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Arabic in the FrayLanguage Ideology and Cultural Politics$
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Yasir Suleiman

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748637409

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748637409.001.0001

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Language Construction and Language Symbolism

Language Construction and Language Symbolism

(p.13) Chapter 1 Language Construction and Language Symbolism
Arabic in the Fray

Yasir Suleiman

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter provides a comparative perspective on language construction in the non-scriptal and scriptal worlds. It does so by reference to the symbolic function of language. The use of language as proxy in expressing conflict in society reveals its availability for expressing competing narratives of the in-group and the out-group. The chapter deals with these topics by exploring three processes in language construction: identification, differentiation and distanciation, relating them to issues of national identity and inter- and intra-group political conflict. Language ideology is central to this exploration, as is the use of language to ‘do politics through culture’ in society. A secondary aim of this chapter is to counter the folk-linguistic idea in the Arabic-speaking world that what is called fuṣḥā Arabic stands outside this constructivist paradigm, largely owing to its longstanding status as a standard language.

Keywords:   language symbolism, language construction, scriptal and non-scriptal worlds, identification, differentiation, distanciation, language as proxy, cultural politics, fuṣḥā Arabic

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