Arabic From Empire to Nation-State: A Study in Language Ideology


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars


Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies


For residence at the National Humanities Center during academic year 2005-2006


This project re-reads the history of Arabic through the lens of language ideology, focusing on the tensions of singularity and plurality of form that have shaped Arabic since the beginning of its recorded history, and have helped maintain its vigor for over 1500 years. I examine narratives of language “creation,” ideologies of language standardization and vernacularization, and colonial and post-colonial constructions of Classical Arabic. In tracing the coexistence of varieties and registers of Arabic over time, I show how opposing yet mutually dependent ideologies of language have accumulated and reconfigured over time. Finally, I explore the attempts of a new satellite network to change Arabic language usage when ideological discussions about such change seem to have stalled.