it against themselves. This helps explain the underlying archaeology, at the sociopsychological and symbolic levels, of the following statement by contemporary scholars of Israeli language policy:


Though there is not a significant language shift among the Arab population, the status and the situation of the Arabic language [in Israel] is in continuous decline. A significant portion of the Arab population is not aware of the link between language and national identity. Arabic is not considered a language which contributes to maintaining their uniqueness in the Jewish state ….Those who call for enhancing Arabic in the public sphere are a minority, mainly intellectuals and academics. (Amara & Mar’i, 2002, p. 85)

This attitude toward Arabic is different across the so-called green line that separates Israel from the Occupied Territories. In Bethlehem, for example, Arabic enjoys a linguistic vitality that is consistent with its status as a national language (Spolsky, Amara, Tushyeh, & de Bot, [n.d.]; Suleiman, 2004). Amara (1999) shows this to be the case in his study of Barta‘a, a divided Palestinian village with its western half in Israel and eastern half in the West Bank. This village is interesting for two reasons. First, its population on both sides are blood relatives, belonging to the same agnate structure: the Kabaha clan (hamula). Second, although the village was physically divided between 1949 and 1967, it was later separated into two halves (following its physical reunification in 1967) by a less visible division. This division has marked itself into the language situation of both parts of the village in a way that can only be explained by the politics of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

On the western side, the village is more open to the influence of Hebrew, which acts as its source of lexical borrowing. On the eastern side, the village is resistant to such borrowings, except for a few items that have now entered general Palestinian usage, such as the Hebrew word mahsoom for “check point” (Hawker, 2004). Villagers on the western side accommodate to Hebrew with Hebrew speakers, even in the presence of blood relatives from the eastern side and in spite of the existence of background situations that heighten the need for political solidarity between the two parts of the village. The Israeli writer David Grossman (1993) reported such an experience from Barta‘a during the first intifada (popular Palestinian uprising against the Israeli occupation) in the late 1980s, where the westerners addressed him in Hebrew (though he knows Arabic and used it with them), thus cutting out the easterners who attended the meeting from the exchange of views and information. This differentiation extends to variation within Arabic, where easterners display a greater tendency to use standard Arabic features in certain tasks, such as, for example, picture reading (Amara, 1999). These and other differences led Amara to conclude that, while remaining two parts of the same village physically, western and eastern Barta‘a belong to the Israeli and Palestinian geopolitical sphere respectively. The differences in language between them are the result of this geopolitical localization rather than its cause. But that does not matter, because these differences have become indexical of a bifurcated variation on a single identity theme, leading to consensual identity negotiation: in Bart‘a, the westerners and the easterners perform this by assigning the highest identity value to “Islam,” allowing them to gloss over their identity differences on the linguistic and other levels and emphasizing what unequivocally unites them as a village.


Amara and Mar’i (2002) refer to the linguistic landscape in Israel as an area where the Arab minority have tried, with very limited success, to redress the symbolic imbalance between Hebrew and Arabic, in the public display of identities, through community pressure and legal action. Linguistic landscape has many dimensions (Ben-Rafael, Shohamy, Amara, & Trumper-Hecht, 2004; Landry & Bourhis, 1997; Shohamy, 2006), but in this review we are mainly interested in signs in public spaces, mainly road and shop or similar signs. The starting point for this is a pioneering study of signs in the Old City of Jerusalem (Spolsky & Cooper, 1991). Spolsky and Cooper approached the topic mainly from the dual perspectives of multilingualism and the linguistic market. As I have tried to show in an alternative analysis of the topic (Suleiman, 2004) this perspective removes the two notions of “national identity” and “conflict” as operative explanatory notions in the manipulation of the public space. The same is more or less true of Ben-Rafael et al. (2004) whose major focus seems to be Jewish-Arab bilingualism in Israel and Palestinian East Jerusalem. They allude to the “power relations” (p. 11) between the Jewish majority and the Arab minority in the theoretical background to the study, together with a reference to “nationality” (p. 17), but these notions are not tied together for explanatory purposes to give visibility to national identity and conflict as background forces, at least in East Jerusalem. Shohamy (2006) advances the discussion of linguistic landscape in Israel and Palestinian East Jerusalem. She talks about how the power of ideology and political domination are brought to bear on the management or manipulation of the linguistic landscape, but, again, she pulls back from involving the combined force of national identity, hegemony and resistance in explaining the choreography of the public space.

Suleiman (2004) provides this alternative analysis by reading space itself as a sign that can be variously “semiologized” in favor of different national or ideological narratives. This is also true of place names in national linguistic cartography as a top-down act of national inscription. But it also applies to bottom- up acts of cartographic resistance, of making a claim over space and inscribing it with a map of the ruins of a refugee nation. The following example, which I will quote in full for its interest, explains the top-down and bottom-up linguistic tug of war in the nationalist cartography against the background of conflict and the combustible politics of identity. The example, which speaks for itself, relates to the request of the municipality of Jerusalem from the community leaders of the occupied Palestinian suburb of Beit Hanina to provide a list of names for the streets of their neighborhood:

It was several weeks before the list was sent to the city. As municipal officials reviewed the list, they slowly began to understand its significance. All the names were of Arab villages that had existed before 1948 but were destroyed by Israel during the [1948] war: Umm Rashrash, Banias, Majdal, Askalan, Yaffa, Pluga and others. The municipality contacted Darwish [the community leader], and he unabashedly explained the neighbourhood council’s idea: “We see the map of Beit Hanina as representing that of all Palestine,” Darwish said: “In the North of Beit Hanina, we will give


the streets the names of the villages that once stood in northern Palestine, in the west of the neighbourhood, the roads will have the names of the villages that once stood in the west of Palestine and so on.” Darwish was told to try again. The municipality would not accept such an expression of Palestinian nationalism on the streets of the city. “You’d be better off choosing names of flowers and trees,” Darwish was told. “You can also include great Arab figures, but stick to poets and writers, not conquerors. Do us a favour and include a short biography with each figure chosen. It would be good if you mentioned if he had any connection with Jerusalem . . .” Darwish got the picture of what he was up against. He followed the new orders to the letter, and the second list of flowers and trees and Arab poets he presented to city hall was approved by the names committee with hardly a peep.

(Cheshin, Hutman, & Melamed, 1999, pp. 164–167)

Charting the Nation: Arabic and the Politics of Identity in Jordan

Like Lebanon and Israel, Jordan is a recent state whose history is shaped by war and conflict that had an impact on the politics of linguistic identity. Nevertheless, the politics of linguistic identity in Jordan differs from Lebanon and Israel in that it involves a set of local dialects rather than two languages as in Lebanon (Arabic and French) and Israel (Arabic and Hebrew) or a standard variety and a dialect as in Lebanon, or two dialects as in Jordan owing to the involuntary exodus of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians into Jordan in two waves in 1948 and 1967. However, in comparison with Lebanon and Israel, especially the former, the politics of linguistic identity in Jordan is of low intensity, with the exception of a short period in the 1970s when active political conflict impinged on the language situation in a defining way (Suleiman, 1993, 1999, 2004). The following discussion will deal with this period and its aftermath.

Broadly speaking, the language situation in Jordan is configured in terms of three varieties: urban, sedentary, and Bedouin that are emblematically indexed by [?], [k] and [g] as reflexes of standard Arabic [q] respectively (Abdel-Jawad 1981; Cadora 1992; Al Wer 1999). Before 1948 and for most of the period between 1948 and 1967, the first two varieties were identified with the Palestinians in Jordan and the last with the (East Bank) Jordanians. Of these three varieties, the urban variety enjoyed most prestige as a signifier of modernity. In comparison, the other two varieties, especially the sedentary variety, were socially stigmatized. In the capital city of Amman, which grew from a sleepy town in 1948 to a city of about half a million people in the early 1970s (Abdel-Jawad, 1981; Sawaie, 1994), the differential status evaluations of these varieties explain the code-switching or dialect shift to the urban variety by prestige conscious female speakers of both [k] and [g] variants.

This language situation began to shift in a dramatic way following the bloody conflict between the Jordanian government and the Palestinian guerrilla organizations in the early 1970s. One of the effects of this conflict, which ended


with the defeat of the Palestinian organizations and their eviction from the country, was the polarization of the Jordanian citizenry into Palestinians and Jordanians. Although this had no effect on the progress of the female shift to the urban variety, with its Palestinian connotations, it did have a major impact on male linguistic behavior, which started to move decisively in favour of the Bedouin variety with its strong Jordanian identity meanings. Jordanian political ascendance was inscribed in the use of the ethnic label baljik (lit. Belgians) to stereotype the Palestinians as outsiders in Jordan (Abu-Odeh, 1999; Suleiman, 2004). Sedentary (called fellahi in Arabic) males, particularly young ones, shifted to the emblematic Bedouin [g] to suppress their Palestinian identity. Young urban males resorted to [g] code- switching in inter-dialectal communication with Bedouin speakers and others. Although this may be an oversimplification of the contours of male language behavior at the time, there is no doubt that this behavior was embedded and motivated by a new political landscape that, mutatis mutandis, sought to construct a Jordanian national identity along models of Bedouin male speech (Massad 2001; Suleiman 1999, 2004). These shifts and code-switches, as by-products of political conflict, have gained permanence in the linguistic landscape of Jordan.

It is in fact possible that, even without the political conflict of the early 1970s, Jordan would have advanced toward a [g] norm for men’s speech as an emblem of the state, albeit at a much lower pace. Before 1967, the heyday of pan- Arab nationalist ideology, the Jordanian elite promoted a narrative of national identity in which pan-Arab nationalism uneasily existed alongside a territorial nationalism built around the East Bank of the River Jordan and historical Palestine (Anderson, 2002). Frisch calls this “fuzzy nationalism,” stating “In Jordan, the construction of nationalism is deliberately fuzzy and eclectic due to security concerns” that are most dangerously linked to the politics of the Arab Israeli conflict (2002, p. 87). Although most nationalisms, if not all, are “fuzzy” in different ways, Frisch’s point is apt in that it identifies changes in state borders as a catalyst in redefining the nationalist narrative. The expansion of Jordan to include the Palestinian West Bank in 1951 necessitated a change in the narrative of national identity in Jordan (Anderson, 2002). The loss of the West Bank to Israel following the Arab defeat in the 1967 war led to a contraction in state borders. It further coincided with the decline of pan-nationalist ideology as a fulcrum for the definition of identity on extraterritorial lines. These two factors favoured a construction of the nationalist ideology along new territorial lines linked to the East Bank. The influx of West Bank Palestinians into Jordan in 1967 and the eruption of open conflict in the early 1970s between the two segments of the population, represented by the Jordanian army and the Palestinian guerrilla organizations, very likely hastened a process that was already in the making, namely the redefinition of Jordanian identity along East Jordanian lines. In the early 1970s, this process was inscribed in a set of practices that sought to endow the state with symbolic motifs that deliberately marked its identity as (East) Jordanian, including items of dress, food and musical code (Massad, 2001). Considering that language is one of the most powerful motifs of national identity, it would have been very surprising if it had remained outside the orbit of the new national project. Being based on “differentiation,” the Jordanian national project shows that the anxiety of national self-definition tends to be most


acute where there are no substantive cultural differences between the national self (the East Jordanians) and the significant Other (the Palestinians). Approached from this angle, the adoption of [g] as an emblem of a new Jordanian identity after 1967 is consistent with the new geo-political reality in which Jordan was constructed along (East) Jordanian lines in nation-building terms. This interpretation advances the explanations offered by Suleiman (1993, 1999, 2004) in that it looks at dialect shift to [g] as the result of structural forces in society, rather than as the abrupt outcome of a specific political conflict.


This discussion has shown how Arabic, nation building, and political conflict interact in the Middle East. In particular, it explains how this interaction can cluster around an indigenous language and a colonial one (Lebanon), two varieties of the same language (Lebanon and Jordan), or two languages (Israel/Palestine). Although language is never the source of conflict in any of these contexts, it is nevertheless implicated in them as a proxy that expresses a host of social, economic, cultural, and political interests among competing groups in society. The preceding discussion also shows that (1) identity conflicts involving language can be directly attributed to specific political conflicts, as in all three settings in this review; (2) identity conflicts are subject to change in ways that impact on the choice of languages that express these conflicts, as exemplified in the transition from French to the Lebanese colloquial as the prime carrier of the Lebanonism of Lebanon; and (3) language loss/subtraction is as much a marker of national identity as language acquisition/addition.

These findings can be used to explain the politics of linguistic identity in other parts of the Arabic-speaking world. In Iraq, the main conflict is between Arabic and Kurdish. The latter has assumed a great vitality since the Gulf War in 1991. The American-led invasion of Iraq has enhanced this vitality and, paradoxically, has led to the forceful imposition of Kurdish on smaller indigenous languages in northern Iraq. It is also certain that, within Arabic in Iraq, linguistic differences have started to emerge to mark Sunni and Shia identities. In North Africa, the conflict between the Arabic and Berber speaking populations is ultimately related to different constructions of identity in this region, as is the conflict between French and Arabic on the one hand, and standard Arabic and the colloquial varieties on the other. Algeria and Morocco provide interesting examples of these “live” conflicts. In Egypt, the conflict between standard Arabic and the colloquial is an expression of ideological differences about Egyptian national identity. The Sudan presents an extremely complex picture of identity construction in which language is involved as a marker and proxy for expressing extralinguistic views. By removing identity and conflict from the study of Arabic, Arabic sociolinguistics in its correlationist/variationist mode has deprived itself of interpretative notions that can make the study of the language more relevant to a host of neighboring disciplines. This review is offered in the spirit that a “bolder” approach to Arabic may now be instituted to offset this deficit.



1. The author wishes to thank the Leverhulme Trust for their Major Research Fellowship which has enabled him to conduct this research.

2. It would be interesting to test if French in these new contexts develops national identity connotations similar to the historical pattern found among the Maronites. My suspicion is that the situation will be different. For the Shia, French will be constructed as a sign of modernity rather than directly as a marker of a French- oriented national identity for Lebanon.

3. Not all Mizrahi Jews, called Arab Jews by Alcalay (1993), would treat Arabic as a Diaspora language. Some Jewish writers, for example the Iraqi Jew Samir Naqqash, continued to write in Arabic even after immigrating to Israel.

4. Alcalay (1993, p. 51) expresses this point as follows: “There can be little doubt that the most shortsighted and devastating effect of the socialization process undergone by the Arab Jews following their mass exodus [from the Arabic speaking countries] was “de-Arabization.” This was most acutely felt in the loss of Arabic as a native tongue.” Earlier, Alcalay (ibid.) writes: “[Following their immigration to Israel] Levantine and Arab Jews found themselves completely cut off from the most enduring sources of their own culture, not to mention that of the peoples among whom they lived for thousands of years” (1993, p. 51).


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This study provides an insight into the linguistic construction of national identity in Lebanon in the 1990s by examining the deliberate use of the Lebanese colloquial, in the local news, in one of the leading TV stations in the country. Before the war in 1975, the news was the exclusive domain of standard Arabic. This shift established a new paradigm which other TV stations, in the competition for popularity, started to emulate.

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This study develops out of Suleiman (2003). It discusses extensively the role social and political conflict plays in shaping linguistic identities in the Middle East. It deals with the conflict between Arabic and the European colonial languages, Arabic and Hebrew, standard and colloquial Arabic and one Arabic colloquial variety against another. The study uses a variety of perspectives and data, including the deployment of cartography as a textual practice for marking the self and obliterating a co- present Other. It is the first study to invoke conflict as an explanatory/interpretive category in describing the Arabic language situation in the Middle East.


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