• Languages of Rupture: Language Ideology and the Modern Novel in Egypt and Turkey

    Matthew Chovanec (see profile)
    Arabic literature, Turkish literature, Anthropological linguistics
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    University of Texas at Austin
    Linguistic anthropology, Narratology
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    In arguing for the central role of language in the creation of the modern nationalist imaginary, scholars of recent literary histories of both Egypt and Turkey have focused a great deal of energy on commonly accepted narratives of linguistic dysfunction. In Egypt and other Arabic speaking countries, the “diglossia problem” has been the locus for conversations about monologic subjectivity, colonial violence, and the counter-hegemonic politics of language. In Turkey, the language reforms are said to have created a mix of cultural aphasia and historical amnesia, brought on in particular by self-inflicted lexical impoverishment. In these accounts, both popular and scholarly, the epistemic ruptures of modernity are embedded in language itself. However, from the perspective of linguistics, both of these apparent dysfunctions are ideological projections, having little to do with either language’s actual communicative functions and everything to do with the social meaning of variation, in a word indexicality. Taking seriously the insights of indexicality, this dissertation argues for a different account of the relationship between language, ideology, and literature. Such an account aims not only to expose the Whorfian underpinnings of many previous literary histories, but to recast literature’s relationship to national language as one not of coercion and resistance, but one in which literature itself benefits narratologically from the forms that standard language ideology provides.
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    2 years ago
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