Characterizing the language boundaries of the Arab Middle East and North Africa: A geolinguistic analysis

Moran Zaga, Ronen Zeidel

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of the Changing World Language Map
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9783030024383
ISBN (Print)9783030024376
StatePublished - 22 Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020. All rights reserved.


  • Arabic
  • Geolinguistic
  • Language community
  • Linguistic borders
  • Soft/hard boundaries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences
  • General Arts and Humanities


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