Sacred Language, Ordinary People: Dilemmas of Culture and Politics in Egypt

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Palgrave Macmillan, Jan 4, 2003 - Literary Criticism - 184 pages
The cultures and politics of nations around the world may be understood (or misunderstood) in any number of ways. For the Arab world, language is the crucial link for a better understanding of both. Classical Arabic is the official language of all Arab states although it is not spoken as a mother tongue by any group of Arabs. As the language of the Qur'an, it is also considered to be sacred. For more than a century and a half, writers and institutions have been engaged in struggles to modernize Classical Arabic in order to render it into a language of contemporary life. What have been the achievements and failures of such attempts? Can Classical Arabic be sacred and contemporary at one and the same time? This book attempts to answer such questions through an interpretation of the role that language plays in shaping the relations between culture, politics, and religion in Egypt.

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About the author (2003)

Niloofar Haeri is Professor of Anthropology at Johns Hopkins University. She was a Bunting Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University (1999-2000) and is an internationally recognized scholar of Arabic. She has conducted research on language change and its relation to class and gender in Egypt. Among her publications are The Sociolinguistic Market of Cairo: Gender, Class, and Education (Kegan Paul International, 1996) and Structuralist Studies in Arabic Linguistics: Papers Published by Charles Ferguson 1948-1992, with K. Belnap (E. J. Brill, 1997).