Book notice: Language, Religion and National Identity in Europe and the Middle East

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Thu Aug 17 16:56:04 UTC 2006

Forwarded from Linguist-List,

Language, Religion and National Identity in Europe and the Middle
East: A historical study
Series Title: Discourse Approaches to Politics, Society and Culture 21
Published: 2006
Publisher: John Benjamins

Author: John Myhill, University of Haifa

This book discusses the historical record of the idea that language is
associated with national identity, demonstrating that different
applications of this idea have consistently produced certain types of
results. Nationalist movements aimed at 'unification', based upon
languages which vary greatly at the spoken level, e.g. German, Italian,
Pan-Turkish and Arabic, have been associated with aggression, fascism and
genocide, while those based upon relatively homogeneous spoken languages,
e.g.  Czech, Norwegian and Ukrainian, have resulted in national liberation
and international stability. It is also shown that religion can be more
important to national identity than language, but only for religious
groups which were understood in premodern times to be national rather than
universal or doctrinal, e.g. Jews, Armenians, Maronites, Serbs, Dutch and
English; this is demonstrated with discussions of the Holocaust, the
Armenian Genocide, the civil war in Lebanon and the breakup of Yugoslavia,
the United Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Table of contents

Acknowledgements vii
Introduction 1-26
Premodern national churches, Roman Europe, and the Caliphate 27-70
Small languages and national liberation 71-117
Big languages, delusions of grandeur, war, and fascism 119-176
Language, religion, and nationalism in Europe 177-227
Language, religion, and nationalism in the Middle East 229-276
Conclusion 277-281
Bibliography 283-293
Index 295-300

"It has always been clear that language is linked to nationalism and
nationalism to language. What John Myhill has done here is to show for the
first time that this easy equation ignores the linguistic facts. It may be
true that a "language is a dialect with an army and a navy." But it is not
just the army and the navy that matter. It also matters that some
languages are more obviously languages than others." Peter Trudgill
Hardback: ISBN: 902722711X Pages: 300 Price: U.S. $ 138.00
Hardback: ISBN: 902722711X Pages: 300 Price: Europe EURO 115.00

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