[lg policy] Israel and Arabic: Where else do language and politics collide?

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Mon Jul 23 11:34:37 EDT 2018


Israel and Arabic: Where else do language and politics collide?
By Reality Check team BBC News

   - 22 July 2018


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Image copyright EPA Image caption There were protests over the
controversial nationality bill in Israel

Israel has passed a law characterising the country as principally a Jewish
state and putting Hebrew above Arabic as the official language, much to the
anger of Israeli Arabs
<https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-44881554>.

The law describes Hebrew as the "state's language", effectively
prioritising it above Arabic which has for decades been recognised as an
official language alongside Hebrew.

In which other countries has the choice of language proved politically
controversial?
LATVIA Image copyright AFP Image caption Plans for Latvian to be the
teaching medium in secondary schools also led to protests

This Baltic state and former Soviet republic has a sizeable
Russian-speaking minority, but the government recognises only Latvian as
the official state language. A referendum held in 2012 rejected a plan to
accord Russian the status of a second official language. The authorities
also have plans to promote Latvian as the language of instruction in all
secondary schools, although for the moment, teaching in Russian and other
minority languages will still be allowed at primary-school level.
CROATIA Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Croats use Latin rather
than Cyrillic script

After its independence in 1991, Croatia abolished the Cyrillic script,
which had been used when Croatia was part of the former Yugoslavia. Croats
write using Latin script and Serbs use Cyrillic. However, when Croatia
joined the EU in 2013, it did allow signs in both Cyrillic and Latin script
in areas with a significant Serb minority, leading to angry protests by
some Croats <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-23934098>.
ADVERTISEMENT
INDIA Image copyright AFP Image caption Tamil Nadu state has its own
distinctive culture and traditions

Plans to make Hindi the sole official language of India in place of English
after independence met resistance from non-Hindi-speaking states in a
country with a multiplicity of languages. Tamil Nadu - with its own ancient
language and traditions - suffered riots over the issue. The central
government continues to use English as well as Hindi for official purposes,
and individual states have largely been left to decide their own language
policy.
TURKEY Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Kurdish areas of Turkey
have long had restrictions on the use of their language

Turkish is the only official language and there have long been restrictions
on the Kurdish minority regarding the use of their language. In 2002, under
pressure from the EU, Turkey allowed some teaching and broadcasts in
Kurdish. University-level language courses in Kurdish and other minority
languages were introduced in 2009 as part of reforms.
CANADA Image copyright Getty Images Image caption French speakers in Canada
worry about the dominance of English

Canada is officially bilingual, with the constitution stating that English
and French have "equality of status" in all government institutions and the
parliament. However, historically there's been concern in largely
French-speaking Quebec about the dominance of English, given Canada's
proximity to the US. In 1974, Quebec made French the official language in
the province. It's also taken measures to promote the use of French, for
example, policing restaurants which use non-French words on their menus.


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 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com
http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/~haroldfs/

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