GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Migration and Language Policy – the Role of Arabic in the Linguistic Landscape of Abu Dhabi
Paper Proposal Text :
During the last 50 years the Arab states at the shore of the Persian Gulf have witnessed transformation in every aspect of life. Mass immigration in the wake of oil urbanization changed the face of native societies, as they became minorities within their own countries. As this process proceeded fears of losing the respective (Arab, Emirati, Qatari, Saudi…) identity became louder. At the core of Gulf national’s perception of their (threatened) identity stands their language: Arabic.
This paper looks at the impact of mass migration on language policy in the Gulf countries. Building on empirical data from Abu Dhabi it shows that Modern Standard Arabic, although strongly present in the public sphere in its written form has been reduced to a merely symbolic and ceremonial language. It’s strong visual presence conceals a largely unnoticed language shift from Arabic to English which has become the hegemonial language in almost every domain of public life, whereas other minority languages such as Urdu are marginalized in accordance with the weak status of their speech communities.
The debate on language policy has gained momentum in recent years when in 2007 Arabic was declared the official language of the UAE, special laws on protection of Arabic were prepared and government institutions like the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) are struggling hard to balance demands of English language education with appropriate teaching of the “heritage language”.