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Debating Arabic on Al-Jazeera: Endangerment and Identity in Divergent Discourses

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Eight debates on Al-Jazeera specifically, on the Arabic language, highlight the divergent and convergent discourses about the status of the language and its use today in the Arab world. All address the issue of the weakness of the Arabic language, both internally between formal and dialect, and externally in the face of globalizing English. The participants also link the Arabic language to issues of identity and who the Arabs ‘are’ during this era of globalization. The article outlines the intellectual roots that many of the participants draw upon—that of the Arab nahda of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Finally, the article points out that there is a divergence between the general direction of scholarship produced in the West on the Arabic language and about the Al-Jazeera network and the broader intersection of language and nationalism addressed by the Al-Jazeera participants. Beyond noting the obvious linkage between language and nationalism, how actual participants deal with their intellectual legacies while attempting to prescribe and influence the present deserves greater analysis in the case of the Arabic language and its most noted vehicle today—the Al-Jazeera satellite television network.

Affiliations: 1: a) Michigan State University, USA, Email: ; 2: b) Florida International University, USA, Email:


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