The symbolic, legal and figurative position of the Arabic language faces a number of challenges which threaten to undermine it. These challenges are rooted in the bad management of linguistic pluralism, the strengthening of disproportional bilingualism as well as the dominance of the non-Arabic component over crucial segments of social and productive sectors which have a great bearing of public life. These challenges also result from the absence of a clear linguistic policy in the form of language management with clear objectives and purposes as well as to the weak and haphazard way in which linguistic issues and challenges are handled with particular emphasis on education, the media and other sectors which have a great bearing on public life. As a result, the Arabic Language is unable to perform the tasks associated with it in accordance with national constitutions: instead, other foreign languages perform these functions. This leads to the substitution of the Arabic language with foreign languages by hybridizing Arabic; ‘taming' Arab societies; disfiguring national identities; and reinforcing dependency.
Crucially, the role of the Arabic language in development is undermined by limiting its ability to partake in the production of the knowledge upon which development rests. Linguistic development must include the activation of all articles, declarations and agreements which reflect a commitment to the revitalization of the Arabic language in public life by enhancing its role in the various sectors of public life and in the production of knowledge as well as in enhancing its ability to interact with and respond to change and dynamism and, hence, limiting and counteracting ‘linguistic anarchy'. Developing the Arabic language provides the linguistic infrastructure for other forms of human, social and economic development in the Arab world. This, therefore, requires a clear and robust linguistic policy accompanied by a balanced linguistic development plan in accordance with the national interest of Arab countries and in line with their fundamental religious, historical, civilic, national and patriotic heritage. This should aim to capitalize on linguistic pluralism and embrace it so as to reinforce the status and position of the Arabic language and enhance its ability to perform its functions. On the other hand, this should guarantee the sustainability and prosperity of local dialects and languages; limit competition between languages; prevent the domination of one language over others which underpins a linguistic and communal hegemony and an exclusive claim to the truth and, hence, power, authority and resources.
Contemporary reality is however, little more than a ‘truce' between languages and language groups as opposed to the desired ‘linguistic security' founded upon the principle of balanced linguistic policies which capitalizes on pluralism in languages for cultural purposes and invests in language for developmental purposes by developing the Arabic language, religion, culture, science, civilization and society and, hence, the development of the Arab citizen.
The question of the state of the Arabic language, thus, necessitates debate on linguistic as well as multi-dimensional intellectual and socio-cultural issues by highlighting two intertwined aspects: development of language and the language of development. For, how else can sustainable and comprehensive development take place without developing language itself?
This study analyzes some of the manifestations of the state of the Arabic language in contemporary Arab societies. Moreover, this study aims to explore and highlight the developmental potential of the Arabic language in its ability to contribute to civilisational development; enrich the human experience; make contributions to science and knowledge; complement social, political, economic, scientific and cultural progress; as well as play an important role in social, cultural and economic development. This is particularly important as development cannot take place in the absence of ‘identity' and ‘identity' - any identity - cannot be said to exist without the existence of some linguistic continuity.
This study, therefore, is divided into the following subsections:
- A critique of the general state of the Arabic Language
- Investing in the cumulative and inherent potentials of the Arabic language
- Developing language as a step toward comprehensive development
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