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Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Hessler writes about the evolution of Egyptian Arabic and fusha

Away from reactions to the terrorist attack, Peter Hessler looked into the evolution of Egyptian Arabic and fusha (classical Arabic) in The New Yorker. Looking past Hessler’s recurrent obsession with describing characters he comes across in Egypt in voyeuristic detail, he manages to provide an interesting take on linguistics and the evolution of Egyptian Arabic in particular and fusha generally across the region. He notes the diversion between fusha and the spoken language in Egypt, saying: “if even educated people struggle with fusha, what does that mean for everybody else? More than a quarter of Egyptians are illiterate, and the rate is significantly higher among women, who are less likely than men to be in environments where fusha is used… The difficulty of fusha may have contributed to the tradition of using foreign languages to educate Egyptian university students in technical subjects… Ashraf El-Sherif, a political-science professor at the American University in Cairo, told me that many of his élite students can barely use written Arabic. He believes that the political consequences are significant. ‘They will make public policy about a country they don’t know,’ he said. ‘Practically speaking, they’ve become foreigners. They are Orientalists.’”

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