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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:The politics of language in Eritrea: equality of languages vs. bilingual official language policy
Author:Bereketeab, RedieISNI
Periodical:African and Asian Studies (ISSN 1569-2094)
Geographic term:Eritrea
Subjects:language policy
official languages
mother tongues
ethnic identity
Arabic language
Tigrigna language
External link:https://doi.org/10.1163/156921010X491308
Abstract:The article analyses the discourse of the politics of language in Eritrea. It argues that the language debate in Eritrea over equality of languages and the bilingual official language policy is more about power relations than about language per se. It relates to politics of identity that derive from the construction of two identity formations as understood by political elites. Equality of languages (mother tongues) is based on ethnic identity, whereas official language is based on the construction of supra-ethnic civic identity. According to the constructivist bilingual official language Arabic and Tigrinya are supposed to represent two different sociocultural identity formations, notably, Islamic-Arabic and Christian-Tigrinya. Consequently, the official language policy debate could be construed to derive from politics of power relations where two groups of elites, supposedly representing the two identity formations, are engaged in power competition reflecting a real or imaginary sociocultural cleavage of respective identity. In this sense the bilingual official language is designed to create social equilibrium wherein it is supposed that power would be equitably distributed between two rival elite groups. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]