The Ideology and Sociology of Language Change in the Arab World

Led by Jacob Høigilt
Mar 2012 - Dec 2016


This project explains the connection between changing writing practices and language ideology in the Arab world. By connecting linguistic features to social conditions and ideology in the Arab world, the project illuminates the relation between linguistic practices, social conditions and language ideology. The project describes and analyzes contemporary writing practices across a range of genres and compares them with official language ideology in three Arab countries, Egypt, Morocco and Kuwait. Included in the project are two major surveys among youth in Egypt and Morocco to measure popular attitudes to the Arabic language and contemporary written Arabic and connect them to socio-political variables and writing practices. A new political order is imposing itself in countries like Egypt and Tunisia, and the written word will play an immensely important role in this process: During the Egyptian revolution, the total circulation of daily newspapers was doubled in the course of a couple of weeks. The study of writing practices as opposed to spoken Arabic is a relatively little studied field, however, and this project promises to contribute ground-breaking insights and open new paths for research on language and power in the Arab world.

Partners: The University of Oslo, Cairo University, The University of Texas at Austin, Hunter College (CUNY), New York.

The project is funded by the Norwegian Research Council.

Research Groups


Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Høigilt, Jacob (2017) Egyptian Comics and the Challenge to Patriarchal Authoritarianism, International Journal of Middle East Studies 49(1): 111–131.
Takvam Kindt, Kristian ; Jacob Høigilt & Tewodros Aragie Kebede (2016) Writing Change: Diglossia and Popular Writing Practices in Egypt, Arabica 63: 324–376.
Elinson, Alexander E. (2013) Darija and Changing Writing Practices in Morocco, International Journal of Middle East Studies 45(4): 715–730.

Edited Volume

Høigilt, Jacob; & Gunvor Mejdell, eds, (2017) The Politics of Written Language in the Arab World: Writing Change. Leiden: Brill. Studies in Semitic Languages and Linguistics.

Past Events