The language attitudes of second-generation North Africans in France : the effects of religiosity and national identity

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2015-08

Authors

Oprea, Megan Grace

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Abstract

This dissertation explores the language attitudes (LAs) of second-generation North African immigrants in France toward Arabic and French, focusing primarily on women. I explore how these attitudes are correlated with religiosity, national identity and proficiency. Although numerous LA studies have been done in the Maghreb, none have examined the attitudes of the highly marginalized North African community in France. Previous research in LAs and in sociolinguistics has also neglected religion as a variable, a gap in the literature that this dissertation addresses. French and Arabic have powerful language ideologies making them an ideal language pairing to study. Muslims believe Arabic is the only language through which the true message of the Qur’an can be transmitted (Suleiman, 2003). Previous LA studies in the Maghreb indicate that people there strongly associate Islam with Arabic (Benrabah 2007; Chakrani, 2010). It is also the national language of most Muslim majority countries and is linked with both national and pan-Arab identity (Dawisha, 2003). The French language is seen as the vehicle of French culture and is an important symbol of national identity that is used as a tool for the assimilation of immigrants (Weil, 2010). There is evidence to suggest that LAs are stronger in a diaspora context (Garrett, Bishop & Coupland, 2009). Language attitudes may be especially potent for the North African diaspora because of the colonial history between France and the Maghreb, and the strained relationship between France and its immigrant population. Given that language can act as a symbol of culture (Choi, 2003), participants who more closely identify with their North African cultural and religious heritage will express more positive attitudes toward Arabic. In order to explore these topics, I constructed an anonymous language attitudes survey that was distributed online to second-generation North Africans in France, ages 18 to 30. The survey included questions concerning attitudes toward religious and national identity. The results indicate positive attitudes toward Arabic, Islam and North Africa, while expressing relatively neutral attitudes toward French, and negative attitudes toward France. Correlations did emerge that suggest a relationship between religiosity, national identity, and language attitudes for this population.

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