Arabization in Algeria : language ideology in elite discourse, 1962-1991
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Taʿrīb, or Arabization, translates simply to “making Arab that which is not.” For the elite of independent Algeria, Arabization signified the policy of substituting Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) for French in politics, education, and public administration. Many elite also intended for MSA to replace Colloquial Arabic and Berber, the first languages of most Algerians, as the languages of daily communication. Yet six decades of Arabization did not eliminate the use of Colloquial Arabic, Tamazight, or French, with the former two dominating daily communication and French still commonly used in education, government, and business. Continued debate over if and how the Algerian government should pursue Arabization has led many scholars to interpret linguistic variation in Algeria as a conflict in which Modern Standard Arabic, Colloquial Arabic, Tamazight, and French all compete for official legitimacy. This thesis examines the ideological foundations of Arabization in elite discourse from independence to the beginning of the Algerian civil war in 1991. Drawing on a range of primary source material including state-sponsored cultural reviews, autobiographies, and literary fiction, I analyze competing perspectives on Arabization in the works of leading Algerian writers, intellectuals, and political officials responsible for formulating and implementing language policy since independence. I seek to address the following question: what new explanations can be found for why Arabization formed and continues to form a central—and often controversial—dimension of official language policy in Algeria? This study complements current research on Arabization in the following ways. One, I expand the meaning of the term “Arabization” to designate not only a policy but an ideology intended to transform Algerians’ social, cultural, and political ethos. Two, I explore the relationship between perceived linguistic competency and socioeconomic mobility, a critique commonly leveled against the regime throughout Chadli Benjedid’s presidency and the civil war. This thesis will ultimately illuminate how Arabization created new relationships of domination and political control that continue to shape debates on language in contemporary Algeria.