Policy Brief

Language and Politics in the Mena Region

The Arabic language emerged centuries before Islam, and it developed and reached its maturity after the Quran was revealed in Arabic. In that sense, Islam has elevated the Arabic language from an oral tradition to a written system, which gave birth to a civilization.

In the past, the Arab identity meant a common language (Arabic), the Arab tradition, a specific mindset and way of life (Bedouin), and the lineage (real or supposed). Today, an Arab is generally described as a person someone who speaks Arabic as a mother tongue.

This paper’s first section talks about changes in the most common language used in the Middle East region since the beginning of the Islamic era, briefly highlighting the interactions between power and administrative language. The second section develops the language transformations that took place in modern times through contact with European powers. The third section is about current issues related to the Arabic language.