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Arabic in the FrayLanguage Ideology and Cultural Politics$
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Yasir Suleiman

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748637409

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748637409.001.0001

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Through the Looking Glass: Arabic, Thought and Reality

Through the Looking Glass: Arabic, Thought and Reality

Chapter:
(p.220) Chapter 5 Through the Looking Glass: Arabic, Thought and Reality
Source:
Arabic in the Fray
Author(s):

Yasir Suleiman

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9780748637409.003.0006

This chapter continues the exploration of the symbolic function of language by considering an important text that marks the transition from the pre-modern to the modern period. It then moves to explore the cognitive role that Arabic plays in connecting thought with reality. This chapter examines two modes of performing this task: the behaviour-centred and the structure-centred approaches, with emphasis on the former, owing to its dominance in attempts to study Arabic from a cognitive perspective. The data for this analysis are a set of texts in Arabic and English, which, in spite of their differences, exhibit similarities in terms of method, as reflected in the use of cross-cultural comparisons and literal translation. The loose nature of the behaviour-centred approach brings many of the findings based on it close to ideological advocacy. This proximity invites language symbolism into the cognitive domain through the back door, in a way that blurs the difference between them. As a result, the overall effect is not one of looking at Arabic through a cognitive prism, but through an ideological gaze that uses the power of language as a proxy to construct a largely negative view of Arab culture. Both Arab and non-Arab authors participate in this mode of doing politics through language as a cultural product.

Keywords:   Instrumentality, symbolism, cognitivism, behaviour–centred, structure-centred, repetition, literal translation, exaggeration, over-assertion, ideological advocacy

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