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Language Conflict in Algeria From Colonialism to Post-Independence Mohamed Benrabah

Hardback - 216 pages
16 May 2013
Multilingual Matters
210 x 148 (A5)


This is a book about the use of languages as a proxy for conflict. It traces the history of Algeria from colonization by the French in 1830 to the celebration of 50 years of independence in 2012, and examines the linguistic issues that have accompanied this turbulent period. The book begins with an examination of 'language conflict' and related concepts, and then applies them to both the French colonists' language policies and the Arabization campaigns which followed independence. This is followed by an analysis of the rivalry between the English and French languages in independent Algeria. The book concludes with a study of the language choices made by Algerian writers and the complex tensions which arose from these choices among intellectuals in the colonial and post-colonial periods.


Benrabah presents a compelling and meticulously documented analysis which illustrates that language conflict in Algeria has always been a proxy for political conflict, brought about through authoritarian, anti-democratic, 'top-down' language planning that has ignored popular sentiments. True democracy will only be possible in Algeria once language policy is developed through a 'bottom-up' process which embraces the country's diverse ethnic and language groups. A fascinating and enlightening look at issues of global relevance.
James Coffman, Malaysian-American Commission on Educational Exchange (MACEE), Malaysia

Since the colonial era, the politics of language has been one of the most corrosive and divisive issues in Algeria. Mohamed Benrabah's detailed and wide-ranging study addresses each aspect of the question, from everyday language attitudes, through the problems of policy and planning, to education, popular culture, and literature. In providing an essential and enlightening analysis of the problem, he also suggests a forward-looking resolution to Algeria's language conflict, both recognizing the real linguistic issues at stake and exposing the ways in which language and identity have served as proxies for other conflicts, in whose own resolution the acceptance of Algeria's vibrant 'multilinguality' has an essential part to play.
James McDougall, University of Oxford, UK

Author Biography:

Mohamed Benrabah is Professor of English Linguistics and Sociolinguistics at Université Grenoble 3, France. The author's research interests include applied phonetics/phonology, sociolinguistics, and language management with a particular interest in the Anglophone, Arabophone and Francophone worlds. He has published two books (Langue et Pouvoir en Algérie. Histoire d’un Traumatisme Linguistique, Séguier, 1999; Devenir Langue Dominante Mondiale. Un Défi pour l'Arabe, Librairie Droz, 2009), a monograph, and more than fifty articles in journals and chapters in books.

Readership Level:

Postgraduate Research / Professional

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