Al-arabiyyah, le Français, and the Soul of Algeria: The Language Tango Between Arabic and French in Algerian Education Policy and Defining post-Colonial Algerian National Identity
Date of Award
In Algeria, Arabic and French are the two most commonly spoken languages, sharing a contentious relationship with one another in relation to national identity. The centrality of French and its continued importance in Algerian society are due to the legacy of French colonialism, discussed in Section 1.1. The centrality of Arabic and its prominence is attributed to the spread of Islam and Arabo-Islamic culture, discussed in Section 1.2. The core of my research inquiry thus focuses exclusively on Arabic and French, due to their high visibility in Algerian society. The Berber language is the third most commonly spoken language, spoken by approximately 15% of the 39 million Algerian population, and has played a vital role in shaping nationalist Berber movements in the 1980s. However, since the objective of the thesis is to examine how Arabic and French, in their capacity as the two most commonly spoken languages in Algeria, fit into expressions of national identity in relation to one another, and not to an additional third language, I will not be discussing how the Berber language relates to Algerian national identity. In my research, I am examining how Arabic and French help shape perceptions of an Algerian national identity, working within the framework of language as an identity boundary marker. I am applying various theories on national identity to analyze the components that make up an Algerian national identity, which is discussed in Section 1.1. Since language policies are largely communicated in schools, my research also focuses on Algerian schools and how Arabic and French are represented within the education system. My research explores the question: How have Algeria's Arabic-French language policies in its schools since independence shaped attitudes about the relationship of Arabic and French in relation to post-colonial Algerian national identity? It should also be noted that throughout the thesis, the term Arabic, unless otherwise stated, refers collectively to Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), the standardized, literary form of Arabic taught in schools, and Algerian Arabic, the non-standardized form of Arabic spoken informally. I conducted a research study in December 2014 - January 2015 in Algiers, Algeria, using questionnaires, conducted in Arabic or French. As will be discussed in greater detail in Chapter 3, the results of the surveys are used to answer the stated research question, through discursive analysis, on how Arabic and French each contribute to Algerian attitudes towards national identity. The thesis is divided into three chapters. The first chapter addresses three key theoretical concepts pertinent to the understanding of national identity: What is national identity? What are the influencing factors that contribute to an individual's formulation of identity? In exploring these theoretical concepts, the first chapter will also proceed to examine how language and national identity manifest in Algerian discourse. The second chapter examines the historical development of Algerian language policies and how expressions of national identity became linked to educational language policies. This chapter examines how Arabic and French implemented within the structure of the Algerian education system over three successive historical eras: the French colonial era (1830-1962), the post-independence Arabization era (1962-1999) and the present day, post-civil war era (1999-present). The third chapter merges the historical framework and theoretical analysis of the first two chapters to analyze results of the questionnaires and address the stated research question.
Aziz, Amir, "Al-arabiyyah, le Français, and the Soul of Algeria: The Language Tango Between Arabic and French in Algerian Education Policy and Defining post-Colonial Algerian National Identity" (2015). Honors Theses. 59.