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This paper presents a new conception of “Arab nationalism,” which conventionally means pan-Arab nationalism and defines an Arab as an Arabic speaker. Yet the term “Arabic” is elusive, as is the generic “Arabic speaker.” Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), derived from the Koran, is the official language of Arab League states, but is nobody’s mother tongue, or spoken language for that matter. Arabic vernaculars are deemed low status and are distinct from MSA. The division of “High” and “Low” languages between formal and informal spheres is called diglossia (“divided tongues”). This renders an ethnolinguistic situation in Arab states with unique social and political consequences. Arab-defined citizens are born into unique ethnolinguistic communities that are not state-supported, and are indoctrinated instead with a pan-Arab “national” identity shared by many states. I call this phenomenon Arab dinationalism.
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