Multilingualism in Algeria: between ‘Soft Power’, ‘Arabisation’, ‘Islamisation’, and ‘Globalisation’

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The language question in Algeria is far from a straightforward case and its complexity and multiplicity make it an original case to study due to the diversity of languages, its language politics in both the colonial and the postcolonial eras, and its tight relationship to different ideological movements, which still affect issues related to identity, religion and ethnicity. The distinction between the colonial and the postcolonial eras is a necessary step to understand the layers of complexity of its language policies and provide a context which helps explain the relationship between language politics and ‘soft power’, as theorised by Nye. It also provides a timeframe for when one can start talking about ‘soft power’, in contrast to ‘hard power’ where the coloniser imposed its language by force (what is known as the Frenchification project). The article seeks firstly to challenge the Arabisation project in relation to Algeria and presents its close relationship to the Islamisation of the country through soft power practices. Secondly, it questions the traditional linguistic dichotomy between Classical Arabic and dialects by adding to them a new language variety, which appeared as a result of soft power through cultural globalisation. The concept is developed further to highlight the emergence of a ‘new literary genre’ which also challenges traditional discourses, linguistic rules and literary canons.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)460-481
JournalJournal of North African Studies
Issue number3
Early online date5 Mar 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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