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Sociolinguistic Impact of Ethnic-State Policies

The Effects on the Language Development of the Arab Population in Israel


Salma Arraf-Baker

Language cannot be separated from its political context. This monograph has as its aim the examination of the reasons behind the development of one-sided bilingualism of Hebrew and Arabic among the Arab population in Israel. It gives weight to theories of nationalism and language ideologies and their impact on the functioning state’s policies. The protracted political conflict in the Middle East is not the only factor affecting Jewish-Arab relations inside Israel. Policies of national priorities prove equally, if not more, important in shaping the state’s institutional approaches towards the Arab population, leading to an asymmetrical situation between Arabs and Jews in almost all spheres of life. Analyses of these policies, including those of language, reveal a mismatch between the de jure and the de facto situations of the Arab citizens and their language. The Israeli-Palestinian setting supports the major hypothesis of this study: the language behaviour of subordinated ethnic groups reflects not only overt but also covert policies of the dominant group for the dominated group. This confirms the importance of contextual factors for a better understanding of policies functioning in a particular setting.
Contents: Historical Background – Hebrew Language Revitalisation – Politics: Jewish-Arab Attitudes and the Emergence of Political Conflict – The Legal Status of the Arab Citizens in Israel: Equal but not Fully Equal – Education and Language Policies – Vocabulary Diffusion as Indexical of Sociopolitical Change-Induced Acculturation – Interplay of Social and Structural Factors in Borrowing – Language Maintenance and Not Shift.