Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Arabic in the FrayLanguage Ideology and Cultural Politics$

Yasir Suleiman

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748637409

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748637409.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM EDINBURGH SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.edinburgh.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Edinburgh University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ESO for personal use. Subscriber: null; date: 19 September 2021

Framing Arabic: Paratexts, Poetry and Language Ideology

Framing Arabic: Paratexts, Poetry and Language Ideology

(p.93) Chapter 3 Framing Arabic: Paratexts, Poetry and Language Ideology
Arabic in the Fray

Yasir Suleiman

Edinburgh University Press

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter continues the exploration of the notions of construction, language symbolism, language conflict and language as proxy through an examination of paratexts and poetic compositions. Paratexts, such as titles, dedications, epigraphs and jacket copies have received little or no attention in relation to studying Arabic in the social world. This chapter argues that since most encounters with texts are mediated through these thresholds, scholars of language in the social world must pay attention to them for the information they yield on language ideology and the deployment of culture to do politics in society. The same is true of poetic compositions. This chapter further identifies the most productive tropes of language ideology in the modern world, together with their constitutive metaphors, in order to shed light on issues of language conflict and language anxiety. The tropes of crisis, fossilisation and war act as shorthand codes for the promulgation and recursive circulation of Arabic language ideology in society. As a given of this world, Arabic language ideology does its work without drawing attention to itself. Although the terrain dealt with in this chapter is historically and intellectually different from the one dealt with in Chapter Two, the conceptual unities underlying these two terrains reveal infra-structural continuities in the study of Arabic in the social world across time.

Keywords:   Paratexts, poetry, language conflict, language anxiety, tropes, metaphors, crisis, fossilisation, war, language ideology

This chapter continues the exploration of the notions of construction, language symbolism, language conflict and language as proxy through an examination of paratexts and poetic compositions. Paratexts, such as titles, dedications, epigraphs and jacket copies have received little or no attention in relation to studying Arabic in the social world. This chapter argues that since most encounters with texts are mediated through these thresholds, scholars of language in the social world must pay attention to them for the information they yield on language ideology and the deployment of culture to do politics in society. The same is true of poetic compositions. This chapter further identifies the most productive tropes of language ideology in the modern world, together with their constitutive metaphors, in order to shed light on issues of language conflict and language anxiety. The tropes of crisis, fossilisation and war act as shorthand codes for the promulgation and recursive circulation of Arabic language ideology in society. As a given of this world, Arabic language ideology does its work without drawing attention to itself. Although the terrain dealt with in this chapter is historically and intellectually different from the one dealt with in Chapter 2, the conceptual unities underlying these two terrains reveal infra-structural continuities in the study of Arabic in the social world across time.

Introduction: Language Symbolism in Expanded Domains

In Chapter 1, I argued that although the status of a language as a national language may, in retrospect, seem natural or self-evident, it is, in fact, the case that the process leading to this is subject to manipulation and contestation at every stage in its development. It is also the case that manipulation and contestation continue to apply even after a language has acquired the status of national language. This is what is meant by construction in the nationalist canon when talking about language. This process of linguistic consecration (p.94) is quintessentially ideological in nature: we can track it through extrapolation by looking at recent examples in the creation of national languages from different parts of the world. However, it is paradoxical that the normativisation of language ideology through standardisation makes this ideology – as it coalesces around the national language – appear natural or self-evident, especially when standardisation seems to be historically deep or sanctioned by religious culture. Contesting the status of the national language, as a marker of the nation and its associated culture, may therefore appear to be ideologically driven when judged against standard language ideology, which is considered, in a subterranean kind of way, to be absent, both in terms of the public consciousness or intellectual discourse.1 The emergence of Arabic and its fuṣḥā-linked standard language ideology is a good example of this network of ideas. Challenges to this covert or naturalised ideology are cast as ideologically driven contestations with questionable legitimacy, precisely because they are projected to be concocted for a particular purpose or because they are believed to be the result of external attack, internal collaboration from a fifth column, self-hatred or as misguided attempts at responding to bona fide problems.

My discussion of the inimitability of the Qur'an in Chapter 2 fits this framework in many respects. Inimitability is deployed to link Arabic language ideology with theology and, through this, further link language to ethnicity and inter-group strife, although there is a lot more to inimitability than this rendition of it. This web of linkages has deep historical resonances, which are an integral part of the fabric of Arab cultural life in the modern period. The debate over the (un)translatability of the Qur'an is not exclusively a debate about translation, whether in the pre-modern or modern period. It is also a debate about theology, religious doctrine and authenticity, in which the notion of identity is always lurking in the background. Scratch the surface of the (un)translatability debate and the issue of inimitability, in all its aspects, starts to sprout, igniting the full weight of cultural history behind it in the process. While it is indisputable that the Qur'an is in Arabic and that the challenge it poses concerning its own inimitability is equally indisputable, it is also indisputable, or it ought to be, that some of the issues surrounding the inimitability of the Qur'an are subject to interpretation and, therefore, are also subject to construction and (some) ideological framing. The fact that the principle of ṣarfa (deterrence/deflection) emerged right from the very beginning of the debate on inimitability in the third/ninth century signals, in no uncertain terms, the constructed nature of this debate (p.95) and, dare I say, its ideological impregnation as a strand, among others, that make up this debate.

This chapter will therefore consider some of the issues that we encountered before, testifying to the continued relevance of language symbolism as a prism through which to understand aspects of the social world. The political (with a small ‘p’) impregnation of language is central to this language symbolism. Evidence will be presented utilising paratexts and poetic compositions, in order to argue this thesis. Paratexts, as a site of meaning, have the great advantage, over more extended textual material, of being able to convey their ideological content in a telegraphic manner. Paratexts enlist members of the public, who may not go past them to read the full text or a sizeable portion of it. The public knock on the door of a text, but do not necessarily enter into it. In spite of this cursory encounter with the text, the public act as channels through which the text circulates in society in one form or another, as I will explain below. Poetry serves a similar function. When it attains canonicity in its cultural milieu, it tends to travel synchronically and diachronically to circulate language ideologies that have the force of ‘givens’ of the social world. Tracking these givens as they coalesce around language through tropes and metaphors helps to reveal extra-linguistic anxieties in society.

Paratexts and Language Ideology

One of the most intriguing and least-studied sites of language ideology is paratexts. Paratexts include such devices as titles, inter-titles, dedications, epigraphs, prefaces, epilogues and the publisher's blurb or jacket copy. Each of these devices has its own function, but they collectively work to signpost and navigate the text – the main body of a work – in addition to mediating the interaction between the text, the reader and the public. Standing on the fringes of texts and acting as ‘thresholds of interpretation’ – using Genette's phrase – these liminal discourses are framing devices, which are neither fully inside the text, nor completely outside it, hence the use of the expression ‘framing Arabic’ in the title of this chapter to signal the discursive relationship between inferiority and exteriority in interpreting the intent or messages of a text. As for the frame in a picture, these framing devices are both inside and outside at one and the same time. Because of this, they are the subject of minimal engagement between author and recipients: readers rush past them – as viewers normally do with the frame of a picture – without paying due attention to their import and ideological loading. In this chapter, it is my intention to deal with such framing devices to uncover the meanings that they convey about language ideology.

These meanings may be easy to recover without reading the text closely, but this is not always the case. The recurrence of the same meanings justifies treating some paratextual frames or devices as tropes of language ideology – for example, the ‘crisis’ trope in discussions about Arabic, as we shall see (p.96) discussed later in detail. However, these tropes may start to lose some of their rhetorical force with overuse in language ideology discourse, resulting in illocutionary leakage. The ‘crisis’ trope in Arabic language ideology may be an example of this situation, although it is still invested with rhetorical value and can deliver a motivational charge in task-orientation. In other words, the popularisation of a trope of language ideology may signal the onset of a process of shifting its meaning from the illocutionary/perlocutionary domain to the locutionary or propositional sphere of signification. This transition signals, in turn, a move from visibility to invisibility or from the overt to the covert in language ideology.

Acting as a gateway to the text, titles are the most visible, cognitively speaking, of all paratexts; because of this, I will start with a brief discussion of these devices, relying, in this respect, on Genette's exploration of paratexts.2 Titles, Genette reminds us, perform three functions: designation, description and temptation or enticement. These functions apply to inter-titles, with some variation, but I will restrict the discussion below to titles only. Designation in titles is a matter of naming the text – giving it an onomastic identity of its own that sets it apart from other texts, without, however, necessarily isolating it from them. As received by the audience, a title is a product of a process which may or may not offer clues about its prenatal gestation.3 However, designation, as an act of baptism, may carry a strong ideological charge, because of the prehistory of the words it uses: the fact that some of the words in a title have their own salient cultural resonances means that titles cannot, in principle, be connotation-neutral. Words, dialogically, recall other words, which recall other words, working to form a network of significations, which acts as the canvas against which the ideological tinting of a title is displayed. In some cases, the tinting is translucent, rendering it hardly noticeable; in others, it is cryptic and opaque, without being completely impenetrable. An excellent example of the latter is Farrukh's book title al-Qawmiyya al-fuṣḥā (The Eloquent/Pure Nationalism), which I discussed in Chapter 1, calling it a portmanteau title that conflates the ‘Arabic language’ as a name with ‘Arab nationalism’ by triggering through co-location the original pair of expressions: al-qawmiyya al-‘arabiyya (Arab nationalism) and al-lugha al-fuṣḥā (the eloquent or pure language) or al-‘arabiyya al-fuṣḥā (the eloquent or pure Arabic) from which the title is constructed; this process of blending is reminiscent of the creation of terms such as, for example, ‘smog’ from the two terms ‘smoke’ and ‘fog’. As we shall see below, the term ‘crisis’ in the title of some books about Arabic recalls a host of meanings related to this term – some medical and some political – that must be activated in deciphering language ideology. Language ideology subsists not only in this term, but also in the way that it is wired to other terms it recalls in the social world.

(p.97) The second function of describing the content of the text is the most mundane or quotidian aspect of titles. However, the mundane does not necessarily equate with unimportant: the audience needs some clues as to what the text is about. In this respect, the title may provide a shorthand entrée to the content of the text. A title such as The Problems of the Arabic Language tells us that the text is about Arabic and that Arabic is facing problems, which the text aims to diagnose, describe and, perhaps, offer a solution. There is no implication in this title that Arabic is unique in this respect or that it is in a state which calls for immediate or urgent attention. In other words, there is no red alert here. In this formulation, the title is a locutionary speech act that, on the surface, alludes to the propositional meanings that the text carries. However, the same textual prospectus may be designated by the title The Crisis of the Arabic Language. While this title describes what the author of the text considers to be problems facing Arabic, it also carries the additional valuation that these problems are in an acute state of being that needs quick intervention, in order to stem the effects of these problems or eliminate them altogether. Here, then, there is a red alert. This indication of acuteness turns the new title into an illocutionary speech act by virtue of adding a connotative colouring to the locutionary meaning that underlies it: the term ‘crisis’ signals urgency and, therefore, a call for intervention.4 This is what I meant by motivation and task-orientation, above which, in speech-act terms, constitute the perlocutionary force of the title. Language ideology in titles draws attention to itself in a maximal way when it operates at the illocutionary and perlocutionary levels. At the locutionary level, titles are part of the mundane or quotidian.

Temptation or enticement – the third function – is intended to allure the reader to procure and read the text: ‘a good title would say enough about the subject matter [of the text] to stimulate curiosity and not enough to sate it’.5 However, neither of these intended effects – procuring or reading – may, in fact, take place, but this does not mean that the text loses its illocutionary and perlocutionary force in society, which, in language ideology terms, are what really matters. To explain this, I will invoke Genette's distinction between the reader and the public in the reception of a text. While the reader is a person who reads the text or, at least a significant portion of it, the public includes others who engage with the text, but do not read it. Genette expresses this as follows:

It seems to me that the public is nominally more far-flung than the sum of its readers because that entity includes, sometimes in a very active way, people who do not necessarily read the book (or at least not in its entirety), but who participate in its dissemination and, therefore, in its ‘reception’.6

(p.98) Genette further adds:

If the addressee of the text is indeed the reader, the addressee of the title is the public … The title is directed at many more people than the text, people who by one route or another receive it and transmit it and thereby have hand in circulating it. For if the text is an object to be read, the title … is an object to be circulated – or, if you prefer, a subject of conversation.7

This function of the title highlights the importance of endowing it with illocutionary and perlocutionary force in language ideology, in order to reach, for task-orientation purposes, a constituency of addressees that is larger than its readers.

As we shall see below, the title of Shubashi's book on Arabic, Li-taḥyā al-‘arabiyya, yasquṭ Sībawayhi (Long Live Arabic!: Down with Sibawayhi!), aptly illustrates these points. The title seems to imply that for the Arabic language to flourish, Sibawayhi's (d. 180/796) foundational grammatical legacy in the Arabic intellectual tradition needs to be drastically pruned, if not, in fact, ‘brought down’. Some of the most critical reactions to the book came not from those who read it (or who read substantial chunks of it), but from members of the public who were enticed by its title and engaged, partly because of this enticement, with its circulation in the media and in public fora, where the book was the subject of discussion and debate.8 In the process, these members of the public became unwitting, but active, agents in its further circulation, as happened with Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses in the late 1980s, when it received strong public condemnation from British Muslims, most of whom had probably not read it. However, although an enticing title may enhance the circulation of a book, there is no guarantee that this will, in fact, be the case: ‘The temptation function [of a title] is always present but may prove to be positive, negative or [neutral] depending on the receiver, who does not always conform to the sender's own idea of the addressee’.9 This caveat is important in assessing the impact of a title, but it is not so important in terms of understanding the ideology that titles carry: the temptation or allure of a title may not be equalled by the enticement of its (p.99) text, but this should not matter for our purposes here. A text with an enticing title may not live up to the expectations generated by that title (this is, in fact, the case in regards to al-Shubashi's book), but this does not deem the title an unworthy object of study as to the ideology that it carries and the debates it may ignite and circulate within wider society. In other words, the text may carry mundane or hackneyed meanings, but the title, as a speech act in its own right, may give us important clues about ideology. I say this to warn the reader not to expect that all the books that I cite below match the enticement that their titles seem to promise in terms of their originality or the quality of the arguments they enunciate. Some, in fact, are boringly repetitive – a better term may be reiterative, as I will discuss – as if written to a cultural template or schema, yet their titles offer information on Arabic language ideology that is worthy of scholarly attention.

A second type of paratext is the dedication (ihdā' in Arabic). In spite of the fact that dedications do provide information on Arabic language ideology, this paratextual genre has received very little attention, if any at all, in the literature, owing, in the main, to its liminality and inchoate functionality.10 Readers pay scant attention to dedications, because they consider them to be outside the text. In their traditional role, dedications express a relationship between the author and the dedicatee. Genette declares that:

the dedication is always a matter of demonstration, ostentation, exhibition: it proclaims a relationship, whether intellectual or personal, actual or symbolic, and this proclamation is always at the service of the work, as a reason for elevating the work's standing or as a theme for commentary.11

For our purposes here, we will read dedications in books about Arabic for the ideological information they carry. Most of the dedications of this type that I have come across are addressed to imaginary groups for task-orientation purposes. More specifically, these dedications give us clues about the author's positionality – where he stands in relation to the text – and his intent in authoring it, as the discussion below will demonstrate.

Epigraphs are the third type of paratext that will be utilised here. Epigraphs are quotations that shed light on the text: they may offer clues as to the choice of title, the propositional content of the text, its connotative intent or the kind of affect or task-orientation it is hoped that the text will elicit. Epigraphs can seem enigmatic and their relevance for the text or the title may not be initially possible to decipher until the whole text is read, but this is not always the case. Furthermore, epigraphs may be subject to varying interpretations, and, in some cases, they may be used for decorative purposes only. One of the main functions of epigraphs, however, is to lend support and backing to what the (p.100) author wants to say, to his connotative intent or to the affect that he wishes to create. As Genette, quoting Stendhal, concurs: ‘the epigraph must heighten the reader's feeling, his emotion, if emotion there be, and not present a more or less philosophical opinion about the situation [it deals with]’.12 This is why the epigraphs in texts dealing with Arabic language ideology tend to be quotations from the Qur'an, well-known poetry, Prophetic hadīth or other compositions that have achieved canonical status in Arab culture. Epigraphs from these sources hold significant religious or cultural weight, which the author intends to marshal in support of his text. Quotations from the Qur'an tend to refer to the supreme status of Arabic in Islam and God's promise to protect it by protecting the Qur'an in which it was revealed. Epigraphic ḥadīth materials echo this message or they may refer to the connection between Islam, Arabic and the Arabs. When the Qur'an or ḥadīth are invoked in a text, we can be certain that the ideological trope of defending the language from overt or covert dangers, whether they are internally generated or externally injected, is one of the intents of the text concerned.

Poetry performs similar functions, owing to its high status in Arab culture to this day. Hafiz Ibrahim's (1871–1932) poem, in which Arabic speaks to the Arabs directly, blaming them for neglecting it, is one of the most popular sources for culling epigraphic material in texts dealing with Arabic language ideology. I will deal with this poem at some length in this chapter. Prose quotations are less frequently utilised. One of the most famous compositions in the modern period, however, is Gibran's (1883–1931) famous piece, in which he attacks those language defenders / guardians who oppose opening Arabic to modern developments. I will also deal with this composition later in some detail.

The preface, which may or may not be written by the author, is another type of paratext that can give us clues about the language ideology of the text. A text may have more than one preface. The preface may appear under different titles in Arabic books: iftitāḥ (lit. opening),13 fātiha (lit. beginning),14 istiṭlā' (lit. probing),15 taṣdīr (lit. putting forward),16 (p.101) taqdīm (lit. presentation),17 tamhīd (lit. paving, as in paving the way),18 tawṭi'a (lit. preparation),19 madkhal (lit. entrance),20 muqaddima (lit. front)21 and qabl al-muqaddima (lit. that which precedes the front/introduction).22 The main aim of the preface is to put the reader on the right track, as it were, in respect to how to read the text or, as Genette puts it: ‘this is why and this is how you should read this book’.23 In this respect, the preface acts as a pre-emptive strike against the wrong construal of the illocutionary and task-orientation intent of the author, the implication being that the text may be read in ways that are not intended by the author. A preface is not a road map, but it gives some direction as regards the major routes of interpretation that its author wishes the reader to travel or negotiate.

Paratexts and Language Ideology: An Example

To show how Arabic language ideology is encoded in paratexts, I will discuss this in relation to al-Nahwi's (1998) small, pocket-size book, considering the title, dedication, epigraph and jacket copy, as well as various (p.102) other materials of a paratextual nature. Starting with the title, it is cast as a question: li-Mādhā al-lugha al-‘arabiyya? (Why Arabic?), no doubt to arouse the reader's curiosity (see Figure 3.1). Quoting Lessing, Genette concurs that a: ‘title must be no bill of fare … The less it betrays of the contents, the better’.24 This description of the title applies to al-Nahwi's book. We may go even further and say that this title conforms to Eco's view, quoted in Gennete, that a: ‘title must muddle the reader's ideas, not regiment them’.25 The main function of this title, therefore, is to allure, entice or tempt: it is used to heighten the reader's interest in procuring the book and reading it to find out what the title means and what answers the text provides to the question that the title poses. However, the reader does not come to this title without pre-existing perspectives. In other words, the process of interpreting the title takes place against a specific cultural and ideological schema that shapes or guides the act of interpreting it, before even starting to read the text. As an aside, and although this is accidental, the author's surname, al-Nahwi (lit. the grammarian), creates a connection between its root meaning and concern with grammar (naḥw): in the public imagination, naḥwiyyūn (grammarians) are considered to be masters of Arabic grammar, as well as staunch guardians of the language, protecting it against anything or anyone that is thought to threaten it. On the other hand, some consider them old-fashioned, out of touch and maybe even culturally dangerous. In the same vein, the name of the publisher, Dār al-Nahḥī (Nahwi's House for Publication and Distribution), located in the bottom right-hand corner of the front cover (see Figure 3.1), reproduces the surname of the author of the book, who seems to use it (the publishing house) as a vehicle to publish his own work on a variety of religious topics (a list is provided at the end of the book). However, the connection with grammar in the name of the publishing house lurks under the surface. To establish this, I showed a copy of the book's cover, without the author's surname, to ten university-educated Arabic speakers in Jordan and asked them to guess what al-Naḥwi (within the name of the publisher) referred to. They all answered – no doubt extrapolating from the title of the book – it referred to naḥw (grammar) as the primary specialisation of the publisher. Five respondents said that it may also refer to the publisher's surname, but this was the second answer they gave. The point I wish to draw from this is to emphasise the meandering method of interpretation that the public and readers apply and how this may relate to language ideology in this case.

Let us continue considering this last point by thinking through what pre-emptive/pre-textua, culturally guided interpretations members of the public may make based on the title before reading the text – that is, before they can be categorised as readers in the sense explained above. To get at this, I asked the same ten informants to guess what the book may be about from its (p.103) title – that is, to read the book from its cover in accordance with the popular English proverb. Their answers fell under two headings. The first referred to the special position of Arabic in Arab and Islamic culture and its excellent properties. These are strongly held beliefs among Arabs and Muslims, owing to the link of language with the Qur'an and the rich cultural heritage it gave rise to, as explained in Chapter 2. The second referred to the belief that Arabic is under attack or is being targeted by its enemies, who wish to weaken it, in order to weaken Islam and the Arabs. These two interpretations of the title – picked up from the jacket copy, as I will demonstrate – are supremely ideological in character, responding to the definition of language ideology that I have adopted in this book as a ‘cultural amalgam of ideas about social and linguistic relationships, together with their loading of moral and political interests’.26 The excellence of Arabic is an integral part of a cultural edifice that seeks to create a reciprocal valuation between language and people, wherein excellence in one implies excellence in the other, as we have previously seen in discussions of the (in)imitability principle in Chapter 2. The moral loading of excellence, both socially and linguistically, need little explanation in this expression of Arabic language ideology: they are ultimately about identity and group worth, and they are taken on trust as (almost) articles of faith.

The reference to political interest m the above definition is displayed to its full effect in the second pre-emptive/pre-textual interpretation of the title. The idea that Arabic has enemies and that these enemies will not rest until they weaken the language and what it stands for is a supremely political idea and one that receives diverse articulations in other walks of life in Arab societies, including the political, economic and military spheres. This part of Arabic language ideology (see below) is therefore but a reflection of a more comprehensive ideology of the same kind in Arab societies, no doubt associated with the colonial experience and maybe earlier encounters that go back to the rise of Islam and the Crusades.27 One does not have to read the whole book under consideration here or even most of it in order to decipher these aspects of language ideology. As social constructs, these aspects of language ideology are already in circulation in society; because of this, they constitute the text's horizon of expectation, providing it in this way with regimes of interpretation over which there is common, diachronically rooted authorship, which, in an important epistemological sense, transcends the author's copyright over his book. A member of the public does not need to become a reader of the text, in the sense given above, to get at these aspects of Arabic language ideology or their ramifications in other spheres in society. All he needs to do is to infer, generate or construct meaning by tapping his cultural schemas, as these are encoded in what I have referred to above as invisible or (p.104) covert language ideology. The title, in this sense, acts as a spark, effectively setting an internalised ideological tinderbox alight.

The inside cover page (see Figure 3.2) repeats the same information as the outside cover, but adds, in the top right-hand corner, the expression ilā liqā' al-mu'minīn wa-binā' al-jīl al-mu'min. Although I am not sure what ilā liqā' al-mu'minīn exactly signifies, it may be roughly translated as: ‘Working towards / aiding the unity/ agreement of the believers and building a [young] believing generation’. This expression cannot be a dedication, because the book contains a clearly marked dedication (which I will discuss below). It may, therefore, be a motto of the publishing house, but this is guesswork on my part, since I have not investigated this issue by looking at other books produced by this publisher. However, regardless of the status of this expression in paratextual terms, there is no doubt as to the strong religious colouring it has: the use of the terms al-mu'minīn (believers) and al-mu'min (believer) marks this fact clearly. This colouring initiates a process of casting the title in an Islamic hue, thus giving us a clue as to the ideological path or trajectory of the text. This interpretation is consolidated by the ornate rendering in Arabic of the Islamic formula: ‘In the Name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful’ in Figure 3.3. Figure 3.4 consolidates this interpretation even further: the logo of the publishing house has the name al-Naḥwi perched inside a crescent. The crescent is an Islamic symbol par excellence. It appears in the flags of Algeria, Pakistan, Tunisia and Turkey.

The Islamic impregnation of the title is confirmed and taken to a new level in the dedication (see Figure 3.5). To make the discussion below easy to follow and to give the reader a flavour of the writing, I will provide a translation of the dedication here:


To every Muslim so that he or she will know one of the responsibilities that are incumbent on him or her: the protection of Arabic. This is a duty which God has ordained on all Muslims who will be called to account for it on the Day of Judgement.

To those who call non-Muslims to Islam and to educators so that they know the esteemed place Arabic must occupy in educational curricula to build [a Muslim society], to create a believing generation and to bring about agreement/unity among the believers.

To all Muslim organisations and institutions in the Muslim world, in the East and in the West, and in all corners of the earth so that they assign to Arabic its rightful place in their lectures, publications and publicity.

To all institutions regardless of the work they do so that they assign to Arabic what belongs to it and to confer on it the right status and the dignity it deserves in all their dealings, advertisements, records and such like, all of this in order to defend and support God's religion, the language of God's religion and that of his Prophet, Peace be upon him, in aid of man's future on this earth … and for his salvation in the Hereafter.

(p.105) The dedication is written from a faith perspective, now locating the title in an unquestionably Islamic orbit of interpretation. The audience is defined as a Muslim constituency that has religiously inscribed responsibilities and duties towards Arabic: promoting it in education, public discourse, commercial activity and in official dealings with each other as a prerequisite to defending the faith. By using fuṣḥā Arabic in these and other domains, Muslims will not only be giving expression to the status the language has in doctrinal terms and to the status it ought to have as a living medium of expression, but they will additionally be defending it against an unspecified enemy, who seems to want to weaken it, both religiously and culturally. The umbilical cord joining religion to language in the dedication is a matter of faith and ideology, and it occurs in many of the texts I will discuss below. The ideological thrust in this dedication comes through loud and clear in the use of the two terms ḥimāyat (protection) and yudafi‘ū (to defend), whose aim is to motivate the reader to become active and task-oriented in society, which is conceptualised as a symbolic, if not, in fact, real, battleground between the forces of good and evil. The fact that those addressed in the dedication are an imaginary group adds to the power of this call to symbolic arms: the reader is implicitly enlisted in this group, making him or her personally and morally responsible for defending the language, as suggested by the author. As an expression of language ideology, the dedication combines the ideational with the emotional, but it tilts the balance in favour of the latter. This is why I have described this dedication as a: ‘symbolic call to arms’. Task-orientation must therefore be the main focus of this dedication.

This interpretation of the link between language and faith is picked up again in the epigraph (see Figure 3.6), which al-Nahwi calls iftitāḥ (lit. opening), reminding us of the first chapter of the Qur'an: Fātiḥa. The epigraph contains eight quotations from the Qur'an, which I will give here: ‘We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur'an, in order that you may learn wisdom’ (Qur'an 12:2); ‘Verily this is a Revelation from the Lord of the Worlds. With it came down the Spirit of Faith and Truth to your heart and mind so you may admonish, in the perspicuous Arabic tongue’ (Qur'an 26:192–5 [emphasis added]); ‘A Scripture of which the verses are explained, an Arabic Qur'an for people who have knowledge’ (Qur'an 41:3 [emphasis added]); ‘And verily we have coined for mankind in this Qur'an all kinds of similitudes, that perhaps they may reflect; an Arabic Qur'an containing no crookedness, that perhaps they may ward off (evil)’ (Qur'an 39:27–8 [emphasis added]); ‘Those who disbelieve in the Reminder when it comes to them (are guilty), for it is an unassailable Scripture. Falsehood can come at it from before or from behind it. (It is) a Revelation from the Wise, the Owner of Praise’ (Qur'an 41:41–2); ‘We have not sent you but as a universal (messenger) to men, giving them glad tidings, and warning them (against sin) but most men do not understand’ (Qur'an 34:28); ‘And We know well that they say, “it is a man that teaches him”. The tongue of him who they wickedly point to is notably foreign, while this is Arabic, pure and clear’ (Qur'an 16:103 [emphasis added]); (p.106) and, ‘Thus we have revealed it to be a judgement of authority in Arabic. Were you to follow their (vain) desires after the knowledge which has reached you, then would you find neither protector nor defender against God’ (Qur'an 13:37 [emphasis added]).

Six of the verses translated above refer to the Qur'an directly as an Arabic Qur'an, reminding the reader of the link between faith and language in Islam in an unequivocal way. This epigraph serves two functions here. On the one hand, it provides the strongest possible backing in Arab and Islamic culture to the connection between language and faith. The authority of the Divine Voice is marshalled in aid of the text to give it backing and authority. On the other hand, the epigraph is intended to work on the reader emotionally, so as to heighten the feeling that the defence of the language is a defence of faith. It therefore underlines the author's message that the fate of Arabic is an individual responsibility that each Muslim will have to account for when facing God on the Day of Judgement. Motivation and task orientation are at the heart of this epigraph, revealing its task-orientation purpose as a speech act. We may add another point here. These six verses are the ones that we have come across in discussions of the inimitability of the Qur'an, insofar as it relates to shu‘ūbiyya. The connectedness of the present with the past will not be lost on some readers, who can discern this link without too much effort or knowledge of past history.

The connection between the past and the present is an aspect of language ideology in most cultures and nationalisms. The connection between faith and language is subject to ideological manipulation in nation-building. The public can access these two ideological impulses easily, because of their normative nature in society. And they – the public – can do so without having to read the text or even any portion of it – that is, without becoming readers in the sense explained above. All the public have to do is to activate the religious, cultural and ideological frames of reference that they have internalised through education and socialisation. It is in this sense that language ideology can be most effective, because it does not draw attention to itself as a covert force in society. Repetition of these and other impulses of Arabic language ideology – some of which I will discuss below – is a matter of recursive circulation or reiteration, rather than, strictly speaking, repetition in the technical sense. Reiteration, as a form of self-perpetuating recursivity, gives continued life to a language ideology, while, at the same time, establishing it as a norm similar in its affective force to the predictive power of the laws of nature. Herein exist the basis – epistemologically bogus, no doubt – that normative Arabic language ideology is not construction, but a statement of fact that is self-evident, as if it was a category of nature. Constant reiteration will be needed to ensure that what is thought to be self-evident remains so. Considering the reiterative and recursive as repetitive in language ideology is to miss the point, because it fails to capture the intent behind the formalism of repetition.

Let us now consider the jacket copy in al-Nahwi's book (see Figure 3.7). (p.107) This copy consolidates, with some modulations, the above language ideology by expanding on the tropes of protection and defence encountered earlier in the dedication. I will translate this jacket copy below, so as to discuss these tropes further:

The enemies [of Arabic and Islam] have understood the importance of Arabic and its significant place in Islam as well as its role in understanding God's Book [Qur'an] and the Traditions [Sunna] of his Apostle (peace be upon him: pbuh). One of their most important assaults [muḥāwala] was to try to weaken the bond [sila] between the Muslim and his Arabic language, weaken his commitment to stick to it and fielding strange and suspect ideas that will turn him away from the language of his religion / faith and his mission in life. These assaults / attempts lasted centuries, needed great effort and displayed relentless perseverance. There were ideas to change the grammatical rules wholly or in part. There were ideas to change the Arabic script and orthographic rules. And there were ideas to change [the composition/prosody] of Arabic poetry. These attempts and plans were part of the methods and plans that these enemies have prepared to invade the Muslim World and to destroy, among other things, its faith and human resources.

[However], God Almighty has pledged to preserve the Reminder [dhikr] that He revealed to His Apostle and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). This means that He has pledged to preserve His religion, His Qur'an and that of His Apostle and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), His Arabic language which is the vessel (wi‘ā’) of the Reminder in its totality, including its eloquence [bayān] and its substance [māddatahu] as is mentioned in the Qur'an (15:9): ‘We, even We, reveal the Reminder, and We verily are its Guardian’.

This [whole thing] is a trial [ibtilā'] from God Almighty to test His faithful believers, to find out who among them will honour the promise and the trust, and who will take the cause of His religion, the language of His Qur'an and the Traditions of His Prophet (pbuh) and who will lag behind [yatawānā] or weave conspiracies [yudabbir]. This trial will follow God's appointed ways which will come to pass, revealing His wisdom and supreme command [qadar ghālib].

This paratext does not specify who the enemies of Arabic and Islam are: the jacket copy talks about ‘the enemies’ (al-‘a‘dā’) as if they were a known category who the public can identify without help from the author. This notion of the enemy, whether insider or outsider, is a given in this kind of discourse, by virtue of being part of what is considered to be self-evident. The enemies' aim of attacking, weakening and dismantling Arabic and Islam is another given of this discourse. The public need not to be convinced of it: the idea that there are all sorts of conspiracies and conspirators, both inside and outside, is already lodged in the public's mind as a given of their ideological schema.28 Furthermore, the enemy is conceptualised as implacable and (p.108) persistent in his efforts. This idea resonates with the public's view of how the enemy works: he does not give up easily. Ideas of changing Arabic grammar, prosody, script and orthographic rules are examples of this work, which, implicitly, cannot be considered legitimate reforms. This portion of the jacket copy may not be part of the public's common knowledge, but the public would not question its validity, because it builds on other givens in their ideological schema. If the base is regarded as self-evident, there is a tendency in ideological debates to think of what is built on this base as self-evident by association. Arabic and Islam are treated here as intertwined facets of Muslim life: an attack on one is an attack on the other, although the primary interest here is the language. Until now, the jacket copy has been concerned with the attack side of the language ideological battle.

The metaphor of protection, which will be dealt with at length below in discussing the war trope, comes in the second paragraph. The main idea here is to assure the public that God will fulfil His pledge to protect the Qur'an and, through it, He will also protect the language in which the Qur'an is revealed. Qur'an 15:9 in the jacket copy is part of the repertoire of the Arabic-speaking Muslim. The invocation of this verse is intended to let the public know that God is on the side of those who defend Arabic and (p.109) His religion, so they need not worry, because no power is greater than God Almighty's power. A modulation of this trope is then offered in the last paragraph: the public must act as part of God's design. The attack against Arabic is a trial, whose aim is to test the resolve and commitment of the believers and establish who among them will fulfil the pledge that is incumbent upon them in defending Islam and Arabic. This last idea uses the key expressions – ibtilā', yumaḥḥiṣa 'ibādihi and yīfḥ bi-l-'ahd – that are readily reminiscent of verses in the Qur'an. The Muslim is always under trial as part of God's eternal scheme for the believers who will eventually triumph. This last idea is part of a Muslim's belief; consequently, the public, who are envisaged to be Muslim, need no convincing on this score, as what the jacket copy states must be self-evident. The second and third paragraphs are, therefore, a symbolic call to arms: they are intended to motivate task-orientation in the public sphere. Those who rise in defence of Arabic and Islam will not be on their own. They will engage in this endeavour according to a pre-set plan ordained by God, whose support they will enjoy in the knowledge that they will win their fight, in spite of all the trials and tribulations that they are bound to endure.

Like a coiled spring, the jacket copy reiterates the language ideology in the dedication and epigraph and, recursively, moves it forward on a predetermined path. It expands on the notion of attack and defence, giving examples of the former within a schema that sees the attack on language as an attack on faith and vice versa. For task orientation, the jacket copy tells members of the intended public that the attack has to be repulsed and that, for motivational effect, they will not be on their own in repulsing it. When the battle is joined, God will be with them and on their side all the way. And to ease their pain, it describes the battle as a divinely ordained trial carried out to test their resolve and prove their commitment. It must be clear from this that the jacket copy operates at heightened task-orientation pitch in a manner intended to mediate the distance between words and action with great intensity. In attempting to do this, the jacket copy trades on freely circulating items of language ideology in society to such an extent that the line separating author from public is traversed imperceptibly, calling into question the right of the author to be the sole author over the propositional substance, not words, of the content in the intellectual transaction. On the surface and legally speaking, al-Nahwi's book is published by al-Nahwi: he has copyright to it. At a deeper level, the authorship is complex: society shares in this act of authorship through its language ideology, which the jacket copy picks up, closely reflects on and circulates back into society in a recursive process, which propels the wheels of reiteration. From an Islamic perspective, this process of language ideology circulation is consistent with the rise and continued impact of Islamic-inflected politics in the Arab and Muslim worlds over the last two decades of the twentieth century and the opening decade of the twenty-first century. This context does not just encourage the reiteration of this ideology and its circulation in society, but produces dense channels (p.110) for its communication through the media, the mosque and other forms and avenues of association, giving it greater currency and intensity in the social world.

Poetry and Language Ideology

Poetry is another site for the circulation of language ideology in society. This is not surprising, considering the importance of poetry in Arab cultural life since pre-Islamic times. Furthermore, poetry had a special link with grammar in the formative decades of the Arabic intellectual tradition. The early Arab grammarians used it as a fairly open corpus, from which data could be culled in developing grammatical theory.29 In this respect, poetry was second only to the Qur'an in importance. In addition to this, poetry has been employed to comment on the role of Arabic in nation-building, intra-group conflict resolution and in task-orientation in these two endeavours. Sharkey's study of the role of poetry in Sudanese nationalism in the first half of the twentieth century is an example of this trend in Arab cultural politics. The same is true of Iraq and Palestine.30 I can give examples from other Arab countries, but this would take us outside the current scope of this study.

However, by way of an overview, I will refer to the three major functions of poetry in the nationalist paradigm: reinforcement, legitimisation and inspiration. Reinforcement aims at using the past to cull symbols and capture moments of glory, which the poet deploys to give the nation reasons to be proud of who it is. In this regard, modern Arabic poetry continues an old tradition, wherein the poet acts as the mouthpiece and defender of his tribe or group. Poetic compositions of this kind play a motivational role in society by turning the past, which is both to be emulated and surpassed, into a springboard for future action. Legitimisation is intended to lend validity to the claims of the nation and its pedigree, so that it can move forward in an assured way. Inspiration is linked to task-orientation: it works through affect, resonance and impact. This function comes to the fore at times of (p.111) active conflict, when the nation seems to be in peril or is thought to have come under attack, either materially or symbolically, from the outside or the inside. In performing these functions, poetry can exploit the symbolic power of language as a marker of the nation.

When used in this way, language displays its two functions to full effect: that of a symbol and that of an instrument of communication. When language as an instrument comments on language as a symbol, we may refer to this kind of engagement as meta-linguistic discourse. This kind of discourse has a long history in Arab intellectual life, dating back to the early days of the Arabic grammatical tradition, when what were thought to be the excesses of the grammarians came under attack, as will be discussed at length below. This kind of meta-discourse has also been deployed in pedagogic grammars, which aim to teach the facts of Arabic grammar through extended poetic compositions, the best known examples of which are Ibn Malik's Alfiyya and Ibn Adjjurrum's (d. 723/1323) al-Ājjurrūmiyya.31 Anti-Shu'ūbiyya poets used poetry meta-discursively – for example, the grammarian al-Zamakhshari (d. 538/1143), whom we encountered in Chapter 2.32 In this section, I will deal with Hafiz Ibrahim's well-known poem on the (imagined) state of Arabic. The main focus will be on the language ideology that this poem evinces, supported by similar expressions of language ideology from other poems on the same topic.

I have chosen this poem for analysis for two reasons. First, because of the canonical nature of this poem in modern Arabic poetry, which made it a popular source of epigraphs in books on Arabic to the extent that the mere mention of two words from it can trigger the intent of the whole poem for educated Arabic speakers. This is the case in one epigraph, among others, where the two words anā al-baḥr (‘I am the sea’)33 immediately recall this poem,34 even if the rest of the epigraph may not seem to completely follow the language ideology of the original: thawra 'alā al-‘arabiyya al-qā'ima, wa-binā' li-'arabiyya jadūda (‘a revolution against Arabic as it is these days to build a new Arabic’).35 This act of appropriation signifies the importance of this poem. I will discuss another such act in my treatment of the war trope in Arabic language ideology later.

(p.112) Second, the discussion is intended to underline the importance of poetry in Arab culture in discussing issues related to language in its multifarious dimensions, including language ideology, which is the main focus here. As I have argued elsewhere,36 the excessive attention to the aesthetics of poetry in critical theory, coupled with the narrowing of disciplinary horizons in empirical terms37 in the sociology of language or sociolinguistics and in political studies, have militated against the use of poetry as a source of information on language in society, including language ideology. While I am aware of the methodological hazards of including poetry in the empirical domain, the exclusion of poetry in studying language ideology not only deprives us of important information on this topic, but it also removes from consideration the role of poetry in circulating language ideology in society, as well as its importance in generating affect, motivation and task-orientation, which are hallmarks of all ideologies. In this respect, it would be interesting to survey the circulation of Ibrahim's poem in the education field through school curricula (formally and informally), the media, the Internet, other poetic compositions and debates on language in society as an example of the circulation of language ideology. Although this is not a task to which I can attend here, based on my scholarly and field expertise in the education sector in the Arab world, I have little doubt of the currency of this poem or at least parts of it among Arabic speakers of high school and university level.

Poetry and Language Ideology: An Example

Let me begin by first providing a translation of Ibrahim's twenty-three lined poem before discussing the language ideology that it promulgates.38 The poem was composed and published in 1903, presaging a period – the first two decades of the twentieth century – during which discussions of language and nationalism were at their highest in Egypt. I am thinking here of the attempts to define Egyptian national identity in an Egypt-centric way, which sought to reduce the significance of the links of language and culture that Egypt had with other Arabic-speaking countries. Whether this was to be done by narrowing the gap between fuṣḥā Arabic and the dialect(s) or (p.113) by calling for the replacement of the former with the latter, language was a subject of debate in the political and cultural scene at the time.

The Arabic Language Laments/Bewails its Fortune among its People

  1. 1) I examined my case and so accused those who level charges against me,

    I called upon my people and reckoned and wondered my fate

  2. 2) They accused me of being barren in my youth, how I wish

    I was but I have not been frightened by what my enemies have been saying

  3. 3) I gave birth, but when I couldn't find for my daughters

    Suitable suitors, I buried them alive

  4. 4) I was able to express God's Divine word, in form and meaning

    And never felt unable to express His verses and lessons

  5. 5) So how could I be unable to describe man-made machines

    And finding the right name for the right invention?

  6. 6) I am a sea in whose depths pearls are hidden

    So have they [you] asked the diver about my oyster pearls?

  7. 7) Woe unto you! I am in decline and my fine attributes are getting shabby

    The medication is dear and you are the source of my pain

  8. 8) Do not trust my fate to time for I fear

    For you if my death is nigh

  9. 9) I see men in the West revel in glory and pride

    A nation will have dignity only when their language enjoys the same

  10. 10) Men in the West have brought miracles to their people

    How I wish you would just coin new words to match

  11. 11) Are you moved by a croaking voice from the West

    Calling for burying me alive while still in my youth?

  12. 12) Were you to drive away [this] bird [of doom and gloom] one day, you would know

    What impediments and fragmentation it hides

  13. 13) May God revive the bones of those outstanding men in the belly of the

    Arabian Peninsula who would be loathe to see my spears go limp

  14. 14) These bones have retained my friendship in what remains of them

    And I have retained my friendship for them with a heart that is for ever in pain

  15. 15) I have vied in glory with these decomposed bones, in East and West,

    Doing so with humility

  16. 16) Every day I see in the newspapers a slippery slope

    Bringing me closer to my grave in haste

  17. 17) I hear writers in Egypt clamouring

    And I know that those who are shouting loud are announcing my death

  18. 18) Are my people, May God forgive them, leaving me

    To a language with no pedigree?

  19. 19) The pollution of the foreigners [European colonisers] runs through it

    As the poison of a snake runs in the Euphrates

  20. 20) So it appears like a dress with seventy patches

    Of different and diverse colours

  21. (p.114) 21) To the community of writers at their full assembly

    I extend my request following my complaint

  22. 22) Either give me a life that revives the dead from decomposition

    And makes my remains sprout in those graves

  23. 23) Or a death from which there is no resurrection

    A death the likes of which there is none.

This poem contains many of the themes that recur in Arabic language ideology. First, the idea that fuṣḥā Arabic has pedigree is a given of this ideology; in this respect, fuṣḥā Arabic is different from the dialects (lughātin lam tattaṣil bi-ruwāti, line 18), which, additionally, are said or believed to have been polluted by the importation of terms and turns of phrase from foreign Western languages. The injection of Western influence is described as poison (lu'āb al-afā'ī fī masīli furāti, line 19) that, we assume, will eventually kill the language. Second, the strongly held belief that fuṣḥā Arabic has the resources to deal with scientific advances is reiterated, citing as support Arabic's capacity to deal with these advances in the past and how it has been able to express the message of God's revelation (wa-si'tu kitāba Allāhi lafẓan zva-ghāyatan, 14). No doubt referring to the lexical domain, fuṣḥā Arabic is described as a sea that is full of pearls, which are waiting to be picked (anā al-baḥru fī aḥshā'ihi al-durru kāminun, line 6). Third, the poem links the strength of a people with the strength of their language (wa kam 'azza aqzvāmun bi-'izzi lughāti, line 9), pointing out that this is the case in the West. The reference to the West here is intended to shame the Arabs and, at the same time, to motivate them to emulate the West in its attitudes towards its languages. Catching up with the West – as the Arabs want to do – implies copying the ways of the West in matters of language. This imperative adds to the motivation which the past glory of Arabic demands of its speakers. Fourth, the poem reiterates the belief that fuṣḥā Arabic is in a state of perilous decline (arā fī kulli yawmin fī al-jarā'idi mazlaqan mina al-qabri, line 16), as is exemplified by its poor use in the press media – this being a perennial complaint in Arabic language ideology to this day. This theme has been expanded in current language ideological discourse to include all forms of the media, including electronic media and the Internet.

The underlying theme in this poem and what, in fact, gives it its appeal and continued popularity is the attitude that it displays towards the above ideological themes: it is written as a complaint and rebuke, in which the language: (1) complains about being neglected by its own people (fa-lā takilūnī li-l-zamān, line 8); and (2) rebukes them for neglecting it (fa-yā wayḥakum, line 7). In decoding these two purposes (aghrāḍ), the poem reveals the morally challenging relationship between the language and its own people (ahlihā, as in the title, and qawmī, as in line 1). As a personified object, the language feels it has every right to complain and rebuke, not because of any concerns it may selfishly have about its own ‘personal’ fate, but because of the impact of this fate upon the people that it implicitly cares about, in spite of their (p.115) less than commendable attitude and behaviour towards it. It is not surprising, therefore, that fuṣḥā Arabic is depicted as a mother who wants the best for her daughters: suitors of equal status (wa lammā lam ajid li-‘ar’āisī rijālan, line 3), whose non-existence or dearth has forced her to bury those daughters alive, following the (reprehensible) practice of the Arabs in pre-Islamic times (wa‘dtu banātī, line 3). By naming and shaming Arabic speakers, fuṣḥā Arabic, as a personified object, aims to impel these speakers to act before it is too late. As a speech act, the overall purpose of the poem is one of motivation and task-orientation: it lies in the perlocutionary domain. However, what makes the poem especially effective in delivering its message is that it makes Arabic speak on behalf of itself. After all, the language cannot trust its people, for the reasons that it outlines, to speak on its behalf, since they are ill-equipped to do so, both attitudinally and in terms of their faulty linguistic behaviour. Furthermore, by making fushā Arabic speak on its behalf in a way that exploits the symbolism of the language as a marker of identity, the poem draws attention to the instrumentality of language, highlighting, in the process, its effectiveness as an instrument in a way that decries its defective instrumentalisation among Arabic speakers. What we have here, therefore, is a multi-layered exploitation of fuṣḥā Arabic in the ideological domain: (1) Arabic as a personified object; (2) uses Arabic as an instrument; (3) to talk about the state of this instrument; (4) and the symbolism it carries in society; (5) as well as the defective use of this instrument by its speakers. This is an excellent example of discursive reflexivity or what I have called meta-linguistic discourse in language ideology: it contains four layers (2–5) of meta-discursivity, in addition to the initiating frame, marked as (1) above.

This poem, being one of the earliest of its kind on the topic (at least that I know of), has set a path for similar poems, which pick up some items of the language ideology that it enunciates. This is done in the titles of some of the poems that belong to this genre – for example, Ibḥār fīa‘māq al-lugha (Sailing in the Depth of Arabic by 'Abd al-Rahman al-‘Ashmawi)39 and al-‘arabiyya tashkūi abnā'ahā (Arabic Complains about its Sons and Daughters by Walid Qassab).40 Many of these poems parody Ibrahim's poem in ideological content. As an example, let us consider one aspect of what ‘Adnan’ Ali Rida al-Nahwi says in his poems Lughatī al-jamīla (My Beautiful Language).41 I will translate lines 15–18 from this poem, so as to illustrate this influence (the poet is speaking here):

  1. 1) I am astonished, why have my people left their language and run

    In pursuit of [a language] with low aims and the tramps [who promote it]

  2. 2) They have not adopted a good rational thought

    From the West, nor have they adopted knowledge that will grow and advance

  3. (p.116) 3) Instead they have adopted a twisted tongue

    Although God has gifted them a beautiful and balanced language

  4. 4) Woe unto them! They (the dialects) have replaced clarity of expression with a stammer,

    And they (the dialects) have replaced their rich eloquence with error.

These lines reiterate the point established in Ibrahim's poem – that the Arabs are ‘abandoning’ their language in favour of the dialects or foreign and Western languages, in spite of the fact that fuṣḥā Arabic, in comparison with these alternative tongues, is rich in clarity and eloquence. Moreover, the attitude that pervades these lines is one of complaint and rebuke in line with Ibrahim's poem. Instead of imitating the West in its rational thought and promotion of scientific knowledge, the Arabs are upbraided for playing havoc with their language. Some of these impulses in Arabic language ideology occur in other poems in this meta-discursive genre. In his poem Wāqi' al-ḍādd fī al-umma (‘The State of the Language of al-Ḍādd in the Arab Nation’),42 'Allai al-Fasi43 picks up the theme of the ability of fuṣḥā Arabic to express the message of God's revelation: man ghayruhā fī lughāti al-arḍi qādiratan, 'alā adā'i kalāmi Allāhi (‘Which other language on this earth is capable of expressing God's speech’, line 15). He then uses Ibrahim's ‘sea metaphor’ to refer to the lexical richness of the language: wa innahā al-baḥru zakhkhārun bi-bāṭinihi, mina al-jawāhiri mā yazhū bihi al-abadu (‘It is a sea whose belly is brimming to the full, with jewels that can adorn time unto eternity’, line 1.19). This same ‘sea metaphor’ is used by 'Abd al-‘Aziz Safi al-Jil in his poem Lughatī shamsu al-lughāt (‘My Language is the Sun to all Languages’): lughatī ka-baḥrin minhu tazkhuru abḥuru (‘My language is a sea of seas’, line l).44 Later in the poem, the poet refers to the lexical richness of the language: la al-ṭibbu a‘jazahā wa-laysa muhandisun illā wa-qad a‘ṭathu mā yatakhayyaru (‘She [fushā] Arabic was not cowed by the demands made on it by medicine/medical science, and there is not an engineer to whom she did not offer a choice’, line 13). Ibrahim's sea metaphor is further used by 'Abd al-Rahim Mahmud in his poem al-Ḍādd azvzval ḥā'iṭ wa-di'ām (‘The Language of al-Ḍādd is the First Wall and Bulwark’).45 In line 14, the poet obliquely refers to this metaphor: al-durru fī ṭayyi al-buḥuri mukhabba‘un (‘Pearls are hidden in the crevices of its [Arabic] seas’, line 14).

These and other poems and references, which, for reasons of space I cannot deal with here, underscore the thesis that poetry is a rich site for culling information on Arabic language ideology in Arab culture. These references further reveal how language ideology can circulate through this (p.117) site, reiterating units of this ideology from poet to poet, both intra-and inter-generationally, across the Arab world, for enhanced dissemination. At the heart of these poetic compositions are affect, motivation and task-orientation. These and similar poems are intended to invoke the legacy of the past and point to the challenges of the present, doing so through a register of remonstration, rebuke and elegiac enunciation. These registers, embedded in well-known poetic frames, ‘itāb and rithā’ respectively, are familiar to Arab readers and members of the public, who can activate their cultural schemata of these frames for added impact, which can lead to the intensification of meaning and attitudinal orientation on their part. This is where poetry is an especially effective and affective carrier of language ideology in Arab culture. And this is why I call for the integration of it more fully in any study of the social life of Arabic, one of the most important parts of which is Arabic language ideology.

The canonical nature of Ibrahim's poem and its circulation in the twenty-first century is evident from its presence on the Internet. A quick trawl of the Internet revealed the following titles for this poem: (1) al-‘Arabiyya tashkū abnā'ahā (‘Arabic Complains about its Sons [and Daughters]’);46 (2) al-‘Arabiyyatu tashkū ḥālahā (‘Arabic Complains about its Fate’);47 (3) al-‘Arabiyyutu tashkū al-hujrān (‘Arabic Complains of Abandonment’);48 (4) al-‘Arabiyyutu tashkū al-‘arab (‘Arabic Complains about the Arabs’);49 (5) al-‘Arabiyyutu tashkū muwjjihīhā (‘Arabic Complains about Arabic Language School Inspectors’);50 (6) al-‘Arabiyyatu tashkū 'uqūq abm'ihā (‘Arabic Complains about its Sons [and Daughters]’ Recalcitrance [towards their Mother]’);51 (7) al-‘Arabiyyutu tashkū ahlahā fa-man min sami‘? (‘Arabic Complains about its People: Will They Listen?’);52 (8) al-lughatu al-‘arabiyyatu tudāfi‘ 'an nafsihā (‘The Arabic Language Defends itself’);53 (9) al-Lughatu al-‘arabiyyatu tatahaddath 'an nafsihā wa tashkü li-hālihā (‘The Arabic Language talks about itself and Complains about its Fate’);54 (10) al-Lughatu al-‘arabiyyatu tashkū al-jafā' (‘The Arabic Language Complains of being (p.118) Shunned/Alienated’);55 (11) al-Lughatu al-‘arabiyyatu tashkū jafa‘a abnā'ihā (‘The Arabic Language Complains about the Antipathy of/being Shunned by its Sons [and Daughters]’);56 (12) al-Lughatu al-‘arabiyyatu tukhāãtibukum (‘The Arabic Language is Addressing You’);57 and al-Lughatu al-‘arabiyyatu tantaḥib kull yawm bi-sababikum (‘The Arabic Language Wails Every Day Because of You’).58

The fact that different people feel that they can suggest different titles for Ibrahim's poem is indicative of its continued resonance into the present day. Some of the titles direct the complaint that Arabic makes at its sons and daughters or at the Arabs as a whole. By referring to sons and daughters or children (the word abnā'ahā occurs three times above), the titles underline the role of Arabic as a ‘mother language or tongue’, which expression is no longer just a stock term of the kind that we find in modern linguistics, but one of live, metaphorical flesh and blood. This conceptualisation strikes a deep moral chord in Arab and Islamic cultures, because of the revered position of maternity (and paternity) in these cultures. Title six brings this connection to the surface through the term ‘uqūq (disobedience), which invariably triggers a morally loaded connection with wālidayn (parents) in Arabic in a way that reflects very badly on the children.59 In this context, the children are accused of antipathy in their treatment of their mother (the word jafā’ occurs in two titles): this is a morally serious charge. In one title, Arabic complains about the Arabic language school inspectors, presumably because they have failed to protect and promote the language in the educational sector. In making this complaint, the title propels the poem right into heated, ideologically impregnated debates about the poor standards of Arabic in schools, which is invariably attributed to the dominance of the colloquials and the lure of foreign languages. In one title (title 12), the poem addresses the Arab readers pointedly (tukhāṭtibukum) in a manner that puts them directly in the firing line as the guilty party.60 More flesh is put on this interpretation in title 13: Arabic bewails her fate every day, because of what you, its Arab readers, have done (p.119) to it. This is a direct accusation, which, when made by a mother, has great moral force, regardless of whether it is justified or not.

As baptismal acts of designation, the new titles are, in effect, acts of appropriation, which suggest that Ibrahim's poem continues, more than 100 years after its initial publication, to speak to different audiences through a network of overlapping interpretations in the service of one overarching purpose: that of task-orientation, which is an integral part of any language ideology. By so doing, these baptismal acts of appropriation enhance the circulation of the poem and the Arabic language ideology that it carries by exploiting the reach of new media to new generations in an expanding circle of motherhood. The titles above are intended to entice, in order to deliver their message, which they do through emotional appeals, acting to induce in the public and readers feelings of shame and guilt. These feelings are cast in a moral framework, which is dominated by deep-rooted cultural and religious impulses that need little prompting to be activated and brought to bear on the situations to which they relate. Here, Arabic language ideology is not presented in a detached or dry manner as a theme in an argument, but as a ‘flesh and blood’ matter, in which the mother-child relationship carries morally sanctioned obligations from the latter towards the former. Language ideology is perhaps most effective when it is deployed in the court of emotional appeal, as is clearly the case here.

Tropes of Arabic Language Ideology: The Crisis Trope

The above exploration of Arabic language ideology through paratexts and poetry highlights some of the tropes in which this ideology is encoded. The tropes of neglect, crisis, attack and defence are paramount narrative strands in this language ideology, but they are not the only ones, as I will explain below. The idea of individual responsibility is embedded in this ideology: Arabs as individuals have a direct responsibility to defend the language and breathe new life into it through committed linguistic behaviour. In the remaining part of this chapter, I will deal with some of the major tropes of Arabic language ideology. As understood here, a language ideology trope is a figurative use of an expression that has currency in talk about a given language – in this case, Arabic. Tropes act as headings under which ideas and metaphors about language ideology coalesce. Their instrumental value, therefore, is one of designation and taxonomy. Serving in this capacity, language ideology tropes are non-discrete entities: they overlap with each other to form a network that helps map a society's perspective on its language.

Tropes of language ideology may have cross-cultural currency as frames of classification, but they do not necessarily have to share the same content. And in spite of the differences that these tropes may exhibit in different societies, they are most probably driven by a variety of factors, including language anxiety and task-orientation, as impulses of wider symptoms and projects in society. Celebratory tropes abound in all of the language ideologies (p.120) that I know of, occurring under such headlines as beauty, excellence, richness, logicality and musicality, which, in the literature, are called language myths.61 1 will not deal with celebratory (of the in-group) or deprecatory (of the out-group) tropes here. Instead, I will focus on a small set of in-group tropes in Arabic language ideology that respond to the idea of the ‘fray’ in the title of this book. The first of these tropes is that of ‘crisis’.

The crisis trope occurs in the titles of books dealing with different aspects of the Arabic language situation in the modern world. In some cases, this trope is marked directly by the Arabic word ‘azma’, which means ‘crisis’ or ‘emergency’. Cognate words listed in Hans Wehr's A Dictionary of Modem Arabic (1980) are ‘azama’ (to become critical, come to a head) and ‘ma‘zūm’ (victim of a crisis). Hans Wehr does not list the word azma in its medical sense to refer to ‘asthma’, although this meaning is important in understanding this language ideology trope: the constriction in the linguistic air pipes of the language results in the loss of the oxygen flow that it needs to live and prosper, making it less fit for purpose. Examples of book titles where the crisis trope is overtly marked are: Azmat al-muṣṭalah al-‘arabī fī al-qarn al-tāsi″ashar (The Crisis of Arabic Terminology in the Nineteenth Century);62 Azmat al-ta‘nb (The Crisis of Arabisation/Arabicisation);63 Azmat al-lugha al-‘arabiyya fī al-maghrib bayna ikhtilālāt al-ta‘addudiyya wa-ta‘aththurat al-tarjama (The Crisis of the Arabic Language in Morocco between the Disorder of Plurilingualism and the Pitfalls of ‘Translation’);64 and al-Tārīkh al-fikrï li-azmat al-lugha al-‘arabiyya (The Intellectual History of the Crisis of the Arabic Language).65 The same term occurs in c. 1550 items on the Arabic language that I found on al-Jazeera's website, some as inter-titles in transcripts of news reports.66 The same trope is deployed in the press media, too, both in common parlance on the language and in highbrow publications aimed at the non-specialists.67 A (p.121) content analysis of a selected corpus of writings on Arabic would be needed to establish the frequency and currency of this trope, but I will not undertake this here for reasons of space.

In some cases, the crisis trope is obliquely invoked. An example of this is Inqādh al-lugha al-‘arabiyya, inqādh al-huwiyya: taḥwīr al-lugha al-‘arabiyya (Rescuing the Arabic Language, Rescuing [Arab] Identity: Developing the Arabic Language),68 the implication here being that Arabic is in crisis, from which it needs to be rescued. This inference is supported by the mention of the term azma twice in the jacket copy of this book. This copy offers us a glimpse of what the crisis trope consists of; because of this, I will translate it below, before proceeding to discuss aspects of it:

Arab identity in our time is experiencing a devastating crisis (azma ṭāḥina) that is being made even more critical by its enemies, with witting or unwitting support from some of its children. Should this crisis (azma) be left to fester, it will lead to disfiguring the nation's past, cast doubt on its worth in the present and spread despair about its future in ways that will lead to dismantling its civilizational structure.

Arabic is an important pickax in the hand of those who wish to destroy this identity. By the same token, it is an effective instrument in the hand of those who want to preserve this identity. Has not the revival of the Hebrew language helped her children to gather together, end their Diaspora and build their state? Has not careful scientific planning helped the francophone movement to preserve the influence of French culture in the world even after the dissolution of the French Empire? Is it possible for knowledge to take root in a nation's soil except through its national language? Is Arabic a frozen language that can defy all means to reform the way it is taught, keeping it unable to meet the needs of modern times?

To what extent will the dangerous path we are embarked on lead in the direction of Westernisation and estrangement than that of Arabisation?

According to this jacket copy, a crisis of the Arabic language is a crisis of Arab identity, as the title page also makes clear (see Figure 3.8). The copy alludes to the accusation or view that Arabic is a frozen or fossilised language that cannot be rescued by advances in pedagogy. Because of this, Arabic is said to be unfit to handle the communicative demands of modernity. These views make the language an instrument of destruction (hadm), rather than one of construction (binā’) in civilisational terms. They are also said to lead the Arab nation away from the path of Arabisation, by creating new terminologies, to that of Westernisation, by adopting foreign languages and foreign terms. This language-cum-identity crisis in Arab societies is said to be nurtured by external enemies and aided and abetted by members of the Arab nation, who (p.122) do so wittingly or unwittingly. This situation is said to differ from that pertaining in Hebrew, wherein the language was revived and used as a means of gathering the Jews of the diaspora as a first step towards establishing their state. It is also different from the situation of the French language, which, through careful planning, has retained its influence in the world, in spite of the dissolution of the French Empire, which promoted it on the world stage during the colonial period. These two comparisons are intended to rub salt into the Arabs’ linguistic wounds. The mere mention of these examples is intended to say to the Arabs the following: Look at what your enemies have done on behalf of and through their languages and learn from them. Only by amending your ways and emulating their example will you be able to avoid the fate that awaits your language and, willy-nilly, your civilisation as a nation. Let it be known that scientific progress cannot be secured if it does not use the indigenous language as its medium.

As a paratext, the jacket copy operates in the court of emotional appeal. One expects the text of the book to go beyond this appeal and to do the intellectual legwork of providing a precise diagnosis of the crisis facing Arabic – this, the text does not do. Similarly, the text does not present a description of the cure for rescuing Arabic from its crisis. What we have here, therefore, is no more than a reiterative discursive act that circulates and keeps alive aspects of the dominant language ideology in Arab society. There is no innovation here, but there is purpose: the public need to be constantly reminded of this ideology to ensure that it maintains its position in the public sphere, wherein it has become an article of faith, socially speaking. This is effectively done, paratextually, through tropes that resonate with matrix ideologies in society by exploiting the feelings of anxiety and shame and the moral hazards of complicity or negligence. Behind all of this lies the ever-present desire to motivate and task-orient: Arabic speakers need to stand up, linguistically, and be counted.

This attention to task-orientation in Arabic language ideology characterizes the preface which the famous Egyptian scholar Shawqi Dyaf69 wrote for al-Minawi's book: Azmat al-ta‘rīb (The Crisis of Arabisation).70 This is what Dayf says about the book:

[This book] is addressed to the readers as a fully-fledged result (thamara nāḍija, literally ‘ripe fruit') of the author's experience [in the medical field] … by which he wishes to awaken their minds and strengthen their resolution (yashḥadh alhimam) so that the sons and daughters of Arabic will spring forth to promote their language, treat her against the weakness that has struck her, and offer her the right medication against the diseases which have afflicted her for no fault of (p.123) her own, but because her people have not given her the respect it deserves nor offered her the attention and care it is worthy of.71

Task-orientation is intended to be made effective here, because Arabic is treated as a living mother who suffers from ill health and the neglect of her children, putting her health and life at great risk. The book is therefore both an appeal to action and a specification of the medicine to be prescribed. Task-orientation, in this context, is presented as a matter of life and death of a mother who is guilty of nothing, but is paying the price of her children's actions in a reversal of the Biblical proverb, wherein the linguistic sins of the children are visited upon their mother. This culturally and religiously inscribed appeal of language ideology is couched in an idiom of emotions, duties and responsibilities to make it effective.

Related to the crisis trope is the metaphor of suicide, which is pressed into service in Arabic language ideology to highlight the depth of the crisis facing Arabic. I would like to cite two examples of this metaphor here. The first occurs in the title of al-Misaddi's book al-‘Arab wa-l-intiḥār al-lughawī (The Arabs and Linguistic Suicide).72 On the bibliographic page, the subject of the book is given as maṣīr al-‘arabiyya (The Fate of Arabic), which justifies linking it to the crisis trope. The jacket copy continues this theme, with characteristic attention directed to task-orientation:

In this book the author activates all danger buttons (yaduqq kull nawāqīs al-khaṭar) to alert [us] to the fate/perilous state of the Arabic language. This is a cry of despair and a late appeal (ṣayḥat hala‘ wa-istinfār) to decision makers to come to the aid of the language of ḍādd [Arabic] before it joins other languages that are on their way to extinction (inqirāḍ).

This sense of panic about the language is obliquely encoded in the second book hal tantaḥir al-lugha al-‘arabiyya (Will the Arabic Language Commit Suicide?) by al-Naqqash.73 This is how al-Naqqash frames this problem:

This wave (mawja) of running away from Arabic is a kind of linguistic suicide (intiḥār lughawī). It is in fact our people who are executing Arabic with their own hands. And no one sheds a tear! Many in fact are embarrassed by the language and have no confidence in it … This is the case of linguistic frustration (iḥbāṭ lughawī) we live now … So how can we help revive Arabic and protect it against suicide and death (mufāraqat al-ḥayā)?74

(p.124) Again, both writers have task-orientation firmly fixed in their gaze. Al-Misaddi is, in fact, open about this, as his reference to decision-makers (aṣḥāb al-qarār) in the jacket copy makes clear.

However, task orientation does not have to be couched in the language of anxiety, shame, negligence and complicity, although this language of guilt is, more often than not, the norm in Arabic language ideology. A good example of this exception is Sawwa‘i's book (see Figure 3.9): Azmat al-muṣtalaḥ al-‘arabī fī al-qarn al-tāsi’ ‘ashar: muqaddima tārīkhiyya (The Crisis of Arabic Terminology in the Nineteenth Century: A Historical Introduction).75 Sawwa‘i returns to a critical moment in the modern history of the Arabic language: the encounter between the Arab world, represented by Egypt, and Europe in the nineteenth century. Here he describes how, at this juncture, Arabic was found wanting in the lexical sphere, lacking many of the terms that are needed to transfer modern scientific concepts from the European languages into Arabic culture. In addition to the term azma (crisis) in describing this situation, Sawwa‘i uses, in the preface (tawṭi'a),76 the expressions ḥiddat al-mu'ānā al-lughawiyya (intense linguistic suffering),77 fatra ‘aṣība (critical period)78 and tawattur (nervous tension) in a way which casts the crisis trope in a medical horizon of meaning. However, instead of invoking the feelings of shame and complicity in the public or readers in dealing with this trope, Sawwa‘i highlights the success of the translation movement in Egypt in the nineteenth century in plugging lexical gaps in Arabic and uses this as positive motivation and task-orientation, building in this respect on a similar success in the classical period of Islam, when Greek knowledge and science were translated into Arabic. In other words, instead of self-flagellation as a force in Arabic language ideology, Sawwa‘i excavates the past for its successes, rather than its failures, to encourage the Arabs to continue on its positive path.

Let me consider another publication in whose title the crisis trope is overtly marked: al-Tārīkh al-fikrīli-azmat al-lugh al-‘arabiyya (see Figure 3.10).79 The allure factor in this title resides in the promise of providing an intellectual history of the crisis trope in Arabic language ideology. The book does not do this, exemplifying, in this respect, the second part of the following statement from Genette concerning titles: ‘a book more tempting than its title is better than a title more tempting than its book’.80 However, the fact that the crisis trope is projected to have an intellectual history in this title suggests that the problems facing Arabic are believed to be deep-rooted in Arab culture. The same point about falling short of promise applies to the jacket (p.125) copy, as well as the book as a whole. However, in addition to serving the function of reiteration and circulation, this book adds two interesting points to the content of the crisis trope. The first concerns the assumed sacredness of Arabic, signalled in the inter-title hal al-lugha al-‘arabiyya muqaddasa? (Is the Arabic Language Sacred?), which is said to lead to a societal attitude that resists linguistic change and development on false doctrinal grounds: ‘The danger in linking language with the scared may in fact make it (the language) a frozen being that does not change or develop’.81 In addition, this linkage casts Arabic in a religious light, when, in fact, it is more important to recognise its role in marking the identity of the Arab nation. This point is captured in the inter-title al-lugha [al-‘arabiyya] hiya bu'd qawmī wa-ḥayātī wa-laysat bu'dan dīniyyan (Arabic is a Dimension of the Nation and Everyday Life rather than a Religious Dimension).82 The other point concerns the devastating effect that the nation-state (al-dawla al-quṭriyya)83 has had on the unity of the Arabic language in the Arabic-speaking world. Instead of language planning being uniformly applied to all Arabic-speaking countries, this planning is done on a country-by-country basis, forgetting, in the process, the common linguistic passport that Arabic provides. Al-Minawi points to another component of the crisis trope: the lack of commitment to the Arabisation/Arabicisation of science teaching at the pan-Arab level. This is a political problem and not a problem as to whether Arabic can serve as the language of instruction in the sciences. It is also characterised as a psychological problem (qaḍiyya nafsiyya)84 or a problem of self-confidence in Arab society. Jubran considers this lack of confidence and the feeling of inferiority towards Western languages and culture to be major factors in the predicament facing the Arabic language.85

Al-Fihri (see Figure 3.11) links the crisis of Arabic in Morocco to three fields of activity.86 In the educational field, students suffer from poor language standards, diglossia and bilingualism, an over-complex fuṣḥā Arabic, lack of well-trained teachers and poor curricula and language materials in the schools. In public life, Arabic suffers from exclusion from certain fields of communication in society, due to the unfair advantage of foreign languages in terms of employment, owing to their prestige and the lack of political will to give Arabic greater currency in the media and in government administration. At the institutional level, Arabic lacks the dedicated (p.126) support from specialised institutions, which could effectively promote it in official domains, in addition to the absence of a legal framework that can give expression to the primacy of Arabic in public life. Al-Fihri ascribes this to the non-existence of language research centres and the lack of serious language-planning policies.

In comparison to the above applications of the crisis trope, al-Fihri seems to be least ideological: the issues that he raises have been the subject of a sizeable body of robust research in the literature. However, ideology comes into play through the use of the term crisis to designate these concerns. Why not call these concerns language-planning problems?87 At what point does a language problem become a crisis? Are we dealing with a linguistic crisis or some other crisis in the public sphere that is camouflaged as a linguistic crisis? In other words, is the linguistic crisis of Arabic in Morocco a proxy for other crises in Moroccan society and political life? Al-Fihri does not raise these issues, not because he cannot deal with them (he is a leading linguist, after all), but because of the social ‘naturalness’ that the crisis trope has acquired in society and the hold it has in the discourse on Arabic language ideology. Because of this, it is, in fact, unlikely that the public or readers of al-Fihri's title and text, respectively, would question the use of the crisis trope in this book.

Tropes of Arabic Language Ideology: The Fossilisation Trope

The fossilisation trope is inscribed in language ideology in descriptions of Arabic, such as ‘jāmida‘ (frozen, ossified), ‘mu'aqadda‘ (complex) and therefore difficult (ṣa‘ba) to learn, badawiyya (Bedouin)88 and by the participle taqyīd (restriction), as opposed to tajdīd (renewal) in, for example, the title of Jubran's book ‘Alā hāmish al-tajdīd wa-l-taqyīd fī al-lugha al-‘arabiyya al-mu'āṣira (On the Margins of Restriction and Renewal in Contemporary Arabic). A search of the Aljazeera Arabic website (accessed 1 February 2012) has unearthed 92 occurrences of the term jāmida (fossilised) in items connected with the Arabic language. Unlike the crisis trope, the fossilisation trope is rarely marked in book titles. This is not surprising, considering the fact that this trope represents a criticism of the dominant Arabic language ideology, in which the virtues of the language, both instrumentally and symbolically, are extolled in traditions of beauty, logicality, lexical richness and divine (p.127) election through its association with the Qur'anic Revelation. The notion of divine election is captured with great swagger in the following line of poetry, in which Arabic is declared the dame of all languages, well ahead of Latin in prestige: ‘If the languages of the earth have not a commanding Dame [i.e. Arabic], God would have revealed a Qur'an to the Romans/Latin Speakers’ (law lam takun li-lughāti al-arḍi sayyidatan/la-anzala Allahu fī al-lātina qur'ānan).89 This is a compliment to Latin and the Romans, but one with a cultural sting: neither the language nor the people can match Arabic or the Arabs in excellence.

One target at the receiving end of the fossilisation trope are the grammarians of old, who were the butt of mocking poetic compositions. In a poem dating back to the ninth century, grammarians are mocked for their abstruse rules – for example, those dealing with the subjunctive. Van Gelder mentions one poem on the topic, in which the poet says: ‘I have thought about grammar until I was bored/I have wearied my body with it and my soul’.90 Referring to qiyās (grammatical analogy) as a method of the grammarians, another poet writes: ‘They are a pain these would-be Arabs and that thing of theirs/They have invented, called ‘Grammatical Analogy!'91 The ethnic overtone in this poem is very clear: it describes the grammarians as ‘would-be Arabs’ in contrast to the real Arabs, who we take here to be the Bedouins. Contrasting his innate knowledge of the rules of Arabic with those artificially constructed by the grammarians, the same poet says: ‘How different are those who must make efforts when they speak/From those who, by their nature stamped, speak perfect Arabic!'92 A ninth century poet attacked the artificiality of Arabic grammar, linking it indirectly to shu‘ūbiyya – which I discussed in detail in Chapter 2 – as the reference to the Nabataeans reveals:

  1. 1. In the past the old Bedouin language was used

    As our standard to argue in grammar,

  2. 2. Until people arrived whose standard is now

    From the slang of old men in Quŭrubul.

  3. 3. And yet others have come, whose standards derive

    From the tongue of the vile Nabataeans.

  4. 4. Thus they are all at work in destroying the ways

    That the truth may be found, without tiring.93

(p.128) A tenth century poet continues this attack on the grammarians:

  1. 1. Grammar I'll leave to those who practice it;

    I'll turn my mind to hunting.

  2. 2. Grammarians have minds that bear the stamp

    Of scheming and cunning.94

The artificiality of Arabic grammar is an important strand in the fossilisation trope. Artificiality is projected not as a property of the language in the first centuries of Islam, but of the work of the grammarians. With time, this artifi – ciality transmuted into a description of the language itself and was received in this light in post-classical conceptualisations of Arabic. Artificiality in a living organism (kā'in ḥayy), as Arabic is often conceptualised in language ideology, leads to fossilisation. One of the most canonical expressions of the fossilisation trope in the modern period is a piece by the American Lebanese writer Gibran Khalil Gibran called lakum lughatukum wa lī lughatī (‘You have your language. And I have mine’). In view of the iconic status of this composition in modern Arab culture – witness the fact that it is frequently used as a source of epigraphs in books on Arabic language ideology – I will translate it below to give the reader a flavour of this trope:

  1. 1. To you your language, and to me my language.

  2. 2. You have what you want of Arabic. I will have what fits my thoughts and feelings.

  3. 3. You have its words and their linear arrangements. I will have what the words signal but do not touch, and what linear arrangement aims at but does not reach.

  4. 4. You will have in her frozen, embalmed and fossilised corpses which you consider the be all and end all. I will have from her bodies which are worthless in themselves: bodies whose value lies in the souls in which it resides.

  5. 5. You have in her an assigned place of pilgrimage which you seek with unswerving [intent]. I have in her a changing means [of expression] that does not satisfy me until it transmits what is hiding in my heart to other hearts and what is swirling in my conscience/mind to other minds.

  6. 6. You have in her prescriptive / obligatory and rigid rules. I have in her tunes that chime with the tunes of the mind, the tones of desire and their impact on the senses.

  7. 7. You have in her dictionaries, lexica and long treatises. I have in her what the ear sifts and the memory preserves of what people say, exchange and feel at home in good times and bad.

  8. 8. You have in her what Sibawayhi, Abu al-Aswad and Ibn ‘Aqil brought,95 and those who came before them and after them, a boring lot they all are. (p.129) have in her what the mother says to her baby, what the lover says to his companion and what the ascetic says in the silence of the night.

  9. 9. You have in her the eloquent/lofty (faṣīḥ) not the feeble/lowly (rakīk), the refined (balīgh) not the vulgar (mubtadhal). I have in her what the wild person mutters because it is all eloquent, and what the person in pain chokes on because it is all profound and what a trapped person lisps because all of it is eloquent and profound.

  10. 10. You have in her ornamentation (tarṣī‘), adornment (tanzīl) and embellishment (mubtadhal) and all the acrobatics of fabrication. I have in her words when uttered transform the hearer beyond speech and, when written, create rhetorical expanses for the reader that the ether cannot bound.

  11. 11. You can seize on the tattered portions of your language dress. I will tear to pieces all the old and worn-out garments, casting on both sides of the road all that impedes my progress to the top of the mountain.

  12. 12. You can keep her severed and diseased parts, preserving them in your mental museums. I will burn every dead part and every paralysed joint.

  13. 13. You have your language, a disabled hag. I have my language, a young woman immersed in the sea of her youthful dreams.

  14. 14. What will happen to your language and all that you have invested in it when the curtain is raised on this old hag? And what will happen when it is raised by my young woman?

  15. 15. I say: your language will turn into nothing.

  16. 16. I say: a lamp that is running out of oil will not stay alight for a long time.

  17. 17. I say: life does not go back.

  18. 18. I say: the wood of a coffin does not produce roses or fruit.

  19. 19. I say to you what you reckon as eloquence is no more than sterile adornment and ossified stupidity.

  20. 20. I say to you: poetry and prose are feelings and thoughts. Anything else is feeble yarn and broken strings.

Gibran's composition offers a satirical characterisation of the fossilisation trope to mock and hurt. It is a scathing attack on the traditionalists, who would rather have a pure form of Arabic, even though it is a corpse, than an evolving form of the language, which can keep pace with modern life. Gibran ridicules the traditionalists, calling their Arabic a disabled old hag who peddles fossilised modes of expression. In comparison, the Arabic that he champions is a young woman that is full of life, with turns of expression to match. Gibran's composition derives its power from its intertextuality with Chapter 109 in the Qur'an. In Arabic, this chapter is called al-Kāfirūn (‘The Disbelievers'), within which the last verse is structured around the oppositional formula or dichotomy: ‘la-kum dīnukum wa li-ya dīn’ (‘To you (p.130) your religion, and to me my religion’). The syntactic frame underlying this verse serves as a template for Gibran's composition on the fossilisation trope, effectively giving it great mnemonic power. This, I believe, is what gives this piece its salience in Arabic language ideology.

By invoking the Our'an through mtertextuality, Gibran wishes to declare that the traditionalists are linguistic disbelievers, who are opposing a new form of Arabic, much in the same way that Muhammad's opponents opposed his new religion. In spite of this opposition, the new form of Arabic, he proclaims, will triumph over the old, fossilised form of the language in the same way that Islam triumphed over the Arabs' pagan idols. This is a bold comparison to make, considering the fact that Gibran was Christian. However, by appropriating this frame of argumentation, Gibran gives the Qur'anic formula a cultural interpretation that moves away from Islam, but without severing its connections with it. Here, Gibran, author of the well-known book The Prophet, acts as though his kind of Arabic has divine support and that he, in heralding its arrival, is an Apostle or Prophet of a new dawn, in which the old linguistic fossil will die, to be replaced by a more vibrant form of the language. The references to paralysis, coffins, tatters and museums of the brain as metaphors of the fossilisation trope in the above composition are intended to make this point.

The reference to Sibawayhi in Gibran's composition is reiterated in the titles of two books that deal with the fossilisation trope – the first is Zakariya Uzun's Jināyat Sībawayhi: al-rafḍ al-tāmm li-mā fī al-naḥw min awhām (Sibawyhi's Crime: A Complete Rejection of the Delusions of Grammar);96 the second is Sharif al-Shubashi's Li-taḥyā al-lugha al-‘arabiyya: yasquṭ Sībawyhi (Long Live Arabic!: Down with Sibawayhi!).97 These two titles (see Figures 3.12 and 3.13, respectively) raise the pitch of the attack on Sibawayhi within the fossilisation trope.98 Whereas Gibran says to the traditionalists, with a mocking tone of voice, ‘you can have Sibawyhi’ (‘I don't want him, so good riddance’), Uzun and al-Shubashi go beyond this statement, adopting an openly condemnatory attitude towards the grammarian. In this respect, Uzun and al-Shubashi break a major taboo of the Arab cultural tradition, in which Sibawyhi is accorded the status of a pioneer, complete with an unassailable legacy. Criticising Sibawayhi is one thing, but openly condemning him is completely different: for the language defenders and guardians and others, this would be a step too far. This is the case because – in all three (p.131) examples – Sibawyhi is deployed as a symbolic motif, which iconically stands for the whole of the Arabic grammatical tradition.

Let us now consider the fossilisation trope in Uzun's book, as presented in three of its paratexts: title, jacket copy and dedication. The title is intended to both allure and generate a reaction from the public and potential would-be readers. The term ‘crime’ (jināya) in the title sends an electric shock through the sinews of members of the public who are aware of the unsurpassable contribution that Sibawayhi made to Arabic grammar. Describing this achievement as a crime and naming Sibawayhi as its perpetrator is a step too far, as I have already stated above. The use of the colour red in the main title underscores the gravity of the crime: visually, the title is dripping with blood. The title further invites us to speculate on who the victims may be, and there is no doubt that the main target in this context – in addition to the Arab people as a whole (al-sha‘b al-‘arabī), as the jacket copy makes clear – is the educational establishment which, wittingly or unwittingly, victimises Arabic language students by exposing them to fossilised, complex and difficult grammatical rules. This interpretation is supported by the text of the book. Moving to the subtitle – it directs the public to reject Arabic grammar lock, stock and barrel, because of the delusions it contains: Sibawayhi's delusions and those of his elk who helped to promote and perpetuate them to the present day. The use of the term delusions (awhām) brands Sibawayhi and the grammarians as misguided or, under a stronger interpretation, as suffering from some form of psychic disorder that refuses to let go.

The jacket copy (see Figure 3.14) specifies some of the content of the crime and the delusions that the subtitle refers to in a manner that sheds light on the crisis trope:

This book sets out to show in a simple, critical and brief/condensed manner that the rules of Arabic grammar are a form without content; that learning these rules is a waste of time and a dissipation of mental energy; and that these rules are confused givens (mu’ṭayāt) full of delusions and padding. Because of these reasons, the majority of the Arab people (sha‘b) have not learnt them and will not learn them for use in their daily-lives, whether for practical or scientific purposes. The Arab nation (umma) will not develop intellectually or achieve precision [in what it says and does], which are a hallmark of the [modern] age, without considering its position on many issues pertaining to Arabic, top of which being the dominant/domineering rules of grammar.

The subtext behind this far-reaching condemnation of Arabic grammar is its fossilisation as a construct that no longer responds to the modern condition of the Arabs. As a fossilised, complex and difficult construct, grammar is an obstacle to progress and renewal in Arab life. This analysis implies that the Arabs will not advance until they take the grammar bull by the horns, tame it and make it suitable for a different pedagogic and social aesthetic. A similar point was made more than a millennium ago by Jahiz, who warned against (p.132) the complexity of grammar in pedagogy in his advice to schoolmasters; this advice clearly reveals the perennial nature of the problem. Owing to the canonicity of this advice in discussions of pedagogic grammar, I will give it below in full:

As regards grammar, do not encumber your pupil's mind with more than is necessary to save him from serious solecisms and preserve him from the ignorance of the mob when it comes to drafting a letter, reciting verses or giving a description of something. Anything more may prevent him acquiring more appropriate skills and make him neglect more valuable accomplishments, such as knowledge of current proverbs, accepted traditions and praiseworthy poems. Only a man with no ambition to learn about important matters, to give serious thought to taxing problems such as the interests of the country and humanity, or to understand the pillars and the pole about which the earth's millstone revolves (or one with no resources or means of livelihood) would wish to make an exhaustive study of grammar or go beyond the stage of a reasonable knowledge of it. Fine points of grammar are the last sort of problem likely to arise in polite society, and there is no need to bother with them.99

Uzun continues the fight against grammar in the dedication (see Figure 3.15). Addressing the public and his putative readers, he encodes his message in motivational language, which is no doubt intended for task-orientation:

To those who respect and appreciate reason; to those who apply reason in evaluating transmitted knowledge; to those who light the candle of creativity to dispel the darkness of blind imitation and uncritical adherence to received knowledge; to those who light the candle of [free] thinking to dispel the darkness of [blind] analogy and adherence to the [inherited] lore of the forefathers; to those who love all people regardless of their race, religion or creed; to all and everyone of these I dedicate my first book.

This is an impassioned appeal to the public and putative readers to take up the fight on behalf of a new form of Arabic, against the grammarians and their fossilised rules, which, transitively, have led to the fossilisation of fuṣḥā Arabic. The trope of fossilisation is, in fact, mentioned in the preface, when the author says:

As for our rule-ridden Arabic (al-‘arabiyya al-muqa‘adda, in a metathetical play on the word mu‘aqadda which denotes complex), it has remained fossilised (jāmida). In fact, it has retreated internationally to the extent that its people no longer pay attention to it.

(p.133) Uzun ascribes this fate to grammar and to the derivational system of the language, which makes it difficult to coin new words. The references to reason and light in the dedication work through exclusion: they exclude the grammarians, who reject reason and prefer to live in the dark.

Let us now turn to al-Shubashi's book. In discussing the temptation function of titles above, I have referred to the title of this book as a good example of this function in the field of Arabic language ideology. The title consists of two parts separated by a colon: (1) li-taḥyā al-‘arabiyya (Long Live Arabic!); and (2) yasquṭ Sībawayhi (Down with Sibawayhi!). In normal practice, the first part would be the title and the second part would act as subtitle, but the size of the font of the second part and the bolder colours chosen to render it give it greater visibility in comparison to the first part in a way that inverts this relationship. This is true of the two different editions that I have used for this research (the first and third editions), which exhibit some design differences, but not in this particular portion of the front cover (see Figures 3.13 and 3.16). The public and most of putative readers would, we can assume, be supportive of the first part. This, however, is more than cancelled out by the second part, because, as I have explained above, it touches in a very negative way on a revered figure of the Arabic grammatical tradition. For the public and putative readers, al-Shubashi's title gives with one hand and takes away with another. The first part lulls the public and readers into a false sense of cultural security by appealing to their language ideology, which receives positive affirmation here, before it denudes them of a sense of security in one fell swoop through the second part. The formal balance of the title between its two parts therefore gives way to a feeling of bias in favour of the second. There is no doubt that al-Shubashi wants Arabic to live and prosper, as he, in fact, tells us repeatedly within the text of the book, but he seems to premise this on the downfall and demise of Sibawayhi and what he iconically stands for in Arab culture. If al-Shubashi wanted to allure and shock at one and the same time, he could not have chosen a better title, as the furore the book caused in the media after its publication revealed.100 The fact that the subtitle is reminiscent of political slogans that the Arabs employed during the colonial and postcolonial period, aimed at calling for the downfall of imperialism, Zionism or corrupt Arab rulers, undoubtedly added to the angst that the public and its readers felt towards the book and its author. It is, in fact, this same formula or a variation on it using the root s-q-ṭ (to fall) that demonstrators deployed in the Arab Spring uprisings to call for the downfall of their corrupt rulers: alsha‘ b yurīd isqāt al-niẓām (‘The people want to bring the regime down'), which reverberated through the streets of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria. If (p.134) there was ever a need to talk about how grammar can be deployed in cultural politics, al-Shubashi's title is one good example of this.

Reflecting on the furore that his book caused in Egypt in the preface to the third edition, al-Shubashi says that he did not expect, when he took his manuscript to the publisher in April 2004, to be carrying a ticking timebomb in his arms (lam akun atakhayyal annanī aḥmil bayna yadayy qunbula mawqūta).101 In a comment on the reception of the book in al-Wafd newspaper, Usama Anwar ‘Ukasha continues with this war imagery, describing the reaction to the book in similar terms:

Sharif al-Shubashi has stormed a minefield (ḥaql al-ghām) … which in the past exploded underneath anyone who tried to come close to the taboos of the Arabic language (tābūhāt al-lugha al-‘arabiyya) with the intention of liberating it from its [state of] fossilisation (jumūdihā), reviving it (iḥyā'ihā) and pumping the life (mā'ihā, ‘water’ in the original) of development in its being (awṣāliha ‘joints and limbs’ in the original) which have gone dry (tayabbasat) under the influence of ancient grammars (qawā‘id al-zaman al-ghābir al-ba‘īd) that grammarians such as Sibawayhi established.102

‘Ukasha further describes al-Shubashi's book as a penetrating and busting explosive (qadhīfa nāfidha), as an opening salvo in a debate that must take place, without any fear (dūna khawf aw jaza‘) concerning the state and future of Arabic. Commenting on the temptation function of the title of his book, effectively drawing a distinction between the public and its readers, al-Shubashi stated: ‘I was astounded to know that the vast majority of those who responded to the book had not in fact read it. Their comments revealed the truth of the proverb that “a book is read from its title (lit.)”’. If anything, this is a perfect example of the point made earlier – that the public have greater power and potency in circulating a book than its readers.

But what is it that al-Shubashi wanted to counter in Arabic language ideology through his book? The answer is the fossilisation of the language which traditional and classical Arabic grammar has visited upon it, leading one scholar to call for rescuing Arabic from the grammarians (inqāẓ allugha min aydī al-nuḥā).103 References to Arabic as a dead language (lugha mayyita)104 characterised by extreme fossilisation (jumūd wa-taḥajjur),105 linguistic backwardness (takhalluf lughawī)106 and linguistic poverty [faqr (p.135) lughawī)107 – these are all metaphors of the fossilisation trope. The fossilisation trope is further deployed in the following conclusion concerning Arabic in the modern period:

To sum up, Arabic is the only language on the face of the earth whose grammar, in its morphological and syntactic components, has not developed for the past one thousand and five hundred years. It is also the only language in the world whose speakers insist on mummifying it (taḥnītihā) under the pretext of keeping it ‘pure’.108

The remedy, according to al-Shubashi, is: ‘mounting an urgent modernising intifada/uprising … to ensure that the language does not face the dangers of [linguistic] introversion (taqawqu') or maybe extinction (ikhtifā')'.109 Here we have further terms with which to describe the fossilisation trope: tahjjur (petrification), taḥnīṭ (mummification), taqawqu' (becoming shell-like) and ikhtifā' (extinction).

Al-Shubashi fights a battle against the fossilisation of the language using some of the terms and metaphors I have mentioned above, as well as others that exploit the language of war, as will be discussed in the next section. He reserves his most trenchant criticisms for religious scholars and traditional grammarians, whom he accuses of wrongly ascribing ‘sacredness’ to Arabic, which it does not possess. In effect, al-Shubashi seems to believe that linking Arabic to Islam through a spurious principle of sacredness is another culturally embedded reason behind its fossilisation. He expresses this as follows:

Those who call for the mummification of [Arabic] … do in effect wish death on it, because mummification/embalming is for the dead only and not for those who are alive. And those who refuse to develop the language reject the idea that it is a living being, packaging it with the halo of religion in a way that renders it in their eyes as a language unlike other languages, a language sui generis.110;

The epigraph in al-Shubashi's book makes this point clearly: ‘Language does not belong to the religious scholars … It is owned by all those who speak it regardless of nation or generation'. In addition to making the point about the separation of religion and language, this epigraph, being a quotation from Taha Husayn's famous book Mustaqbal al-thaqāfa fī miṣr (The Future of Culture in Egypt, first published in 1938),111 is intended to give al-Shubashi's book pedigree. One may go even further and suggest that knowing what the traditionalists think of Husayn's controversial book, al-Shubashi may, (p.136) in fact, have wanted to raise a red rag to what he knew would be an angry bull. If this is the case, al-Shubashi must have intended to stoke the fires of linguistic controversy, as Husayn's book had done before it. This al-Shubashi achieved, in spite of his protestations of innocence in the media. As a broker of Arabic language ideology, al-Shubashi is second to none.

The fossilisation trope seems to be directed more at Arabic grammar than the Arabic language. This raises an important question concerning the extent to which ideological claims about overt grammar – the grammar of the grammarians, rather than covert grammar, the grammar of the language – can be transferred to the language. This is a question of epistemology and attitude: epistemology in academic discourse and attitude in language ideology. In brief, if, epistemologically speaking, overt grammar is thought to capture what are believed to be the inherent features of the language, then the ideological claims made about this grammar can legitimately be transferred to the language. I have argued elsewhere112 that Arabic grammatical theory adheres to an essentialist or naïve realist epistemology, which implies that overt Arabic grammar is thought by the grammarians to capture the covert grammar of the language and, therefore, that this overt grammar is a true description of its covert counterpart. Versteegh captures this point well when he writes: ‘behind the linguistic rules [of the Arabic language] there is a hidden truth [which reflects] God's hand in the creation of [that] language. It is the task of the grammarian to reveal [emphasis added] these hidden truths’.113 Grammar-making, in this sense, is not an act of construction or discovery, but, to coin a term, one of uncovery. This epistemology is deep-rooted in the Arabic grammatical tradition. Al-Khalil (d. 171/787) is reputed to have issued a challenge to Arabic grammarians to produce an account of the language that is truer than his. He expresses this as a challenge (i‘jāz), a kind of grammatical inimitability, which he encodes in the expression ‘fa-lya‘ti bihā' (‘let him come forth with it'), referring to linguistic causes (‘illas) as descriptive and explanatory facets of Arabic grammatical theory.114 The Arabic expression above reminds us of the challenge that God poses in Qur'an 52:34, in which is found the expression ‘fal ya‘tū bi-ḥadīthin mithlih in kānū ṣādiqīn’ (‘let them produce a speech the like of it if they are truthful’) (p.137) – the implication being that they will not be able to do so. And so it also will be in the case of al-Khalil's challenge.

The circulation of overt grammar through education down the ages, its link with the Qur'an and the Arabic intellectual tradition and the authority bestowed upon it because of its antiquity create an ideological schema that is receptive to this naïve realist or essentialist epistemology to the extent that ideology and epistemology imperceptibly merge with each other in the public imaginary and academic discourse. Under this interpretation, the claim that Arabic grammar is fossilised, effectively encoded in a variety of expressions in Arabic, becomes a claim about the language itself: if Arabic grammar is fossilised, then the Arabic language must be fossilised. This conflation of overt grammar with language explains the ideological vehemence with which rebuttals of the fossilisation trope are expressed. Furthermore, it explains why the brokers of the fossilisation trope are unable to make their claim stick, to dislodge the authority of overt grammar from the public imaginary or to challenge its commanding position in academic discourse. When language and overt grammar become two sides of the same coin, any claim about the latter will be automatically translated as a claim about the former, in spite of the fact that overt grammar is no more than a constructed and, in some sense, hocus-pocus account of the language.

Tropes of Arabic Language Ideology: The War Trope

The war trope is encoded in a variety of expressions in ideological talk about the Arabic language. The term ḥarb (war) encodes it directly, as in al-Kattani's book title Thamānūn ‘āman min al-ḥarb al-frankūfūniyya ḍidd al-islām wa-llugha al-‘arabiyya (The Francophone War on Islam and the Arabic Language: Eighty Years [and Beyond]).115 This term (ḥarb/war) is used in a more emotive way on the Aljazeera website in a transcript of a programme broadcast on 29 April 2001: al-ḥarab al-ṣalībiyya ‘alā al-‘arabiyya juz’ min ḥamlatihā ‘alā al-islām (The Crusading War against Arabic is Part of its Campaign against Islam).116 Calling the war on Arabic a crusade has the effect of embedding the war trope in an inimical and emblematic historical encounter between Islam and the Christian West for enhanced task-orientation. Another term that encodes the war trope directly is ma‘raka (battle), as in al-‘Alim's edited volume Lughatunā al-‘arabiyya fī ma‘rakat al-ḥaḍāra (Our Arabic Language in the Battle of Civilisation).117 Derivatives of the term yuwājih (to confront) encode this trope, but at a lower degree of intensity in terms of task-orientation: on a peril scale, (p.138) ‘confrontation’ is less dangerous than ‘battle', and this, in turn, is less dangerous than ‘war'. Examples of the war trope in its confrontation guise are al-Ashtar's book title al-‘arabiyya fī muwājahat al-makhāṭir (Arabic: Confronting Perils/Threats)118 and ‘Abd al-Rahman's title al-‘Arabiyya tuwājih al-taḥaddiyāt (Arabic Confronts/Faces Challenges).119 Of the two cognates muwājahat and tuwājih, the former carries a stronger meaning. This is strengthened through collocation with makhāṭir (dangers) in the first title, which has a stronger meaning on the peril scale than taḥaddiyāt (challenges) in the second title. The war trope may also be encoded by the term zaḥf (march), as in ‘Attar's book title al-Zaḥf ‘alā lughat al-qur'ān (Marching against the Language of the Qur'an).120 The term zaḥf implies that a war is impending, but that the battle has not yet been joined. As with al-Kattani's and Aljazeera's titles above, this title links the war on Arabic with the war on Islam. In a more oblique manner, the war trope may be expressed through a defence metaphor, as in the title of Jamali's book Difā‘an ‘an al-‘arabiyya (In Defence of Arabic).121 The emphasis here is on defending Arabic against the war, battle, confrontation or march that is being perpetrated against it, rather than being one of initiating a war without provocation. The title also implies that the text is part of this defence of the language.

The first point to consider in the war trope is the identity of the enemy. There is, of course, the external enemy: the colonialists who were able to impose a language policy that instrumentally discriminated against Arabic, as the French similarly achieved in North Africa during the colonial period. This is not a matter of ideology or invention, it is one of fact. British language policy in the Arabic-speaking world was less coercive. It recognised the local language, but did not raise it to the same status as the colonial language in certain sectors of the administration. Symbolically, Arabic came under attack in terms of comparative prestige with the colonial languages. Narratives of the war trope consider the reduction in the symbolic capital of the language to be an outcome of colonialism and its continued hegemony in the Arabic-speaking world through imperialism in its political, economic and cultural guises. Globalisation, ‘awlama, is treated as the most recent phase in this imperialist encounter.122 As soft power, globalisation is less (p.139) intrusive, but more effective, because it works from the inside, rather than the outside.123

The internal enemy is depicted as acting, wittingly or unwittingly, as an agent or extension of the external enemy. In the imperialist paradigm and under the banner of globalisation, the internal enemy acts as the channel through which the soft power of the external enemy infiltrates society and attacks its linguistic fibre (nasīj lughawī). In this respect, the external enemy does not use weapons or violence, but employs devious methods (asālīb mākira).124 The reference to deviousness occurs in other discussions of the war trope – for example, the guest preface in ‘Abd al-Rahman's book mentions makr al-‘a‘dā’ wa-l-khuṣūm (‘the deviousness of enemies and adversaries’).125 The author of the first preface, ‘Umar ‘Ubayd Hasna, uses an incredible array of terms and expressions with which to narrate the war trope. I will list some of these terms here to show the lexical diversity in this narration: tadmīr (p.140) al-lugha wa muḥāṣaratuhā (‘laying siege to the language and destroying it’),126 ma‘ārik (‘battles'),127 hajma (‘attack’),128 muwājahāt (‘confrontations’),129 ithārat al-shubuhāt (‘raising suspicions/doubts'),130 khuṣūm al-lugha (‘adversaries of the language’),131 iqitlā' al-‘arabiyya (‘uprooting the Arabic language'),132 silāh qadīm jadīd min al-‘udwān ‘alā al-‘arabiyya (‘an old-new weapon in the attack on Arabic'),133 asliḥa fāsida wa-mashbūha (‘corrupt and suspect weapons').134 In the second preface, the author adds the following expressions: inna al-‘arabiyya ṣārat maydānan yatadarrab bi-l-hujūmi ‘alyh kull man amsaka bi-l-qalam (‘Arabic has become a battlefield for anyone who wants to try his luck using his pen');135 ightiyāl al-‘arabiyya wa-wa‘duhā (‘assassinating Arabic or burying it alive’). The author of the first preface accuses the internal enemies of the language of cultural treason (‘amāla thaqāfiyya), effectively telling them that the attack on Arabic will lead directly to:

disabling the vitality of the nation, extinguishing its spirit, freezing its ability to act, cutting it off its roots, diverting it away from its heritage, putting it in the service of the Other, and destroying any sense of hope it may have if not its ability to think.136

This is how serious the attack on Arabic is in the eyes of this writer. On the defence side, the first preface employs such terms as ḥuṣūn [al-lugha] qawiyya ṣāmida (‘The language forts are strong and able to resist’),137 ḥirāsāt al-lugha (‘linguistic lines of defence’)138 in references to Arabic léxica, ḥimāyat al-lugha (‘defence of the language’)139 and mawqif difā‘ī (‘a defensive posture’).140

Al-Jamali calls the enemies of Arabic ghuzā (invaders), and he seems to think that the internal enemies of the language are more dangerous than its external ones, judging by the fact that he devotes most of his attention to the former category in his book Difā'an ‘an al-‘arabiyya (In Defence of Arabic). He defines the invaders of Arabic as: ‘those who seek to demolish it completely or those who treat it as sterile or unfit for modern life’.141 He then adds that: (p.141) ‘there are different kinds of invader, most of them are not outside/external invaders, but invaders from within: sons and daughters of Arabic who, however, drink from a foreign cup’. There is no doubt that some would consider Uzun and al-Shubashi part of this inside contingent, precisely as Salarna Musa, Taha Husayn and Luwis ‘Awad were treated as fifth columnists by the defenders of Arabic language ideology in the twentieth century.142 Whether al-Jamali would have treated Uzun and al-Shubashi in this manner is an open question. My guess is that he might not have done so on the purely ideational level, but that he would have done so on the attitudinal front, because of the vehemence of the attacks mounted against the grammarians by these two writers, as their titles indicate.

Al-Jamali points out that the invasion of Arabic operates in a variety of ways: (1) through the calls to give the dialects a more prominent place in Arab cultural life and the replacement of the Arabic script by the Latin script; (2) by insiders who prefer to use foreign languages to Arabic, either because they were educated in foreign schools or because they believe that these foreign languages are more prestigious than Arabic; and (3) by mixing Arabic with foreign languages, as though Arabic was not able to provide the lexical resources the speakers need to express themselves. Mahmud143 calls language mixing ḥawal lughawī (linguistic squinting) and considers it a phenomenon of deviation (inḥirāf) from the right path and an expression of decay (inḥiṭāṭ) in linguistic behaviour. The last two phenomena are related to globalisation and, to a lesser extent, modernity in Arabic language ideology. Globalisation is a recent factor in ideological narrations of the war trope in Arab society. I have dealt with this at some length in my book Arabic, Self and Identity: A Study in Conflict and Displacement,144 The main point in this discussion is the linking of globalisation with anxiety and trauma. Qassab considers modernity to be responsible for aspects of the war against Arabic. One such aspect is championing the dialects in literature in the name of realism by recording what people say in their mother tongues. Another aspect is the total disregard for the rules of grammar (tadmīr al-qawā‘id),145 which has spawned a nonchalant attitude towards Arabic (al-istihāna fī al-lugha or imā‘at mafhūm al-lugha).146 Qassab calls this aspect of the war trope a crime (p.142) (jināya) against Arabic – this being the same term that Uzun uses to refer to Sibawayhi.

Let us now consider the epigraphs in some of the publications above, in order to gain further insight into the war trope in their language ideologies. Al-Jamali uses eight lines of Hafiz Ibrahim's poem as an epigraph. This reflects the iconic place of this poem in Arabic language ideology, as has been explained above at length. Its use here implies that Arabic is in dire straits and that it needs defenders (ḥumātuhā)147 to ensure that it is protected against all kinds of attack. Al-Jamali defines the defenders of Arabic as: ‘those who protect Arabic jealously and therefore use it in their daily lives and work to enhance its status and to spread it among the people’.148 Al-Jamali recognises three categories of defender. The first category consists of a group of stern (mutazammitūn)149 grammarians and writers who are unwilling to compromise (mutaṣallibūn fī ārā'ihim),150 hold fast to traditional grammar and disallow any movement (zaḥzaḥa)151 or change in the language. Of the writers dealt with in this chapter, al-Nahwi comes closest to being a member of this category. Although al-Jamali has little sympathy with this group of language defenders, he still thinks that they perform a useful function – that of ‘an alert watchman/guard’ (al-khafīr al-yaqiẓ),152 who issues the first warnings of danger. The second category includes those who adopt a more relaxed attitude towards Arabic grammar (muyassirūn),153 allowing Arabic grammar to be simplified. The Lebanese Anis Frayha, whom I mentioned in passing above, and al-Fihri would be assigned to this group. The third category would include intellectuals and other members in society who give life to Arabic by using it for different purposes in society.

‘Abd al-Rahman154 uses as his epigraph three verses from the Qur an that implicitly refer to God's Revelation being in Arabic (Qur'an 26:193–5): ‘With it [Revelation, Qur'an] came down the Spirit of Faith and Truth to your heart and mind so you [Prophet Muhammad] may admonish, in the perspicuous Arabic tongue’. In addition to this implicit reference to Arabic, the second verse considers the Prophet as one who warns his people against deviation from the right path, doing so in perspicuous Arabic. As an act of appropriation, the epigraph now additionally means that ‘Abd al-Rahman's book is a warning in plain and simple Arabic against the enemies of the language and that, at the same time, it is a reminder to the public and putative readers that (p.143) it is their duty to fight these enemies using plain and simple Arabic. This motivational message is in line with task-orientation in Arabic language ideology, as in all language ideologies.

Let us now consider two dedications in books employing the war trope in Arabic language ideology. The first is Farrukh's book cil-Qawymiyya al-fu ṣḥā (Eloquent/Pure Arab National Identity).155 I dealt with this book above and also previously in Chapter 2, where I referred to its title as a portmanteau. The dedication in this book is an excellent example of the war trope in language ideology:

To the garrisoned troops (murābiṭūn, 3:200) who know they are members of the home front! To the first generation of holy warriors (murābiṭūn, 95:4) who stood together shoulder to shoulder (marṣūṣ, 4:61)! To those who carried the burning flame of pure Arabism and pure Arabic to the four comers of the universe in storm-swept conditions! … To those who stood their ground in the heat of the battle! To those who put the confidence back in the hearts of the Arabs after their eyes had become distracted and their hearts had risen up to their throats (zāghat al-abṣār wa-balaghat al-qulūb al-ḥanājir, 10:33)! To all of these I dedicate this book in admiration of the past glories, appreciation of the present effort, and because of confidence in the future.156

There is no mistaking the omnipresence of the war trope in this dedication. The language and, therefore, nation-defenders are described as garrisoned troops, holy warriors, committed visionaries and steadfast soldiers, who put confidence back into Arab life during a perilous period (colonialist period) in modern Arab history. This group is not named. In this respect, it is an open category and not a closed set – a fact that makes it available for self-inclusion, as well as self-exclusion, on the part of the public or the putative reader. However, considering the rousing nature of this dedication and its strong Qur'anic references given in the brackets above, it is a safe bet to say that self-inclusion would offer a greater pull to the public and putative readers than self-exclusion. This is important in motivation and task-orientation, which are of principal importance in language ideology, as it seeks to build on the past to shape the present and future. The fact that we are not told when the defenders stood their ground and what battle they were fighting heightens the drama painted in the dedication and gives us, as members of the public or readers, the space to interpret the dedication in a way that resonates with our ideologies of our language and our nation. Put differently, the openness or vagueness of the dedication works to its advantage: it gives us some right of authorship over it through the act of interpretation. And by appropriating the dedication and making it ours, we are, to some extent, more likely to commit ourselves to it. It is in this way that the author enlists us – in a (p.144) near-literal sense of the term – as combatants in his ideological cause. The war trope is an excellent vehicle for achieving this.

A similar dedication is offered by ‘Attar:

To the protectors of fuṣḥā Arabic who strive for Allah with the endeavour which is His right (al-ladhīna yujāhidūna fī Allāhi ḥqqa jihādih, 22:78) by promoting/adhering to the language of the Qur'an, its literatures and sciences; to those who defend [Arabic] and fight the peddlers of the doctrines of destruction and sabotage by which they aim to demolish the Qur'an, destroy the [Prophet's ḥadīth, erase Islam and dismantle Arabic by dismantling its grammar, literatures, sciences and arts as well as by supporting the colloquials, giving them aid and succour to help them triumph over the fuṣḥā.157

The same comments, concerning the openness of the protectors as a group and the effect of this on interpretation and task-orientation, apply here. The term anṣār (supporters) reminds us of the Medinan Muslims, who came to the aid of the Prophet when he and his original band of followers came under attack from his own people in his hometown, Mecca, at the start of his mission. The use of this term puts those who support Arabic symbolically in the same category as the Medinan supporters of the Prophet. By implication, this makes those who oppose Arabic similar to the Meccans who opposed Muhammad and rejected his mission at the start of his Prophethood. Therefore, there is no doubt that the moral scales are weighted in favour of the defenders of the language, who cannot but stand up to the religious and cultural saboteurs in their midst. The trope of war, displayed through culturally translucent references to attack and defence, dominates this dedication and offers an organising principle around which it can be structured and deployed to best effect.158

In discussing the above tropes of Arabic language ideology, I am aware that they mesh with each other, making their separation here somewhat artificial. Fossilisation fades into crisis, and the two fade into war and vice versa. What matters for us here is to emphasise the connectedness among these tropes and to treat this connectedness as a case of mutual reinforcement in the structure of language ideology. One trope recalls the others, ensuring, through the process of mutual recall, greater circulation for the whole ideological edifice in society, than for each separately. I should also add that the list of tropes I have given here is not exhaustive. Other tropes may be identified. My aim here, however, is to draw attention to the fact that language ideology is amenable to some systematisation, but only if systematisation is not treated as a straightjacket, hence my preference for the term ‘amalgam’ to ‘system’ in the working definition of ideology that I have adopted in this (p.145) book. Finally, at no point in the above discussion have I tried to question the veracity of the ideological tropes I have identified. Whether Arabic is in crisis, fossilised or in a state of war is of no material concern to us here. What is of concern to us is the existence of these tropes, their occurrence and circulation in society, the terms and metaphors in which they are encoded, some of the sites in which they are enunciated and the objectives they are intended to serve.


The above discussion reveals that language ideology is a productive site for getting at the amalgam of ideas that relate language to faith, morality, politics and culture in the widest sense in society. Therefore, it is inconceivable that we could construct a picture of the role of language in the social world, without delving into language ideology. For most people, language ideology remains invisible, as if it were a category of nature. This is the case for standard language ideologies, including fuṣḥā Arabic. I have tried to show elsewhere159 that the consecration of fuṣḥā Arabic as a standard language has been subject to ideological fashioning or manipulation at the deepest level and that this ideology was driven, among other things, by issues of faith and group worth. The latter set of issues is spun around a host of traditions (I now prefer this term to ‘myths’, in spite of the fact that this term has greater currency in the literature) whose origin is unknown, but whose status in society as narrative templates of excellence and election is almost unquestionable. In this chapter, I have tried to stay away from this celebratory ideological terrain or its deprecatory counterpart, which pits one language against others in the stakes for excellence and election. Instead, I have tried to abstract three tropes of Arabic language ideology from a wide and varied set of readings, treat these tropes as headings, identify some of the terms and metaphors in which they are encoded, consider two major sites for ideological performance in which these metaphors are displayed, discuss the strategies of ‘persuasion’ that these tropes deploy and highlight the attention they pay to motivation and task-orientation. My ulterior motive behind all of this is to show how the quotidian is full of meaning and that it is only by looking at it afresh, as if to make the familiar unfamiliar, that we can extract the meanings it carries.

Let me consider the issue of sites first. I have concentrated on paratexts and poetry for a variety of reasons, although language ideology can be found in different (and perhaps more obvious) locations within society. Paratexts are generally ignored in the study of language ideology in Arabic and other languages. The importance of paratexts, however, relates to the fact that they show the far reach of language ideology in society. By distinguishing between the public and readers, I have been able to show that one does not (p.146) have to read a book from cover to cover or even to read significant portions of it to become a language ideology broker who participates in its dissemination in society. The old adage that one can read a book from its cover is not devoid of truth in this case. Titles, dedications, epigraphs, prefaces and jacket copies are major carriers of language ideology, doing so either telegraphically or with a great economy of words. In processing the content of these locations of ideology, the reader often brings elements of this same ideology to bear on them. In other words, these thresholds in a text act as a point of contact between overt and covert language ideology, where the public invoke and apply their covert ideological frames of reference to interpret what are largely overt ideological pronouncements, which, more often than not, have little intellectual depth. The fact that there may be little cognitive distance between the overt and the covert here may be considered by hard-headed scholars as a sign that the intellectual transaction on both sides, if it could be described in this way, is a sterile exercise in repetition or affirmation. I have tried to counter this by distinguishing between repetition and reiteration. Although repetition and reiteration are formally the same in propositional terms, reiteration works as a recursive performance with the aim of affirming the dominant language ideology in society in each repetitive telling or giving it a different colouring to fit the socio-political context of the time. Reiteration is purpose- or objective-oriented, unlike repetition, which, in terms of gaze, is content-bound. And since language ideology tries to work through the illocutionary and task-orientation dimensions of discourse, reiteration is angled towards attitudinal motivation and task-orientation. In this respect, every reiterative telling of a particular aspect of a language ideology is an attempt at influence and action. Telling the public and readers that Arabic is in crisis or that a war is being waged against it is intended to activate an attitudinal consciousness or to ensure that this consciousness receives a cognitive charge that can make it ready to spring into action in defence of the language and its web of symbolisms in society. Reiteration is also a form of circulation, of renewing the life of an ideological trope in society.

This chapter also reveals that poetry is another productive site of language ideology in Arab culture. Through its culturally sanctioned position, poetry is an excellent carrier of Arabic language ideology: its aesthetic power can give life to aspects of covert language ideology in a way that gives them freshness, as if they were crafted anew. Ibrahim's poem has continued to resonate with Arab readers for more than 100 years since its publication in 1903, not just because it encapsulates aspects of their language ideology, but also because: (1) it does so in cadences and word choices that hit a raw nerve in every act of audible or inaudible recitation, making these acts more than ordinary reiterations, as the 13 titles from the Internet given above reveal; and (2) because of this, the poem has proved to be an excellent vehicle for circulating aspects of Arabic language ideology by serving as an epigraph, in whole or part, or as an inspiration for other poetic compositions that carry this ideology from generation to generation, as has been shown above. This (p.147) is also true of Gibran's prose composition. Both literary pieces have achieved canonical status in Arab culture and in articulating aspects of Arab language ideology. They may, in many respects, be considered mascots of Arabic language ideology. Because of this, poetry and prose must be given the recognition that they deserve, in disciplinary terms, as sites for investigating language ideology and its circulation in society.

What armoury does language ideology employ in delivering its message? We have seen a variety of weapons above. One is invoking the sacred to lend support to a particular aspect of language ideology. By using a limited set of verses from the Qur'an in epigraphs, prefaces and jacket copies, a reiteration of language ideology can invoke the full weight of faith to deliver its charge. Most of the verses in such epigraphs refer to the triadic link among Revelation, Prophethood and language in a manner that reduces the distance among them and makes the invocation of one trigger the others. An attack on language, therefore, becomes an attack on faith and vice versa. Moreover, the fact that this triad is often invoked in discussions of inimitability and shu‘ūbiyya means that language ideology is directly linked with the past, which meanings can, as a result, be carried forward into the present. For the elites, the war trope trades on this past when these verses from the Qur'an are employed.

Another weapon in the armoury of Arabic language ideology is the personification of Arabic, which runs through all three tropes. We have seen how Arabic is depicted as a mother in some compositions. This is a powerful metaphor in Arabic language ideology. First, it enables this ideology to align itself with faith, again by exploiting the theological imperatives that are associated with motherhood, more, in fact, than fatherhood, in Islam. Neglecting Arabic is therefore projected as tantamount to neglecting one's mother, complete with all the religious consequences that this carries. Second, failing to come to the rescue of Arabic as an objectified mother at its (or her) hour of need is considered an abdication of responsibility in a moral economy in which a person's social worth depends on discharging this responsibility. Socially speaking, this is symbolic suicide. Here the imperatives of faith and the society's code of honour coalesce to produce a powerful drive for action. This is a particularly powerful message in motivation and task-orientation. Third, by depicting the language as a human being, the mother metaphor anthropomorphises the ideological tropes we have discussed above, removing them from the domain of the abstract and bringing them into the realm of symbolic flesh and blood. Linguistic pain and suffering are no longer part of a different ontology: they metamorphosise and start to belong to us as creatures of flesh and blood. In fact, the symbolic acquires materiality, which, when considered in conjunction with the preceding two points, generates not just sympathy, but empathy, which is one of the most potent forces in task-orientation. Fourth, having become a mother to its speakers, the language can now apply all the instruments of attitudinal pressure at its disposal. It acquires the right to complain, rebuke, point out the failings (p.148) of her children, take them to task, name them and shame them and, above all, induce feelings of guilt in them. Arabic is a loving and caring mother, as mothers are supposed to be, but she expects love and care in return.

Another important weapon in Arabic language ideology is the invocation of the past in its full glory. Here, Arabic has a lot to be proud about. It is the language of one of the world's greatest religions – in fact, the world's greatest religion in the eyes of its believers. It is the language of a great culture, which dominated the world stage for centuries. And it was also the language of an imperial administration that dominated large swathes of the world where great civilisations before Islam had flourished and held sway. If this past is anything to go by, Arabic is clearly able to handle the instrumental demands imposed upon it, including the challenges of modernity in our age. Any failing in this respect is not a failing of the language, but of the people who use it. This is a double-edged message. While on the one hand, it issues a message of hope and confidence to the Arabs, it does so, on the other hand, against a background of lack and failings. And while it says to the Arabs that, based on their past, they can rise to the challenge of modernity, it tells them, at the same time, that there is something wrong with them and that is why they are not able to. As in all nationalisms, the past comes with its successes and failures and its glories and pains in language ideology. It can therefore be energising or debilitating, with little or no certainty about the direction in which it may develop.

Finally, language ideology cannot do its job without enemies. All three tropes above, but especially the war trope, are constructed around the notion of the enemy. As has been mentioned, the enemy can be an outsider or an insider. External enemies work through careful planning to serve their own interests. Weakening Arabic and shaking the confidence of its people in it are two ways of weakening the Arabs and Islam. Internal enemies are considered more dangerous, because they work from the inside as a fifth column. Some work wittingly for objectives that are inimical to Arabic and the Arabs and/or Islam and Muslims. Enemies of this kind may ally themselves with external enemies. Some internal enemies fall into this category unwittingly. They fall prey to the subterranean workings of the external enemies’ soft power, smuggled into the midst of Arabic speakers on the back of a seemingly neutral modernity or through globalisation.

I have referred above to the use of language as proxy for other issues of concern in society. The idea that Arabic is in crisis, that it is in a state of fossilisation or that it is the target of wars and conspiracies may, in fact, be an extra-linguistic statement about a host of concerns in the political, economic or social spheres. Language ideology, in this case, plays a mediating role in society by serving as a backdoor channel, enabling other issues to be aired. A close reading of al-Shubashi's book would reveal that although traditional grammar and Sibawayhi were his most immediate targets of attack, his main battle, in fact, was with the religious scholars, who come in for scathing criticism in his book, because of their conservatism. Al-Shubashi uses (p.149) the (suspect) notion of the sacredness of Arabic as a conduit for accusing the religious scholars of appropriating linguistic powers that are not theirs, in spite of the fact that they are ill-equipped to exercise those powers to benefit progress and enlightenment in society. There is nothing new in the appropriation of language as proxy. This practice has a long past and cross-cultural currency. To illustrate the latter, I will quote from a book on English language anxiety:

When English speakers have lamented the condition and goals of schools, they have cited the state of language usage as both cause and consequence of this usage. When they have worried over the integrity and diversity of society, they have argued for and against the persistence of non-English languages [for example in the United States, Australia or New Zealand]. And when they have identified signs of a literal or figurative apocalypse, they have pointed to language and how it, in turn, points to social and moral issues beyond itself.160

Linked to the notion of the enemy in Arabic language ideology is a deep sense of language anxiety. The tropes of crisis, fossilisation and especially war are inseparable from this anxiety, which, in turn, points to other anxieties of a political and social nature in society.161 I have referred to language ideology as part of a larger ideological matrix, which sees the Arabs as the target of outside conspiracies that are aided and abetted by Arabs on the inside. Arab political and social life is seen to be both in crisis and in a state of fossilisation. Islam and Muslims are seen to be under attack, externally and internally. The above ideological language tropes may therefore be read as tropes of a more overarching ideological configuration, in which the same forces of threat and decay are at work in different aspects of the social world. This fact points to a confluence of ideologies that aids the promulgation, circulation and naturalisation of language ideology beyond its restricted sphere. When language ideology is in step with a host of other ideological formations in society, language ideology does not need to work hard to be accepted as valid in perceptual terms. This confluence leads to a lowering of the bar on evidence, proof and, therefore, acceptability, in spite of the fact that these criteria are incidental to the workings of ideology; hence the use of the term ‘perceptual’ in the preceding sentence.

Language ideology provides an excellent arena for linking Arabic with cultural politics. This book is based on the idea that culture is political (with a small ‘p’) in a way that is not always operationalised or applied in political science. The same sense of exclusion is true of descriptive and structural linguists, who consider anything that lies outside language systemology not (p.150) to be ‘linguistic’ in their strict interpretation of the term.162 This is particularly true of modern studies of the Arabic language. Yet the above discussion shows how by linking language to faith, identity and anxiety, we can, in fact, tap a rich canvas of political impulses and meanings in society. The idea that Arabic is under attack is an integral part of a political imagining in the Arab political sphere that conceptualises modern Arab history against the background of colonialism and the postcolonialist encounter in the fields of politics and economics. This imagining is built around the double jeopardy of external attack and internal collaboration, regardless of whether or not there is an empirical basis for this imagining. Conspiracy theories are linked directly to this imagining, which, as we have seen, applies to language ideology with full force. The tropes of language ideology that I have identified help to illuminate this imagining.

Furthermore, language ideology also reveals that cultural politics tracks larger political issues in society. As I have shown in my book The Arabic Language and National Identity: A Study in Ideology, most of the ideological talk about Arabic in the latter half of the nineteenth century and the first seven decades of the twentieth was imbued with a secularist spirit, which reflected the pan- and territorial nationalisms that dominated the scene during this period. The rise of Islamic-inflected politics since the 1970s had a direct impact on the direction of Arabic language ideology, as the works that I have discussed in this chapter amply suggest. It is, of course, not possible to separate the two trends from each other, yet the preponderance of works from one or the other trend at different periods in the modern history of the Arabic-speaking peoples does suggest that language can offer, through its associated ideology, a barometer for tracking larger politics in society. It is this intertwining of language with culture and politics that makes language ideology an area of study that is full of interdisciplinary promise. (p.151)

Framing Arabic: Paratexts, Poetry and Language Ideology

Figure 3.1 Why Arabic? front cover (al-Naḥwī)

Framing Arabic: Paratexts, Poetry and Language Ideology

Figure 3.2 Why Arabic? inside cover (al-Naḥwī)

Framing Arabic: Paratexts, Poetry and Language Ideology

Figure 3.3 ‘In the Name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful’ (al-Naḥwī)

Framing Arabic: Paratexts, Poetry and Language Ideology

Figure 3.4 Publisher's logo: name and crescent (al-Naḥwī)

Framing Arabic: Paratexts, Poetry and Language IdeologyFraming Arabic: Paratexts, Poetry and Language Ideology

Figure 3.5 Dedication (al-Naḥwī)

Framing Arabic: Paratexts, Poetry and Language IdeologyFraming Arabic: Paratexts, Poetry and Language Ideology

Figure 3.6 Epigraph (al-Naḥwī)

Framing Arabic: Paratexts, Poetry and Language Ideology

Figure 3.7 Jacket copy (al-Naḥwī)

Framing Arabic: Paratexts, Poetry and Language Ideology

Figure 3.8 Rescuing Arabic, Rescuing Arab Identity (Darwīsh)

Framing Arabic: Paratexts, Poetry and Language Ideology

Figure 3.9 The Crisis of Arabic Terminology in the Nineteenth Century (Sawwā‘ī)

Framing Arabic: Paratexts, Poetry and Language Ideology

Figure 3.10 The Intellectual History of the Crisis of Arabic (al-Nu‘aymī)

Framing Arabic: Paratexts, Poetry and Language Ideology

Figure 3.11 The Crisis of the Arabic Language in Morocco (al-Fihrī)

Framing Arabic: Paratexts, Poetry and Language Ideology

Figure 3.12 Sibawayhi's Crime (Ūzūn)

Framing Arabic: Paratexts, Poetry and Language Ideology

Figure 3.13 Long Live Arabic! (al-Shūbāshī), first edition

Framing Arabic: Paratexts, Poetry and Language Ideology

Figure 3.14 Jacket Copy (Ūzūn)

Framing Arabic: Paratexts, Poetry and Language Ideology

Figure 3.15 Dedication (Ūzūn)

Framing Arabic: Paratexts, Poetry and Language Ideology

Figure 3.16 Long Live Arabic! (al-Shūbāshī), third edition


(1) See Yasir Suleiman, ‘Ideology, grammar-making and the standardisation of Arabic’, in Bilal Orfali (ed.), In the Shadow of Arabic: The Centrality of Language to Arabic Culture (Studies Presented to Ramzi Baalbaki on the Occasion of his Sixtieth Birthday) (Leiden and Boston, MA: Brill, 2011b), pp. 3–30, for ideology and the standardisation of Arabic.

(2) Gerard Genette, Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

(3) Ibid. pp. 171–5, for a discussion of process and outcome in naming practice.

(4) For the concept of ‘crisis’, see Reinhart Koselleck, ‘Crisis’, Journal of the History of Ideas (2006), 67: 357–400.

(5) Genette, Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation, p. 92.

(6) Ibid. pp. 74–5.

(7) Ibid. p. 75.

(8) Genette calls this circulation of the text as its public epitext, which he describes as: ‘any paratextual element not materially appended to the text within the same volume but circulating, as it were, freely, in a virtually limitless physical and social space. The location of the epitext is therefore anywhere outside the book – but of course nothing precludes its later admission to the text’ (Ibid. p. 344). Sticking with Shubashi, some of the public reactions to his book were included in the third printing as an epilogue under the title Qālū 'an al-kitāb (this is what they said about the book). Epitexts may appear in ‘newspapers and magazines, radio or television programmes, lectures …’ (Ibid. pp. 344–5).

(9) Ibid. p. 93.

(10) See Yasir Suleiman, A War of Words: Language and Conflict in the Middle East (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), p. 49, as an exception.

(11) Genette, Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation, p. 135.

(12) Ibid. p. 158.

(13) See Aḥmad Samīr Baybars, al-Wāqi' al-lughawī wa-l-huwiyya al-‘arabiyya (Cairo: Dār al-Fikr al-‘Arabī, n.d.).

(14) See 'Abd al-ฤaqq al-A'ẓami, al-‘Arab wa-l-'arabiyya bihimā ṣalāh al-umma al-‘arabiyya wa jamī' al-umam al-bashariyya (Dayr al-Zūr: al-Maktaba al-‘Urūbiyya, 1983); Hādī al-‘Alawī, al-Mu'jam al-‘arabī al-jadīd: muqaddima (Latakiyya: Dār al-Ḥiwār, 1983); Amin al-Khūlī, Min hady al-qur'ān: mushkilāt ḥayātinā al-lughawiyya (Cairo: al-Hay'a al-Miṣriyya al-‘Āmma li-l-Kiṭāb, 1987); Nihād al-Mūsā, al-Asālīb: manāhij wa-namādhij fī ta‘līm al-lugha al-‘arabiyya (Amman: Dār al-Shurūq li-l-Nashr wa-l-Tawzī', 2003).

(15) See Nihād al-Mūsā, Qaḍiyyat al-taḥawull ilā al-fuṣḥā fī al-‘ālam al-arabī al-ḥadīth (Amman: Dār al-Fikr li-l-Nashr wa-l-Tawzī', 1978).

(16) See Muḥammad Kāmil Ḥasan, al-Lugha al-‘arabiyya al-mu'āṣira (Cairo: Dār al-Ma‘ārif bi-Miṣr, n.d.); Maḥmūd Aḥmad al-Sayyid, Shu'ūn lughawiyya (Beirut: Dār al-Fikr al-Mu'āṣir, 1989); Sa‘īd Aḥmad Bayyūmī, Umm al-lughāt: dirāsa fī khaṣā'iṣ al-lugha al-‘arabiyya wa-l-nuhūḍ bihā (Cairo: Maktabat al-Ādāb, 2002); Muḥammad Fawzī al-Mināwī, Azmat al-ta‘rīb (Cairo: Markiz al-Ahrām li-l-Tarjama wa-l-Nashr, 2003); al-Junaydī Khalīfa, Naḥwa ‘arabiyya afḍal (Beirut: Manshūrāt Dār al-Ḥayāt, n.d.); Maḥmūd Aḥmad al-Sayyid, Fī qaḍāyā al-lugha al-tarbawiyya (Kuwait: Wakālat al-Maṭbū'āt, n.d.).

(17) See Aḥmad Bin Nu'mān, al-Ta‘rīb byana al-mabda‘ wa-l-taṭbīq fī al-jazā'ir zva-l-'ālam al-‘arabī (Algiers: al-Sharika al-Waṭaniyya li-l-Nashr wa-l-Tawzī', 1981); Muḥammad Khalīfa al-Tūnusī, Aḍwā' ‘ala lughatinā al-samḥa (Kuwait: Dār al-‘Arabī, 1985); Usāma al-Alfī, al-Lugha al-‘arabiyya wa-kayfa nanhaḍ bihā nuṭqan wa-ktiābatan (Cairo: al-Hay'a al-Miṣriyya al-‘Āmma li-l-Kitāb, 2004); Ṭālib 'Abd al-Raḥmān, al-‘Arabiyya tuwājih al-taḥaddiyāt (Qatar: Wazārat al-Awqāf, 2006).

(18) See 'Abd al-Karīm Khalīfa, Taysīr al-‘arabiyya bayna al-qadīm wa-l-ḥadīth (Amman: Manshūrāt Majma‘ al-Lugha al-‘Arabiyya al-Urdunnī, 1986); Aḥmad Darwīsh, Inqāẓ al-lugha, inqāẓ al-huwiyya:: tatwīr al-lugha al-‘arabiyya (Cairo: Nahḍat Miṣr, 2006); ‘Ā’isha 'Abd al-Raẓmān, Lughatunā wa-l-ẓayā (Cairo: Dār al-Ma‘ārif, n.d.).

(19) See Muḥammad Sawwā'ī, Azmat al-muṣṭalaḥ al-‘arabī fī al-qarn al-tāsi’ 'ashar: muqaddima tārīkhiyya 'āmma (Damascus: al-Ma‘had al-Faransi li-l-Dirāsāt al-‘Arabiyya bi-Dimashq, 1999).

(20) See Sa‘īd al-Afghānī, Min ḥāḍir al-lugha al-‘arabiyya (Damascus: Dār al-Fikr, 1971).

(21) See 'Adnān 'Alī Riḍā al-Naḥwī, Limādhā al-lugha al-‘arabiyya? (Riyadh: Dār al-Naḥwī li-l-Nashr wa-l-Tawzī', 1998); Sa‘īd Ḥārib, al-Ta‘rīb wa-l-ta‘līm al-‘ālī (Sharjah: Jam'iyyat Ḥimāyat al-Lugha al-‘Arabiyya, 2000); Hādī Nahr, al-Lugha al-‘arabiyya wa-taḥaddiyāt al-‘awlama (Irbid: 'Ālam al-Kutub al-Ḥadīth, 2010).

(22) See Idrīs al-Kattānī, Thamānūn 'āman min al-ḥarb al-frakūfūniyya ḍidd al-islām wa-l-lugha al-‘arabiyya (Rabat: Manshūrāt Nādī al-Fikr al-Islāmī, 2000). This is not an exhaustive list.

(23) Genette, Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation, p. 197 [emphasis in the original].

(24) Ibid. p. 92.

(25) Ibid. p. 92.

(26) Judith T. Irvine, ‘When talk isn't cheap: language and political economy’, American Ethnologist (1989), 16: 255.

(27) As we shall see below, the war trope in Arabic language ideology makes references to the Crusades.

(28) Although the following explanation of the term in Arabic, mu'āmara, is meant to apply to Arab political language in the 1950s and 1960s, its core meaning is still applicable today: ‘Arab political climate is heavy with conspiracies and plots, for political opposition is mostly underground and secretiveness is the normal condition of political life. Thus the whispering campaign is as effective as radio broadcasts, and news is not so much reporting as reading meaning into developments and events. Just as the obvious is never taken at face value, so the hidden motive is always the object of examination and questioning. The line separating credulity from cynicism is often too thin even from the standpoint of those who are engaged in political action. The mystery permeating this atmosphere induces suspicion and mistrust; the ordinary man sees a plot behind every shift in every policy, every decision or development, whether within the army, by a foreign power, or by a political group. There is an old conspiracy, a Communist conspiracy and an imperialist conspiracy’. See Hisham Sharabi, Nationalism and Revolution in the Arab World (Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand Company, 1966), p. 101. Commenting on conspiracy theory as a form of ideological explanation, Billig says: ‘The conspiracy theory of politics … represents an ideological pattern especially relevant to the social psychology of explanation … In essence the ideology of conspiracy seeks to explain all major political events in the world in terms of an evil conspiracy, or series of conspiracies. The conspiracy theorist tells a story of hidden machinations by small groups who are plotting to subvert the natural order of the world … [The] conspiracy theorist offers a monomanic explanation for social events, in that all the major happenings are explained in precisely the same way: no matter what happens the conspiracy theorist sees the malign hand of hidden conspirators. In this sense conspiracy theory represents an extreme form of personal explanation in that nothing happens by chance, since all is to be explained in terms of deliberate plotting’. See Michael Billig, ‘Methodology and scholarship in understanding ideological explanation’, in Charles Antaki (ed.), Analysing Everyday Explanation: A Casebook of Methods (London: Sage Publications, 1988), pp. 201–2.

(29) See Ramzi Baalbaki, ‘The historic relevance of poetry in the Arab grammatical tradition’, in Ramzi Baalbaki, Salih Said Agha and Tarif Khalidi (eds), Poetry and History: The Value of Poetry in Reconstructing Arab History (Beirut: American University of Beirut Press, 2001), pp. 95–120; Yasir Suleiman, The Arabic Grammatical Tradition: A Study in Ta‘līl (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999).

(30) See Heather J. Sharkey, Living with Colonialism: Nationalism and Culture in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2003); Yasir Suleiman, ‘The nation speaks: on the poetics of nationalist literature’, in Yasir Suleiman and Ibrahim Muhawi (eds), Literature and Nation in the Middle East (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2006a), pp. 208–31; Yasir Suleiman, ‘Nationalist poetry, conflict and meta-linguistic discourse’, in Yasir Suleiman (ed.), Living Islamic History: Studies in Honour of Professor Carole Hillenbrand (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010), pp. 252–78.

(31) See Michael G. Carter (ed.), Arab Linguistics: An Introductory Classical Text with Translation and Notes (Amsterdam and Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins, 1981) for a translation and annotation of al-Ājjūrrwniya based on al-Shirbini's (d. 978/1570) commentary on this text.

(32) Bahīja Bāqir al-Ḥasani, ‘al-Zamakhsharī wa-l-shu‘ūbiyya’, Majallat majma‘ al-lugha al-‘arabiyya al-urdunnī (1989), 37:203201003–4.

(33) This title is followed by ellipses (…) to signal that the absent is in fact not absent at all, but ubiquitous and omnipresent through its popular circulation.

(34) al-Junaydī Kahlīfa, Naḥwa 'arabiyya afṭal (Beirut: Manshūrāt Dār al-Ḥayāt, n.d.), p. 5.

(35) Ibid. p. 5.

(36) See Suleiman, ‘The nation speaks: on the poetics of nationalist literature’; Suleiman, ‘Arabic language reforms, language ideology and the criminalisation of Sībawayhi’; Suleiman, ‘Nationalist poetry, conflict and meta-linguistic discourse’; Suleiman, Arabic, Self and Identity.

(37) See Yasir Suleiman, The Arabic Language and National Identity: A Study in Ideology (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2003); Suleiman, Arabic, Self and Identity.

(38) See Shurūq Muḥammad Salmān, Durar bahiyya fī madḥ al-‘arabiyya (United Arab Emirates: no publisher, 2007). This collection contains 28 poems about Arabic. A lot more poems have been written on Arabic in the modern period, as can be ascertained from a survey of the periodicals of the Arabic language academies.

(39) See Salmān, Durar bahiyya fī madḥ al-‘arabiyya, pp. 22–5.

(40) Ibid. pp. 26–9.

(41) Ibid. pp. 17–19.

(42) For the name of the language as al-ḍādd, see Suleiman, The Arabic Language and National Identity, pp. 59–60.

(43) See Salmān, Durar bahiyya fī madḥ al-‘arabiyya, pp. 30–2.

(44) Ibid. pp. 34–7.

(45) Ibid. pp. 40–1.

(49) See http://stibda3.123.st/t692-topic (accessed 26 January 2012).

(51) See http://www.aleqt.com/2010/03/29/article_370837.html (accessed 26 January 2012).

(52) See http://tolab.justgoo.com/t2529-topic (accessed 26 January 2012).

(53) See http://www.lq8.org/vb/showthread.php?t=1622 (accessed 26 January 2012).

(54) See http://www.monms.com/vb/t27181.html (accessed 26 January 2012).

(56) See http://www.tech4c.com/vb/threads/23499 (accessed 26 January 2012).

(57) See http://www.lahdah.org/vb/t4351.html (accessed 26 January 2012).

(58) See http://www.alsaha.com/sahat/3/topics/168352 (accessed 26 January 2012).

(59) The term ‘uqūq reminds the Arabic reader of Qur'an 17:23–4, which is ever-present when reflecting on the proper relationship between parents and children. Addressing the children, these verses read as follows in translation: ‘(23) Your Lord has decreed that you worship none except Him, and (that you show) kindness to parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age with you, say not “Fie” to them nor repulse them, but speak to them a gracious word. (24) And Lower to them the wing of submission through mercy, and say: My Lord! Have mercy on them both as they did care for me when I was little’.

(60) Some of these titles are found on websites with pedagogic intent.

(61) See Laurie Bauer and Peter Trudgill (eds), Language Myths (London: Routledge, 1998); Joshua Fishman, Language and Nationalism: Two Integrative Essays (Rowley, MA: Newbury House Publishers, 1972).

(62) Muḥammad Sawwā‘ī, Azmat al-muṣṭalaḤ al-‘arabī fī al-qarn al-tāsi’ ‘ashar: muqaddima tārikhiyya ‘āmma (Damascus: al-Ma‘had al-Faransī li-l-Dirāsāt al-‘Arabiyya bi-Dimashq, 1999).

(63) Muḥammad Fawzi al-Mināwā, Azmat al-ta‘rīb (Cairo: Markiz al-Alirām li-l-Tarjama wa-l-Nashr, 2003).

(64) ‘Abd al-Qādir al-Fihrī al-Fāsī, Azmat al-lugha al-‘arabiyya fī al-maghrib: bayna ikhtilālāt al-ta‘addudiyya wa-ta‘aththurāt ‘al-tarjama (Rabat: Manshūrāt Zāwiya, 2005).

(65) Sādiq Muḥammad Nu‘aymī, al-Tārīkh al-fikrī li-azmat al-lugha al-‘arabiyya (Rabat: Ifrīqyā al-Sharq, 2008).

(66) The search was made on 30 January 2012.

(67) An example of the use of the crisis trope in highbrow publications is Aḥmnad Mukhtār ‘Umar, ‘Azmat al-lugha al-‘arabiyya wa-l-hāja ilā hulūl ghayr taqlidiyya’, in Amīn Mahmud al-‘Ālim (ed.), Qaḍāyā Fikriyya: lughtatunā al-‘arabiyya fī ma‘rakat al-hadāra (Vols 17 and 18) (Cairo: QaḆāyā Fikriyya li-l-Nashr wa-l-Tawzī', 1997), pp. 65–80. This appeared in a special edition of Qadāyā fikriyya entitled lughatunā al-‘arabiyya fī ma‘rakat al-ḥaḍāra, edited by the Egyptian intellectual Maḥmūd Amīin al-‘Ālim.

(68) Darwīsh, Inqāẓ al-lugha, inqāẓ al-huwiyya: taṭwīr al-lugha al-‘arabiyya.

(69) Ḍayf published widely on Arabic language and literature. He also served as the President of the Arab Language Academy in Egypt.

(70) Muḥammad Fawzī al-Mināwī, Azmat al-ta‘rīb (Cairo: Markiz al-Ahrām li-l-Tarjama wa-l-Nashr, 2003).

(71) Ibid. p. 15.

(72) ‘Abd al-Salām al-Misaddī, al-‘Arab wa-l-intiḥār al-lughawī (Beirut: Dār al-Kitāb al-Jadīd al-Muttaḥida, 2011).

(73) Rajā’ al-Naqqāsh, hal tantaḥir al-lugha al-‘arabiyya? (Cairo: Nahḍat Miṣr, 2009).

(74) Ibid. pp. 27–8.

(75) Sawwā’ī, Azmat al-muṣṭalaḥ al-‘arabī fī al-qarn al-tāsi’ ‘ashar: muqaddima tārīkhiyya ‘āmma.

(76) Ibid. pp. 13–17.

(77) Ibid. p. 14.

(78) Ibid. p. 14.

(79) Nu'aymī, al-Tārīkh al-fikrī li-azmat al-lugha al-‘arabiyya.

(80) Genette, Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation, p. 94.

(81) Nu'aymī, al-Tārīkh al-fikrī li-azmat al-lugha al-‘arabiyya, p. 57.

(82) Ibid. p. 71.

(83) Ibid. p. 79.

(84) Muḥammad Fawzī al-Mināwī, Azmat al-ta‘rīb (Cairo: Markiz al-Ahrām li-l-Tarjama wa-l-Nashr, 2003), p. 30.

(85) Sulaymān Jubrān, ‘Alā hāmish al-tajdīd wa-l-taqyīd fī al-lugha al-‘arabiyya al-mu'āṣira (Haifa: Majma‘ al-Lugha al-‘Arabiyya, 2009), p. 31.

(86) al-Fāsī al-Fihrī, Azmat al-lugha al-‘arabiyya fī al-maghrib: bayna ikhtilālāt al-ta‘addudiyya wa-ta‘aththurāt ‘al-tarjama.

(87) See, for example, the title of Frayḥa‘s book: Fī al-lugha al-‘arabiyya wa-ba‘ḍ mushkilātihā (The Arabic Language: Some Problems) (Beirut: Dār al-Nahār, 1980). Also, see the title of al-Barāzī's book: Mushkilāt al-lugha al-‘arabiyya al-mu'āṣira (Problems of Modern/Contemporary Arabic) (Amman: Maktabat al-Risāla, 1989).

(88) The term badawiyya implies that fuṣḥā Arabic is still rooted in a backward desert culture that makes it unfit for modernity, and, hence, fossilised. See Ibrāhīm Anis, ‘hal al-lugha al-‘arabiyya badawiyya?’, Majallat Majma‘ al-Lugha al-‘Arabiyya (1969), 24: 172–80, for a discussion of this concept.

(89) Salmān, Durar bahiyya fī madḥ al-‘arabiyya, p. 116.

(90) Geert Jan van Gelder, ‘Against the Arabic grammarians: some poems’, in Bilal Orfali (ed.), In the Shadow of Arabic: The Centrality of Language to Arabic Culture (Studies Presented to Ramzi Baalbaki on the Occasion of his Sixtieth Birthday) (Leiden and Boston, MA: Brill, 2011), p. 250.

(91) Ibid. p. 254.

(92) Ibid. p. 254.

(93) Ibid. p. 255.

(94) Ibid. p. 256.

(95) These are the names of well-known Arab grammarians. Sibawayhi (d. 180/796) is the author of the foundational treatise on Arabic grammar al-Kitāb; Abu al-Aswad (d. 69/688) is credited with carrying out the first orthographic reform of the Arabic script in Islam; and Ibn ‘Aqil (d. 769/1367) is best known for his commentary on the Alfiyya of Ibn Malik.

(96) Zakariyyā Ūzūn, Jināyat Sībawayhi: al-rafḍ al-tāmm li-mā fī al-naḥw min awhām (Beirut: Riyād al-Rayyis li-l-Kutub wa-l-Nashr, 2002).

(97) See Sharīf al-Shūbāshī, Li-taḥyā al-lugha al-‘arabiyya: yasquṭ Sībawayhi (Cairo: Madbūlī al-Ṣaghīr, [3rd printing] 2004). For an earlier discussion of these two books, see Suleiman, ‘Arabic language reforms, language ideology and the criminalisation of Sībawayhi’.

(98) For an introduction to Sibawyhi and his grammatical legacy, see Michael G. Carter, Sibawayhi (London: I. B. Tauris, 2004).

(99) Charles Pellat, The Life and Works of Jāḥiẓ: Translations of Selected Texts, trans. D. M. Hawke (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1969), p. 113.

(100) See Yasir Suleiman, ‘Arabic language reforms, language ideology and the criminalisation of Sībawayhi’, in Edzard Lutz and Janet Watson (eds), Grammar as a Window onto Arabic Humanism: A Collection of Articles in Honour of Michael G. Carter (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2006b), pp. 66–83 for the debate that the book generated in the media.

(101) al-Shūbāshī, Li-taḥyā al-lugha al-‘arabiyya: yasquṭ Sībawayhi, p. 5. The book went into three printings in the first year of its publication (2004). This indicates the high demand for the book among the public and readers.

(102) Ibid. p. 238.

(103) Aḥmad Darwish, ‘Inqāẓ al-lugha min aydī al-nuḥā’, in Maḥmūd Amīn al-‘Ālim (ed.), Qaḍāyā fikriyya: lughatunā fī ma‘rakat al-ḥaḍāra (1997), 17–18: 81–91.

(104) Sharif al-Shūbāshī, Li-taḥyā al-lugha al-‘arabiyya: yasquṭ Sībawayhi (Cairo: Madbūlī al-ṣaghīr, [3rd printing] 2004), p. 8.

(105) Ibid. p. 14.

(106) Ibid. p. 22.

(107) Ibid. p. 22.

(108) Ibid. p. 63.

(109) Ibid. p. 60.

(110) Ibid. p. 80.

(111) For a discussion of this book, see Suleiman, The Arabic Language and National Identity, pp. 190–7.

(112) See Yasir Suleiman, ‘The methodological rules of Arabic grammar’, in Kinga Dévényi and Támash Iványi (eds), Proceedings of the Collouium on Arabic Grammar/The Arabist: Budapest Studies in Arabic (Budapest: Etövös Loránd University and Csoma De Körös Society, 1991), pp. 351–64; Yasir Suleiman, The Arabic Grammatical Tradition: A Study in Ta‘līl (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999); Suleiman, ‘The nation speaks: on the poetics of nationalist literature’; Suleiman, ‘Arabic language reforms, language ideology and the criminalisation of Sībawayhi’; Suleiman, Arabic, Self and Identity.

(113) Kees Versteegh, The Explanation of Linguistic Causes: Az-Zajjājī's Theory of Grammar (Amsterdam and Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins, 1995), p. 21.

(114) See Versteegh, The Explanation of Linguistic Causes: Az-Zajjājī's Theory of Grammar, p. 89, for a full translation of what al-Kahlil says in this context.

(115) Idrīs al-Kattānī, Thamānūna ‘āman mina al-ḥarb al-frakūfūniyya ḍidd al-islām wa-llugha al-‘arabiyya (Rabat: Manshūrāt Nādī al-Fikr al-Islāmī, 2000).

(117) Maḥmūd Amīn al-‘Ālim (ed.), Qaḍāyā fikriyya: lughtatunā al-‘arabiyya fī ma‘rakat al-ḥaḍāra (Vols 17 and 18) (Cairo: Qaḍāyā Fikriyya li-l-Nashr wa-l-Tawzī‘, 1997).

(118) ‘Abd al-Karīm al-Ashtar, al-‘Arabiyya fī muwājahat al-makhāṭir (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islāmī, 2006). The title page carries the word Arabic in disconnected letters in red surrounded with arrows that are aimed at it from three directions.

(119) Ṭālib ‘Abd al-Raḥmān, al-‘Arabiyya tuwājih al-taḥaddiyāt (Qatar: Wazārat al-Awqāf, 2006).

(120) Aḥmad ‘Abd al-Ghafūr ‘Aṭṭār, al-Zaḥf ‘alā lughat al-qur'ān (Beirut: no publisher, 1966).

(121) Fāḍil al-Jamālī, Difā‘an ‘an al-‘Arabiyya (Tunis: Mu'assassāt ‘Abd al-Karīm Bin ‘Abdallaa, 1996).

(122) Gunvor Mejdell, ‘What is happening to lughatunā al-jamīla? Recent media representations and social practice in Egypt’, Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies (2008), 8: 112–13. Basing herself on a survey of press media materials in Egypt during the years 1997–8, 2001–2 and 2006–7, Mejdell describes the threat posed by globalisation as follows: ‘The external threat is perceived as coming from the pressures of globalisation … imposing Western political, economic and cultural hegemony. The notion of conflict … is couched in strongly marked evaluative terms (rape, evil forces, etc.). “Our beautiful language is being raped in commercials, on shop facades, in the streets in schools and universities,” complains the Egyptian opposition paper, Al-Sha‘b [quoted in Al-Ahram Weekly on 21 October 1999], and likens the present situation to the darkest days of British occupation. The centrality of [fuṣḥā Arabic] for the construction of national identity is repeatedly evoked, e.g. “We must cling to al-‘Arabiyya to safeguard our identity in the face of the pressure of globalisation” reads a typical headline in Al-Ahram (27 June 1997). To the writer Muhammad Jalal, interviewed in Sawt al-Azhar (21 July 2006), [fuṣḥā Arabic] is “the daughter of the people … whose position will be strong or weak depending on her family … In times of hardship we cannot expect too much of her”. Nowadays, however, there is a genuine awakening in the Arab world, claims Jalal, which is “ready to stand against the evil forces which do not wish … the Arab nation [well], and want it to be more fractured than it is”. But the Arab people have learnt to fight for their values, he says, and the real value of the nation is the Arabic language, which will remain strong because it is the language of the Qur'an, which protects its honour (sharaf). There must be a common awareness that the honour of this nation is the Arabic language, and that the nation must stand united to protect the honour of this Arabic language/daughter’.

(123) See Aḥmad bin Muḥammad al-Dubayb, al-Lugha al-‘arabiyya fī‘asr al-‘awlama (Riyadh: Maktabat al-‘Ubaykān, 2001) for a discussion of Arabic and globalisation. This discussion, which reads globalisation as a form of cultural invasion, is not untypical in Arabic language ideology. See Suleiman, Arabic, Self and Identity for an extensive discussion of the topic.

(124) al-Kattānī, Thamānūn ‘āman mina al-ḥarb al-frakūfūniyya ḍidd al-islām wa-l-lugha al-‘arabiyya, p. 7.

(125) ‘Abd al-Raḥmān, al-‘Arabiyya tuwājih al-taḥaddiyāt, p. 17.

(126) Ibid. p. 14.

(127) Ibid. p. 14.

(128) Ibid. p. 14.

(129) Ibid. p. 17.

(130) Ibid. p. 17.

(131) Ibid. p. 18.

(132) Ibid. p. 22.

(133) Ibid. p. 23.

(134) Ibid. p. 24.

(135) Ibid. p. 25.

(136) Ibid. p. 14.

(137) Ibid. p. 14.

(138) Ibid. p. 16.

(139) Ibid. p. 17.

(140) Ibid. p. 17.

(141) al-Jamālī, Difā‘an ‘an al-‘Arabiyya, p. 32.

(142) Suleiman, The Arabic Language and National Identity, pp. 180–204.

(143) Sa‘d Ḥāfiẓ Maḥmūd, ‘al-Ḥawal al-lughawī: ta‘ammulāt fī ẓāhirat inḥirāf wainḥiṭāṭ al-lugha’, in Maḥmūd Amīn al-‘Ālim (ed.), Qaḍāyā fikriyya: lughatunā fī ma‘rakat al-ḥaḍāra (Vols 17–18) (Cairo: Qaḍāyā Fikriyya li–l–Nashr wa–l–Tawzī‘, 1997), pp. 131–4.

(144) Suleiman, Arabic, Self and Identity, pp. 124–41.

(145) Walīd Ibrāhīm Qaṣṣāb, ‘Jināyat al-ḥadātha al-mu‘āṣira ‘alā al-lugha al-‘arabiyya’, Majallat Kulliyat al-Dirāsāt al-Islāmiyya wa–l–‘Arabiyya (United Arab Emirates) (1994), 9: 201–22.

(146) Ibid. pp. 205, 203 (respectively).

(147) al-Jamālī, Difā ‘an ‘an al-‘Arabiyya, p. 13.

(148) Ibid. p. 29.

(149) Ibid. p. 29.

(150) Ibid. p. 29.

(151) Ibid. p. 29.

(152) Ibid. p. 29.

(153) Ibid. p. 30.

(154) Ṭālib ‘Abd al-Raḥmān, al-‘Arabiyya tuwājih al-taḥaddiyāt (Qatar: Wazārat al-Awqāf, 2006).

(155) ‘Umar Farrūkh, al-Qawmiyya al-fuṣḥā (Beirut: Dār al-‘Ilm li-l-Malāyīn, 1961).

(156) Ibid. pp. 5–6.

(157) See ‘Abd al-Ghafūr ‘Aṭṭār, al-Zaḥf ‘alā lughat al-qur'ān.

(158) The war trope is used in poetry; however, I will not deal with this here, simply due to lack of space.

(159) See Suleiman, ‘Ideology, grammar-making and the standardisation of Arabic'.

(160) Tim William Machan, Language Anxiety: Conflict and Change in the History of English (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), p. 3.

(161) See Suleiman, Arabic, Self and Identity, for a discussion of language anxiety.

(162) See Robin Tolmach Lakoff, The Language War (Berkeley, CA: The University of California Press, 2000), p. 2. Lakoff says linguists of this kind: ‘tend to be interested in discovering the abstract properties of languages, the grammatical rules that make them up, and the structures that make them different from one another, yet basically similar’.