Characterizing the Language Boundaries of the Arab Middle East and North Africa: A Geolinguistic Analysis

  • Moran ZagaEmail author
  • Ronen Zeidel
Reference work entry


For many decades, the political structure of the Arab states in the Middle East and North Africa (i.e., the Arab world) has demonstrated relative stability. Although much has been written about the colonial borders of the region and very few attempts were made to challenge them, the international borders were generally taken for granted. However, in the last decade, the intensifying expression of civil society and non-state organizations in the region has weakened these borders, especially by increasing cross-border activities. This trend can be related to the long-lasting prominence of the ethnolinguistic affiliation of the Arabic-speaking community. Pan-Arab solidarity is primarily an emotional and a cultural phenomenon, but it does also represent territorial manifestation that can be roughly confined by imaginary ethnolinguistic borders. As Pan-Arabism and modern nationalism represent conflicting territorial manifestations, many struggles arise, especially with the growing weight of the society versus the state.

The purpose of this chapter is to investigate the significance of the linguistic borders in comparison with the political borders of the region. This type of examination entails a multidisciplinary approach that includes historical and theoretical analyses of linguistics, sociology, and geography, with a particular focus on borders and territoriality. The geographical prism provides an important view on the spatial level, as well as on the symbolic level of these sociopolitical phenomena.


Arabic Geolinguistic Linguistic borders Language community Soft/hard boundaries 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography and Environmental StudiesUniversity of HaifaHaifaIsrael
  2. 2.The Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African StudiesTel Aviv UniversityTel AvivIsrael

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