Language and Change in the Arab Middle East: The Evolution of Modern Political Discourse

Publication Year



Ami Ayalon, Ph.D. 1980

Middle Eastern society experienced sudden and profound change in the 19th century under the impact of European expansion and influence. But as Western ideas about politics, technology, and culture began to infiltrate Arab society, the old language proved to be an inadequate vehicle for transmitting these alien concepts from abroad. In this study of the rise of modern Arabic, Ayalon examines 19th-century linguistic change in the Eastern Arab world as a mirror of changing Arab perceptions and responses to the West as well as a guide to the emergence of modern Arabic concepts, institutions, and practices. Focusing on the realm of political discourse, Ayalon looks at a wide array of evidence--local chronicles, travel accounts, translations of European writings, Arab political treatises, newspapers and periodicals, and dictionaries--to show how shifts in the color, tone, and meaning of the Arab vocabulary reflected a new socio-political and cultural reality.


“Has much to offer to students of the social, political and cultural history of the modern Arab world. ... [An] excellent and elegantly written work.”--Asian and African Studies

“Painstakingly researched with an extensive bibliography of Arabic and European language sources, this book breaks new ground in exploring political concepts and meaning through a study of linguistic evolution.”--Arab Book World

Series Title
Studies in Middle Eastern History
Oxford University Press
New York