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A sociolinguistic perspective on Arabisation and language use in Algeria

Hind Amel Mostari

University of Sidi Bel Abbes

The Algerian National Constitution stipulates that Classical Arabic is the only ocial language of the nation, supposedly used by all members of the speech community. French is regarded as a foreign language and is taught starting from the fourth year of the primary level. The Algerian diglossic situation is characterized by the use of Classical Arabic and French as high varieties used in formal and public domains, and colloquial dialects, namely Algerian Arabic and Berber, as low varieties for informal and intimate situations. In public domains, Classical Arabic is present virtually everywhere and used (especially at the written level) in varying degrees. In some domains, such as education or the physical environment, Classical Arabic dominates; in other domains such as the economy, Classical Arabic is used in parallel with French. This linguistic reality is primarily the outcome of many years of intensive campaigns of Arabisation and major political and even nancial decisions, beginning right after independence, aimed at promoting the status of Classical Arabic and giving to Algeria its Arabo-Muslim identity. The present paper examines the process and outcomes of Arabisation and its eects on language use, providing a brief historical sketch of the Arabisation process in various domains, including its application in public life, notably in administration, the physical environment and education. The Arabisation process has touched practically all spheres of public life previously characterized by the sole use of the French language. Also discussed is the impact of Arabisation on language use at the institutional and individual levels. The impact of Arabisation has been signicant in some domains, namely education and the physical environment, but less evident in others, such as in university studies, especially in scientic and medical departments, where French remains the main medium of instruction and communication. The paper also encompasses a brief survey of the linguistic rights of Berbers under the Arabisation process, and at the same time it also attempts to address the issue of the Arabisation process in relation to other concepts, notably Islam
Language Problems & Language Planning 28:1 (2004), 2544. issn 02722690 / e-issn 15699889 John Benjamins Publishing Company


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and Islamism; Arabisation does not mean Islamisation. Finally, the results of the Arabisation campaigns are analyzed and critiqued. Arabisation has faced many criticisms, among them paucity of human and nancial means, as well as the lack of a coherent strategy of implementation in which the political and sociolinguistic realities of the Algerian speech community are taken into consideration.

Algeria won its independence on July 5, 1962. Algerian leaders, especially the nationalists, soon adopted the motto, dervied from Abdelhamid Ibnou Badis, the nineteenth-century leader of the Ulama League (the Scholars League), Lislam est notre religion, lAlgrie est notre patrie, la langue Arabe est notre langue (Islam is our religion, Algeria is our mother country, Arabic is our language). After independence, Algeria felt an urgent need to regain its Arab and Muslim identity. Since Classical Arabic is the language of the Koran throughout the Muslim world and since language is an instrument of power (Hadjarab 2000: 2), major Arabisation campaigns were launched to replace French, the language of the colonizer, with Classical Arabic, the language of Arabo-Islamic identity. For the Algerian elite, especially the nationalists, Classical Arabic was the best vehicle of communication and instruction, without which Algeria would probably lose its identity and values. Within this framework, President Boumedine (1968, quoted in Bouhania 1998: 26) declared, Sans la rcupration de cet lment essentiel et important qui est la langue nationale, nos eorts resteront vains, notre personnalit incomplte et notre entit un corps sans me (without recovering that essential and important element which is the national language, our eorts will be vain, our personality incomplete and our entity a body without a soul). Arabisation was probably an expected choice. Algerian society, whose true identity had been denied for 132 years, could not begin to reconstruct itself without restoring the bedrock of that identity, namely the Arabic language, which remains a vivid symbol of Arabic identity and Islamic values. The group actively promoting Arabisation right after independence consisted of Algerian nationalists and political leaders who were extremely eager to nd their place in an overwhelmingly French-speaking country. Hence, the political leaders rst preoccupation was to build Algerian identity on two major points: Islam and Arabity. Such goals could not be achieved without an eective language policy.

A sociolinguistic perspective on Arabisation and language use in Algeria


Arabisation Policies in Algeria

Algeria, then, inherited a heavy linguistic heritage of 132 years; the Arabisation process was intended to change such a situation. Arabisation, as the term is understood in the Maghrebi regions, means restoring the Arabic language (Grandguillaume 1997a: 3). Several laws, decrees and ordinances aimed at implementing Classical Arabic and strengthening its position in all public domains were duly enacted, reinforced and applied. For Algerian Francophones, the Arabisation policy was a real catastrophe since it reduced the status of French to a foreign language. Hence, the process was marked by a prolonged clash between the defenders or promoters of Classical Arabic and the advocates of retention of French. The former regarded Classical Arabic as an integrated and essential component of the Algerian personality; the latter gave priority to development, claiming that Classical Arabic was an outdated language which could not cope with modernism and technology. Arabisation campaigns were launched in various public domains, notably administration, environment and education.

Classical Arabic was confronted with the hostility of the French infrastructure inherited after independence. Algeria faced many socio-cultural and linguistic problems, among them a highly illiterate population, a small elite with a French or Arabic background, and an Arabic language (Classical Arabic) imposed as the sole ocial and national language of the new nation. Within the Frenchdominated administration, Algerian ocials were seemingly slow to master Classical Arabic; accordingly, the government decided to restore Classical Arabic in administration progressively but quickly. By a 1968 Decree (quoted in Grandguillaume 1983: 3), President Houari Boumedine (19651978) attempted to create radical and eective changes in public administration: Dans un dlai de trois ans, les fonctionnaires doivent apprendre susamment darabe pour travailler dans cette langue (within a period of three years, functionaries should learn enough Arabic to work in this language). Although the decree imposed Arabisation on the civil service, ordering civil servants to learn Arabic quickly, not many of them managed to do so. However, there is no doubt that this measure eectively opened the doors of the civil service to Arabisation. In 1977, a Technical Committee on Arabisation was set up to provide all the means needed to realize Arabisation in government administration. Later, on December 17, 1996, the Algerian Transitional


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National Council (CNT) voted unanimously to adopt a law on the Generalization of the Use of the Arabic Language. Its main stipulation was that by July 5, 1998 (or the year 2000 in the case of higher education), Les administrations publiques, les institutions, les entreprises et les associations quelle que soit leur nature sont tenues dutiliser la seule langue arabe dans lensemble de leurs activits telles que la communication, la gestion administrative, nancire, technique et artistique (all public administrations, institutions, enterprises and associations, of whatever nature, are required to use only the Arabic language in all their activities, including communication and administrative, nancial, technical and artistic management). The act also species that the use of any foreign language in the deliberations and discussions of ocial meetings is forbidden. (quoted in Grandguillaume 1997a: 3).

The physical environment

Article 3 of the Circular of July 1976, on the Arabisation of the environment, stated its intent to Arabiser totalement toutes les enseignes extrieures des administrations et socits publiques et interdire absolument toute inscription en langue trangre (Arabise totally all the external and internal signage of public administrations and companies and absolutely forbid any inscription in a foreign language). Article 4 adds as an additional goal Utiliser seulement lcriture en arabe pour les divers services, bureaux et guichets internes et pour les diverses inscriptions, panneaux dindication ou dorientation (to use only Arabic script for the various services, oces and pay-desks and for the various inscriptions, and indication or orientation panels) (quoted in Grandguillaume 1997a:3). Accordingly, public inscriptions were soon written in Classical Arabic. Interestingly, in Algiers in October 1976, in a single night, all transcribed panels were replaced with others written in Classical Arabic. French names of avenues and streets were also replaced with Arabic ones: Baudelaire Street in the town of Sidi Bel Abbs, for example, became Sakiet Sidi Youcef Street. The names of villages and townships changed too: Descartes became Mustapha Ben Brahim and Detrie became Sidi Lahcen (these villages are in the Sidi Bel Abbs area). In fact, the real objective was to impose Arabisation, to force people, to some extent, to read everything, everywhere, in Classical Arabic and to expose them to an environment one-hundred-percent Arabized. Algerian politicians wanted not only to promote the status of Classical Arabic but also to give to Algeria what Grandguillaume (1997a: 3) calls an Arab face (un visage Arabe).

A sociolinguistic perspective on Arabisation and language use in Algeria


In reality, if public administration principally uses Classical Arabic in its written forms, other structures, especially the social ones, use both Classical Arabic and French. In the economic eld, some import-export companies employ both Classical Arabic and another foreign language (French, English or Spanish depending on the country of origin) for labels and packaging, as in the case of pharmaceutical, cosmetic or general consumption products. Within this framework, Article 21 of Law 9105 of 1996 states that les documents imprims, embalages et botes (printed documents, packages and boxes.) sont imprims en langue Arabeet en plusieurs langues trangres (are printed in the Arabic languageand in various foreign languages)(quoted in Grandguillaume, 1997a: 3). Despite the tremendous nancial and political eorts made to Arabise the environment, many private enterprises seemingly prefer using French or English names in their signs rather than Classical Arabic. At the social level, this can be explained by the strong European inuence on the Algerian speech community; at the economic level, it seems that customers are more attracted by foreign goods.

The educational prole of Algerian society changed dramatically with independence, when most French and other Europeans left. As the majority of technicians and administrators were Europeans, Algeria was left with a shortage of highly-skilled and educated people. In the educational system, the rst reform, adopted right after independence, was to teach Classical Arabic starting from the primary level. French became a second language (1964), and then a foreign language with the application of the Foundation School system in 1976. In reaction to this change, within the Foundation School System a political attempt was made to reconcile the restoration of the national language Classical Arabic with the retention of French, an essential medium for the acquisition of technology and modern science. Ahmed Benbella, President from 1963 to 1965, declared in 1965 that Arabisation campaigns did not mean the elimination of the French language (Grandguillaume 1983: 55). It should be noted, however, that Arabisation was not evident and its implementation strategies were not easy to realise in various domains such as education. At the beginning of the 1963 school year, the education system was in complete disarray, and enrolments in schools at all levels totalled only 850,000. In the years immediately following, teachers were hastily trained or recruited


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from the countries of the Middle East, especially Egypt, Syria and Iraq. Classrooms were improvised, many in the vacated homes of former French residents. Attendance climbed to 1.5 million in 1967, to nearly 3 million by 1975, and to 6.5 million in 199192. In the mid 1970s, the Algerian authorities legislated a number of reforms for the educational system at primary, secondary and university levels. To accelerate the Arabisation process and realize a total Arabisation at the primary and secondary levels, all teacher training centers were Arabised and as of 1974 no Francophone teachers were trained. The rst National Conference on Arabisation, held from May 14 to 17, 1975, recommended Arabisation in all sectors of life. This Conference gave birth to a SubCommission on Training and Teaching which determined a three-term progressive Arabisation: A short term from 1976 to 1978 during which the rate of Arabized classes in primary and secondary levels would increase from one-third to one-half. A middle term from 1976 to 1980 during which partial Arabisation would be introduced in some scientic and technical elds in universities. A long term from 1976 to 1982 at the end of which Arabisation would be brought to a successful conclusion at the primary and secondary levels.

In the universities, Arabisation started in the year 1970 when Mohamed Seddik Benyahia was minister of higher education. Commissions were set up on October 12, 1971, to develop an Arabisation plan (Grandguillaume 1983). The Arabisation process was gaining ground at the university level, and courses in Arabic were opened to teach terminology to students in various elds and disciplines. However, if Arabisation was totally achieved in both primary and secondary levels, such was not the case in universities, where Arabisation was : integral in literature, history and pedagogy; partial in geography, law, journalism, sociology and psychology; non-existent in scientic and technical specialities such as medicine, the hard sciences and engineering, where French had acquired a position of paramount importance since it became an essential and omnipresent tool of teaching. Despite linguists eorts to modernise Classical Arabic, it remains relatively unable to replace French in such departments, which have strongly resisted Arabisation campaigns.

A sociolinguistic perspective on Arabisation and language use in Algeria


The Impact of Arabisation in Public Domains

One of the most important concerns of Algeria during the post-independence era was to restore Classical Arabic as the main medium of interaction, and numerous laws, decrees and ordinances were enacted to this end. However, the result was not as intended. What was planned was one thing but what occurred in practice was quite another. The impact of the Arabisation process varied from one eld to another, being ecient in some public domains and nonexistent in others.

Administration was among the public domains where Arabisation was particularly intense, but after many years of hard work, Arabisation partly failed in this area. Only the ministries of defence, education and justice have been Arabized, the condition of the other domains being best characterised as Arabic / French bilingualism. Consequently, in some public institutions and departments, we nd documents written in Classical Arabic on the right and in French on the left side to facilitate comprehension, such as bank cheques, post oce forms and airline tickets. Thus, after 41 years of intensive eorts and optimistic expectations, French is still a strongly-felt presence in Algerian government administration and its dominance is such that many Algerians from dierent sociolinguistic and cultural backgrounds, have diculty completing forms or writing administrative letters in Arabic. What is striking and interesting in this case, is that many people seem proud of their inability to understand Classical Arabic: for them French is a reection of modernity and education, and mastering Classical Arabic is not a priority.

The physical environment

The Arabisation process was launched on a massive scale through the enactment and application of several Ordinances, Presidential Decrees and Laws such as the 1976 Law on Arabisation, followed by the Presidential Decree of March 1981 and 1982. The latter permitted bilingualism, i.e. the use of both Classical Arabic and French in printed public inscriptions for such practical reasons as the inability of foreigners or even some Algerians to read Classical Arabic. Although the Arabisation process was particularly intensied in the physical


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environment in ways already mentioned, it seems that the old French names still stuck in the minds even of the younger generations. For instance, among twenty young speakers I asked, twelve (60 %) stated that when visiting a particular place they generally give the taxi driver its old French name.

The mass media

Let us consider the main channels or means of communication that reach a large number of people, namely radio, television and newspapers. First, radio. Radio is supervised in Algeria by the Ministry of Information and Culture, which has a monopoly on radio and television broadcasting. The national networks cover the entire country with three channels: Arabic, French and Berber. Among the radio stations broadcasting in Arabic is Alger Chane I. Although news and the majority of its programs are presented in Classical Arabic, French and Algerian Arabic may also be used, especially in programs where there is a direct interaction between a presenter and guests, or in phonein programs where listeners participate in songs or games or give their opinions on particular issues. Alger Chane III broadcasts in French and Chane II and Mitidja FM in Berber. In addition to these national channels, there are regional ones such as El Bahia FM in Oran, El Bahdja in Algiers, and Bechar Essaoura in Bechar. The existence of more than one channel broadcasting in dierent languages certainly reects not only the linguistic diversity of the speakers but also their will to express themselves in other languages than Classical Arabic. In short, as Grandguillaume (1997) emphasizes, Algerian society is pluralist in its regions and in its languages. Second, television. In Algeria, there are three television channels operated by ENTV (Entreprise National de Television) under the Ministry of Information and Communication, one national and two international (mostly addressed to Algerian immigrants in Europe). In the national channel, most programs are presented in Classical Arabic. Since Classical Arabic is supposed to be the only language of communication on television, some television interviewers, journalists and presenters ask speakers to answer in that language. In some cases, the journalists even translate the speakers from Algerian to Classical Arabic. The use of only Classical Arabic on television is dicult not only for ordinary people but also for the fervent supporters of Arabisation, as Hadjarab (2000: 2) conrms: Cela donne des situations absurdes. Des hommes politiques qui sexpriment trs mal en arabe classique baragouinent et cherchent dsesprment leurs mots classiques la tlvision au lieu de parler la langue du

A sociolinguistic perspective on Arabisation and language use in Algeria


peuple (This leads to absurd situations. Politicians who express themselves badly in Classical Arabic jabber and desperately look for their classical words on television instead of speaking the language of the people). As for Algerian lms and television series, we can divide them into three types: Films or television series where actors use Classical Arabic exclusively, e.g. historical lms dealing with Islamic issues or Arabic literature; Films or television series reecting the real linguistic situation of the Algerian speech community, where actors may use Algerian Arabic, Classical Arabic, or French; Films where the actors are obliged to use mostly Classical Arabic and a little Algerian Arabic. In this case, the majority of the actors speech is translated into Classical Arabic, which tends to make the screenplay articial.

The great Algerian actor Hassan El Hassani (1979) once declared, a mest arriv de refuser de jouer dans des lms parce quon ma demand de dire na :da au lieu de ta:qa (I eventually refused to play in lms because I was asked to say window [in Classical Arabic] instead of window [in Algerian Arabic]). Article 17 of the Arabisation Process stipulates, Les lms cinmatographiques et/ou tlvisuels ainsi que les missions culturelles et scientiques sont diuses en langue arabe ou traduits ou doubls (Cinematographic and/or television lms as well as cultural and scientic shows are diused in the Arabic language or translated or dubbed). We note, however, that Algerian television and cinema, which are government-owned communication media, have not applied the Arabisation rules nor have they respected Algerian rights of free expression. As for newspapers, there are two types: national and regional publication which may appear daily or weekly. They appear mainly in two languages: Classical Arabic and French. Among national newspapers in Classical Arabic are al-Jumh:riyya (The Republic), al-Axba:r (The News), and Ashshacb (The People). National newspapers in French include Libert, Le Matin, Le Monde, El Watan (The Nation), and LExpression.

One of the most important concerns during the post-independence era was to restore Classical Arabic as the main medium of teaching in all disciplines and if possible to reduce the use of French. Arabisation campaigns were launched at dierent educational levels, from the primary to the university levels, aiming at


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promoting the status of Classical Arabic and correcting the faults of the educational system under colonialism. Despite great political eort and huge investment (with more than 40% of the national budget devoted to education), education appears to be suering from a lack of any real policy that takes into account the sociolinguistic and cultural environment of the students. As Grandguillaume (1997a: 3) puts it, Lcole Algrienne se porte mal (The Algerian school is in bad shape). The deplorable situation of education in Algeria today is probably the result of the accumulation of many political and sociolinguistic factors, among them the Arabisation process. Indeed, the Arabisation of education was the outcome of an authoritarian decision taken with no consultation, no plan and no method. It has spread to all stages of primary and secondary schooling. In higher education, the social sciences and humanities have been taught in Arabic since 1980; the other disciplines are variously aected. Carried out in an authoritarian way, Arabisation has seriously aected the capacity of the education system to acquire the scientic and technical knowledge needed for any improvement. Teachers and researchers who have always worked in French have had to refresh their knowledge of Classical Arabic in order to keep their jobs. In 1978, a report by the Algerian National Ministry of Education deplored the increasing marginalisation of scientic and technical education, which was taught in French and was jeopardised with teachers being marginalised or underutilised (quoted in Bessis, Goumeziane & Dahmani 2001: 20).

Arabisation and the linguistic rights of the Berbers

The Amazigh or Berber population represents 2025% of the total population. The Berber language encompasses many dialects, among them Chaouia, Tamazight, Taznatit, and Kabyle. Kabylians, in the northwest of the country, are the most populous group. The Shawiya live in the Aures Mountains, Mozabites in the Mzab and the Tuaregs in the Ahaggar and Ajjer regions. Thus some six or seven million Algerians speak one of the varieties of Berber (Grimes 1996: 13). Following independence, as we have already noted, successive Algerian governments took on the task of reviving Classical Arabic and establishing it as the national language, with the aim of recovering the pre-colonial past and eventually restoring a national identity and the Arab Muslim personality of the newly freed nation. Such a policy was supported by the vast majority of Algerians. Nevertheless, since the Arabisation project did not consider the Berber

A sociolinguistic perspective on Arabisation and language use in Algeria


language as an integral part of the process, the Berbers, especially the Kabylians, intensied their eorts to slow down, if not to halt, the Arabisation campaigns. During the 1970s in an attempt to Arabise the registry oce, it was forbidden to give Berber names to new-borns, and in June 1976 the publication of the periodical Fichier berbre (Berber File) was suspended by the authorities. This periodical was published by French missionaries and was concerned with Berber history and culture (Grandguillaume 1983). Antagonism between Berbers and the Algerian government has since become explosive, with political protests, massive demonstrations and general strikes. Although there were protests in the 1960s and 1970s, the number of demonstrations increased remarkably after 1991. On July 5 of that year a controversial law came into force making Classical Arabic the only language to be used in ocial documents and other areas of public life, at which point fury exploded in the Berber-speaking regions and Berber anger swiftly turned against the State and its Arabisation policy. Pour les Berbres, remarks Grandguillaume (1997a: 3), cette loi sclrate a pour but non seulement dacclrer et dintensier le processus darabisation mais surtout de supprimer dnitivement le berbre (for the Berbers, this outrageous law aims at not only accelerating and intensifying the Arabisation process but also denitively suppressing the Berber language). On October 3, 2001, a government statement announced that the Constitution would be amended to make Tamazight a national language. More recently, on April 8, 2002, the Algerian Parliament approved, by a vote of 484 to 2, a law with that intent (as reported in Le Quotidien). This is of course news of prime importance. However, in the current situation it raises questions about the form of such a constitutional amendment, the space aorded for Tamazight, and the uses of Tamazight as a national language alongside Classical Arabic. In making such an announcement, the authorities run the risk of favouring the status of Berbers, especially Kabylians (about 30% of the population), over the rest of the population, who might well imitate the Berbers by calling for recognition of their local dialects, such as Algerian Arabic, as additional national languages.

Arabisation and Factional Struggles

The enactment and application of the many laws on Arabisation has created stormy debates and generated intense struggles at the political as well as the


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sociolinguistic level. Probably the largest conict is the constant clash between the Arabophones and the Francophones. Arabisation has not oered the Arabophones equality of social and intellectual mobility with the Francophones, who in turn consider Arabisation campaigns a real linguistic threat to their political and sociolinguistic position in the country. A further struggle that emerged right after the launching of the Arabisation campaigns is the competition between Classical Arabic and French . Arabisation is also presented as a conict with France, and even with those Algerians who use French in their working or private lives, denounced as Hizb Fransa (members of the Party of France). The Arabic language is linked to the two sources of legitimacy on which the government draws: the struggle for national liberation and the defence of Islam. From this point of view, Arabic is the national language and French that of the colonists. The endless repetition of this argument eectively tarred the Francophone classes, who once had a virtual monopoly of power, and so to assuage this guilt by association they co-operated readily with Arabisation measures. During the presidency of Chadli Ben Djedid (19791991), the State was plunged into factional struggles. In fact when the Arabisation of higher education was pursued through the 1980s, Berber movements ercely opposed to the process appeared on the scene, especially after the government banned a prominent writer from lecturing on the history of Berber poetry. In addition to the conicts which emerged between the advocates of Classical Arabic and the Francophones, and between the nationalists and Berber activists, there was another split the rift between Classical Arabic and peoples spoken mother tongues, including Algerian Arabic (with its regional variations) and Berber. Thus the defenders of Classical Arabic, who wanted to see the total linguistic unication of their country, showed great hostility toward the Arabic dialects, which they considered as degenerate forms of pure Classical Arabic. Further confusing the situation, the ideologues of Arabisation declared that written Arabic was the true mother-tongue since it was the ancestral language. Educational directives were issued ordering this written language to be taught as a spoken language. Arabic dialects are seen in Algeria as incorrect forms, faults that teaching ought to correct, if necessary by accusing the pupil or even the adult citizen of unworthy behaviour. Thus, the Algerian speaker, once called a bougnoule (wog) by the French colonists, is now termed an uncivilised savage by his own rulers. Yet Arabisation was supposed to restore his cultural dignity.

A sociolinguistic perspective on Arabisation and language use in Algeria


Arabisation vs. Islamisation

Benbella was invested as the rst president of independent Algeria in 1963, and the National Constitution established a single party regime, the FLN (Front National de Libration: National Liberation Front) on September 8th 1963, with one ocially recognized language, Classical Arabic, and one religion, Islam. Supposedly, the constitution guarantees fundamental liberties and rights to all Algerians, but at the same time it establishes a single-party regime which to a great extent conditions and limits those rights. The constitution makes a clear bet on socialism, and institutes the army as the main guarantor of independence and the construction of socialism in the country When the Arabisation process was launched, Benbella (quoted in Bouhania, 1999: 54) stated, LArabisation nest pas Islamisation (Arabisation is not Islamisation). In fact, although the national constitution stipulates that Algeria is an Arabo-Muslim nation whose sole language is Arabic and sole religion is Islam, Algeria has never adopted a radical or extreme approach to Islam and therefore has never been an Islamist state in the same way as Iran or Afghanistan has been. The rst aim of the Arabisation process was basically the restoration of Classical Arabic in the place of French. It was in any case a matter of re-Islamisation: Algerians are, after all, Muslims who have always practiced and defended their religion under diering situations (during colonialism and after independence). Unfortunately, many people, especially in the western world, confuse Arabisation with Islam and Islamism. What, then, is the relationship between such concepts and how can we nd a link between them?

From Arabisation to Islamisation

Many lay people and even intellectuals do not distinguish between an Arab, a Muslim and an Islamist. Under the occidental model, such concepts sound dierent but have the same meaning. The equation Arab = Muslim = Islamist seems always to apply. In fact, an Arab is a person of Arab origins, who may or may not speak Arabic and may or may not be Muslim: Arabs may be Muslims, Christians or hold other beliefs. The word Islam is derived from salaam, meaning peace. Islam is a monotheistic religion based on the Koran. Islam (as with almost all religions) is a religion based on peace and tolerance. It is important to emphasize that there is a dierence between Islam and Islamism: the former is the religion of the


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Koran and Sunna; the latter is often the perversion of Islam. Islamism is also a total transformation of traditional Islam: it serves as a vehicle of modernisation, and deals with the problems of urban living, of working women and others at the cutting edge, and not the traditional concerns of Arabs. As Olivier Roy, the French scholar (quoted in Pipes 1998), puts it, Rather than a reaction against the modernisation of Muslim societies, Islamism is a product of it. However, once the word Islamism is used, it is automatically linked to extremist and violent movements. In the word Islamism, we may distinguish between Islamist non-violent movements, also called religious movements, whose prime objective is to establish modern and civilized Arab nations based on moderate Islam, and the most extremist Islamic movements, properly called Islamist movements. The latter ourished by exploiting the Arab sentiments of hatred and antagonism against the western world which arose especially in the 1970s and 1980s, in order to gain ground all around the world. Such movements applied the extremist version of the Koran, using violence and oppression in the name of God. They soon became a powerful force in many governments such as those in Iran, Afghanistan and Sudan. Unlike Islam itself, Islamism politicizes the religion and follows a political path to a great extent resembling the one adopted by communism or fascism. Like these ideologies, Islamism takes a hostile and extremist position regarding human rights and is indisputably very far from the tolerant, indulgent and peaceful nature of Islam (and many other religions). The spread and expansion of political Islam in the Maghreb is very recent,as Islamic leaders themselves recognize. Rachid Gunnachi, for example, referring to Tunisia, remarked in 2002, Islam has been here for a long time but Islamism is new (quoted in Rashwan 2003: 5). The recent history of Islamism in Algeria brings us to the post-independence period, when the Arabisation of education favoured the arrival of thousands of teachers from Egypt and the Near West. Islamic fanatics spread the new Islamist discourse of the Muslim brotherhood. The outcome of the intensive Arabisation campaigns especially in the educational system was the emergence of a bloc of Arabic-speaking students who found their lack of uency in French kept them from getting jobs in areas of advanced technology and higher management. These qualied Arabic speakers found access blocked to all the key sectors, above all in industries requiring technical knowledge and foreign languages. Arabic-speaking youth, including graduates, intellectuals and formerly employed students, formed a bridge to the numerous discontented young people who found themselves jobless after many years spent in an

A sociolinguistic perspective on Arabisation and language use in Algeria


inecient and underfunded educational system. Living under deplorable and appalling conditions that constituted true socio-economic injustice, they ended by turning to the mosque. Islamist intellectuals have made careers by dominating the theological and Arabic-language faculties (especially faculties of Arabic literature, Islamic studies, law etc.), thereby gaining control of many positions, particularly among Imams in the mosques and teachers in the lyces. Thus, they have formed a strong network that ensures the recruitment of more Islamists to such positions and the inculcation of Islamist ideas among the new generations. This in turn has enabled them to exert inuence over a vast number of young people. Ahmed Rouadia (quoted in Rashwan 2003: 4) notes in 2002 that Islamist groups began to grow from the mid-1970s onwards, receiving support in the universities from Arabic-speaking students, who see in Islam the only possible way to create signicant social and economic change. For them, the restoration of Islam would make the socio-economic inequalities and frustrations disappear.

Some Criticisms of Arabisation

Arabisation has faced many criticisms, among them the inability of Classical Arabic to cope with technology and modernity, but probably the major obstacle to the development and promotion of Classical Arabic lies in the yawning gap between political decisions and their execution. Arabisation as a goal is one thing, but its implementation in a society is quite another. The policy of Arabisation evolved in a hostile sociolinguistic environment, bringing Classical Arabic into conict with other languages, especially French. Any political project related to language implementation in public domains should be preceded by a serious and pragmatic investigation, a study that takes into account the socio-cultural and linguistic environment in which language is actually used. Such an eort is more likely to guarantee a safe beginning and avoid the irreversible consequences of making wrong decisions. In languageplanning terms, such a study or investigation would have taken into consideration the state of Classical Arabic and its communicative potential, the domains in which it could be implemented, and the consequences or the results of language restoration in particular domains. In education, Arabisation has never gone beyond the limits of school, and it has been applied primarily in elds which do not have a great impact on the out-of-school environment. Thus, the family circle remains hostile to


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Arabisation. In addition, pre-schooling and post-schooling are not organised in a way calculated to sustain, over the longer run, school action intended to inuence and favour the environment for Arabisation and the expansion of Classical Arabic. In education, a revision of existing policies must be conducted, designed to make the educational system part and parcel of the social environment, which inuences and is inuenced by it. The linguistic policy pursued by Algerian politicians has always been dictated primarily by political objectives. Aside from these imperatives, the authorities have shown no great desire to give Classical Arabic its true value by encouraging historical research and reection on the Algerian identity. Thus, Arabisation has been politically conceived, not sociolinguistically planned: it has deviated from its purpose as a socio-cultural project. Language is, after all, a crucial means of socialisation and intellectual pursuit, yet Arabisation has been unable to accommodate the claims of other languages and has tended to rely on imposition rather than persuasion.

There is no doubt that the decision to promote Classical Arabic as the ocial and national language stems from the role it plays as ideally unifying the Algerian community within geographical and religious space. But Arabisation has at least partly failed in reaching its aims: at the oral level, its impact has been almost non-existent, since Algerians are basically Arabic/ French bilinguals; at the written level, it has partly succeeded in some contexts and failed altogether in others. Today it is urgent and crucial to look at Algerias pluralism and diversity as a kind of linguistic richness that should be respected, preserved and exploited rather than ignored or eradicated. The new Arabisation Law does not go in that direction. While the essential task is to forge a consensus around the acceptance of pluralism, ocial linguistic policy proceeds by constraint and exclusion. On one level, it is forcing a language on people when the sensible thing to do is to persuade them to love it. On another level, it is again hurling anathema at the languages people actually speak, Berber in particular, but also French. Arabisation, to put it bluntly, tends to exclude every language except one the one used by the authorities and no-one else. The periodic repetition of these radical measures demonstrates their ineectiveness, denounced as scandalous by Arabist ideologues. But is the failure to make Arabisation total any more

A sociolinguistic perspective on Arabisation and language use in Algeria


shocking than the fact that, for a large part of the population, it has come to symbolise waste, mess and educational failure? In a universe of languages which reect so deeply the plurality of Algerian society, the authorities do not strive to create a space of tolerance, openness and respect for dierences. Algerian society is pluralist: in its regions, its languages, its attitudes to the past and the future, and its view of the West and the Arab world. So far, this diversity has never been properly acknowledged, in the context of a general will among Algerians to live with one another. In the absence of a symbolic enclave of government which, like the keystone of an arch, would hold the entire edice together, each individual element not only feels threatened, but is seen by the others as a threat to unity. Probably the only way to escape from the present sociolinguistic and political crisis is through the establishment of a consensus on this central enclave, in which the rule of law would be recognised and the government could at least be seen as the guarantor of societys real pluralism (Grandguillaume 1997b). The process of Arabization seems to be caught between national identity and unity on the one hand and non-secularist Islam on the other, and this the real problem. Indeed, many people from diferent socio-economic spheres link Arabisation to other concepts such as Islam and Islamisation, and sometimes accuse it of being the root cause of the bloody war in Algeria. Since 1992, Algeria has been living one of these wars without name, a real human butchery which has resulted in thirty-thousand or more victims. In such a context, it is crucial to stress that Arabisation does not mean Islamisation, or the reestablishment of Islamic ideologies or thinking within the Algerian speech community. In fact, Islamic thought has developed from contact with the great western ideologies. For the Islamists, the problem is to develop a modern political ideology based upon Islam, which they see as the only way to come to terms with the modern world and the best vehicle for confronting foreign imperialism. On the other hand, most, if not all, Algerians are well aware that Arabisation is not Islamisation, and that Arabisations rst aim is the restoration of Arabo-Islamic identity and not the re-Islamisation of the state. While, as we have noted, the Arabisation process has positive and negative outcomes, we cannot accuse it of responsibility for the Islamists crimes and for the bloody war in Algeria. In fact, neither Islam nor Islamism, nor even Arabisation, is directly responsible for todays political chaos in Algeria. The political leaders and decision makers should solve the Islamist question in Algeria and apply the Arabisation Process pragmatically, taking into consideration not


Hind Amel Mostari

only the political aims of the nation but also the socio- economic and linguistic realities of the Algerian speech community.

Bessis, Sophie, Smail Goumeziane & Ahmed Dahmani. 2001. A Vulnerable Population: Algeria Violations of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Alternative Report to the Report Submitted by Algeria to the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 27th Session of the Committee, November 2001. FIDH Report 319/2. Paris: FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights). Bouhania, Bachir. 1999. The Substitution of French Loan Words for Arabic Counterparts in Oran Arabic: A Case Study. Unpublished Masters Dissertation, Oran University of Arts and Letters. Grandguillaume, Gilbert. 1983. Arabisation et politique linguistique au Maghreb. Paris: Maisonneuve et Larose. Grandguillaume, Gilbert. 1997a. LArabisation confront lislamisme: Arabisation et dmagogie en Algrie. Le Monde Diplomatique. February 1997: 3. Grandguillaume, Gilbert. 1997b. Algeria: The case for diversity demagogues and Arabisers. Trans. John Howe, from Le Monde Diplomatique, February 1997: 3. (cited February 16, 2004) Grimes, Barbara F., ed. 1996. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. 13th ed. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics. Hadjarab, Mustapha. 2000. LAlgrie au pril de larabisation. Lettres sur la Loi de la Gnralisation de lArabisation. Legisnet Internet Journal. (cited 2003). Pipes, Daniel. 1998. Distinguishing between Islam and Islamism. Washington: Center for Strategic and International Studies. (cited February 16, 2004) Rashwan, Salem. 2003. Political Islamism in the Maghreb. Washington, DC: Middle East Policy Council.

Sommaire Une perspective sociolinguistique de lArabisation et de lusage des langues en Algrie

La constitution national algrienne stipule que larabe classique est la seule et unique langue ocielle de la nation, qui est suppose utilise par tous les membres de la communaut linguistique algrienne. Le franais tant considr comme langue trangre est enseign partir de la quatrime anne du cycle primaire. La situation diglossique algrienne est caractrise par lusage de larabe classique et du franais considers comme des langues suprieures, utilises dans les domaines formels ou publics, cependant que les dialectes,

A sociolinguistic perspective on Arabisation and language use in Algeria


larabe algrien et le berber, considrs comme des langues infrieures sont utiliss dans les situations informelles et intimes. Gnralement, dans les domaines publics, larabe classique est partout prsent et utilis, spcialement pour lcrit, des degrs dirents. Dans certains domaines, comme lducation ou lenvironnement (lachage), larabe classique prend la part du lion; dans dautres domaines tels que lconomie, larabe classique est utilis en parallle avec le franais. Cette ralit linguistique nest entre autres que le rsultat et le cumul de plusieurs annes de travail consacres au lancement de campagnes darabisation intensives et lexcution dimportantes dcisions politiques et nancires prises juste aprs lindpendance, ceci an de promouvoir le statut de larabe (larabe classique en particulier) et donner lAlgrie son identit arabo-musulmane. En consquence, ce prsent article examine le processus de larabisation et ses eets sur lusage des langues, en commenant par donner un bref aperu historique sur le processus de larabisation dans des domaines varis et son application dans le domaine public, notamment dans ladministration, lenvironnement et lducation. En eet, le processus de larabisation a pratiquement touch toutes les sphres de la vie publique qui taient prcdemment caractrises par lusage unique de la langue Franaise. Aussi est discut dans cet article, limpact de larabisation sur lusage des langues aux niveaux institutionnel et individuel. Ce prsent travail a rvl que limpact du processus de larabisation tait important dans certains domaines, notamment dans lducation et lenvironnement, et moins important dans dautres domaines comme luniversit, en particulier dans les dpartements mdicaux et scientiques o le franais reste le moyen le plus ecace dinstruction et de communication. Dune part ce travail comprend aussi une brve investigation concernant les droits linguistiques des Berbres sous le rgime de larabisation, dautre part, cette tude tente de rsoudre la problmatique de larabisation en relation avec dautres concepts, notamment ceux de lIslam et lIslamisme. Soulignons quen aucun cas, arabisation ne veut dire Islamisation. Enn les rsultats des campagnes darabisation seront brivement analyss et critiqus. En eet larabisation a t critique et parmi ces critiques gurent aussi bien linsusance des moyens humains et nanciers mis disposition que linexistence dune vraie stratgie de mise en application dans laquelle on prendrait en considration les ralits politiques et sociolinguistiques de la communaut linguistique algrienne.

Resumo Socilingvistika perspektivo pri arabigo kaj lingvouzo en Alg erio

La Alg eria Nacia Konstitucio stipulas, ke la klasika araba estas la sola ociala lingvo de la nacio, supozeble uzata de c iuj anoj de la parolkomunumo. La francan oni konsideras fremda lingvo kaj oni instruas g in ekde la kvara jaro de la elementa nivelo. La alg erian diglosian situacion karakterizas uzado de la klasika araba kaj la franca kiel altaj variaj ^oj uzataj en formalaj kaj publikaj sferoj, kaj kolokvaj dialektoj, nome la alg eria araba kaj la berbera, kiel malaltaj variaj ^oj por neformalaj kaj intimaj situacioj. En publikaj sferoj, la klasikan araban oni trovas preskau c ie, kaj uzas g in (precipe skribe) diversproporcie. En kelkaj sferoj, ekzemple edukado au la zika medio, la klasika araba regas; en aliaj sferoj, ekzemple la


Hind Amel Mostari

ekonomia, oni uzas la klasikan araban paralele kun la franca. Tiu lingva realo rezultas c efe el multaj jaroj da intensaj arabigaj kampanjoj kaj grandaj politikaj kaj ec nancaj decidoj, ekde la periodo tuj post sendependig o, kun la celo antau enigi la statuson de la klasika araba kaj doni al Alg erio ties arab-islaman identecon. Tiu c i artikolo ekzamenas la procedon kaj rezultojn de arabigo kaj g iajn ekojn c e la lingvouzado, liverante mallongan historian skizon de la arabiga procedo en diversaj sferoj, inkluzive g ian aplikig on en la publika vivo, precipe en administrado, la zika medio, kaj edukado. La arabiga procedo jam tus is preskau c iujn aspektojn de la publika vivo antau e markitajn de ekskluziva uzado de la franca. La artikolo ankau konsideras la ekon de arabigo i montrig je lingvouzo c e la niveloj institucia kaj individua. G is signifa en iuj sferoj, nome edukado kaj la zika medio, sed malpli evidenta en aliaj, ekzemple en universitataj studoj, precipe en sciencaj kaj medicinaj fakoj, kie la franca restas la c efa instru- kaj komunikmedio. La artikolo ankau donas mallongan superrigardon de la lingvaj rajtoj de berberoj en la arabiga procedo, kaj samtempe g i celas fronti la demandon de la arabiga procedo en rilato al aliaj konceptoj, nome Islamo kaj islamismo: arabigo kaj islamigo ne sinonimas. Fine, la artikolo analizas kaj prikritikas la rezultojn de la arabigaj kampanjoj. Oni multe kritikis arabigon, interalie pro malmulteco de homaj kaj nancaj rimedoj, kaj ankau pro manko de kohera realigostrategio prenanta en konsideron la politikajn kaj socilingvistikajn realojn de la alg eria parolkomunumo.

Authors address
07, Rue Sakiet sidi Youcef Sidi Bel Abbes 22000 Algeria

About the author

Hind Amel Mostari teaches sociolinguistics, the dynamic of languages in the Arab world, and English linguistics in the English section of the Department of Foreign Languages, University of Sidi Bel Abbes, Algeria, and holds degrees in computer science and management, and in English linguistics.