The aim of this review is to contribute to a dialogue between anthropologists and sociolinguists who work on the Arab world. One of the most distinctive features of the Arab world is that Classical Arabic co-exists with national vernaculars such as Egyptian, Syrian, Jordanian, and so on. The first is the language of writing, education, and administration, whereas the latter are the media of oral exchanges, nonprint media, poetry, and plays. The proximity or distance between the “Classical” and the “colloquials,” whether the latter are also “Arabic” or have been so accepting of foreign borrowings that they ceased to be so, whether they are languages or “inferior dialects” are all contentious issues that continue to be debated within the Arab world. In fact, such debates have become inseparable from the central concerns and dilemmas of social and intellectual movements in this century. After providing a broad outline of work in Arabic sociolinguistics, the review moves to the literature on education. Debates on education are intimately linked with larger questions regarding colonialism, nationalism, and modernization. The last part of the review is devoted to anthropological works on the region. The complexities of the sociolinguistic settings in the Arab world provide promising and challenging grounds for contributions to anthropological theory.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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