The sociolinguistic role of Ottoman Turkish and Arabic in Turkish nationalism
Jensen, Amy Lynn (2017) The sociolinguistic role of Ottoman Turkish and Arabic in Turkish nationalism. [Thesis]
Turkey has always been characterized by a seeming tug-a-war between polarizing social theories, political ideologies and nationalisms. The notion of nationalism depends on a variety of factors: race, ethnicity, territory, shared cultural practices, shared historical experience etc, but language can also serve as an extremely important vessel for nationalist sentiment, and this is especially true in the Turkish context where the entire orthography of the Turkish language was changed in the 1920s to accommodate the founding republic's desire to shift its identity more westward. For the majority of the twentieth century there was the social and political will to limit the influence of Arabic, not only because it wasn't simply Turkish, but also because the language carried the added weight of Islamic religious connotations, another aspect of Turkish identity that Atatürk wished to marginalize. However, within the twenty-first century there has been a shift in the Turkish government's nationalist agenda. While there have been plenty of papers written about Turkey's recent shift towards religious conservatism in stark contrast to the secular image that the Turkish elites have traditionally tried to perpetuate, fewer have explored the sociolinguistic aspects of this shift in the form of the dialogues that have started about the place of the Arabic and the Ottoman language in modern Turkish society. In this thesis the author will argue how high-ranking AKP members' desire to reintroduce Arabic and Ottoman Turkish into Turkish education is emblematic of the lack of success of the language reform of the 1930s to remove all trace of Turkey's linguistic Islamic heritage. I will also argue that these linguistic symbols are being used strategically to instill in Turkey's youthful citizens a sense of religious piety that will make them more receptacle to political Islam, and thus loyal to the ruling Islamist party.
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