Bashing Israel In A Linguistics Paper Without Being Noam Chomsky
What can I say! It looks like every topic of scholastic endeavour can be used to vilify Israel. Who cares if the work makes sense? The main thing is to make Israel look bad.
How can you make something normal into something pathological? Easy. Watch!
The paper is called “The Changing of Arabic Terminology in Times of War and Displacement,” and it was presented at the Western Conference on Linguistics, 2017. I have no idea how it got accepted for presentation, nor how the student’s co-author faculty member was not humiliated to have her name on it.
In the introduction, we read:
The specific goal of this paper is to show the impact of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the way this family speaks Arabic today in America.
This family being:
- A grandmother and her son, Riad, who were interviewed for this “study”: Grandmother was born in Tiberias about 87 years ago, left for Lebanon in 1948 with her husband and gave birth to 5 children, one of which is Riad. After 20 years, when Riad was 4, the family moved to Kuwait for better economic opportunities. The family would spend summers in Lebanon. Riad lived with his parents until age 17, at which point he moved to Wichita to attend university and there he stayed. He brought his parents over soon after he married. His father died in 2002 in the USA.
- The interviewees are likely related to the first author (same last name, same town of residence: Wichita, Kansas) but this is never mentioned in the paper. I am going to guess that Riad is the first author’s father.
The paper begins with the story of the conquest of Palestine by the Jews, saying that the traumatic flight from Tiberias had something to do with how Grandmother speaks Arabic or with how Riad speaks Arabic. It was not really clear. It does not really matter that much, because the whole point of the article is to demonize Israel. Breaking new ground, indeed:
. . . no study has looked at the change of Arabic across the Levantine continuum through the eyes of war and displacement.
This paper traces the development and changes of the Arabic language through the journey of a Palestinian family as they find refuge in a variety of countries.
But do we find a history of Lebanon or a description of the conditions under which the family lived there? Do we find a history of Kuwait, or a description of the conditions under which they lived there? In fact, it looks like they lived a quite comfortable life. They were able to visit Lebanon each summer as a family, and when Riad was 17, they could afford to pay for his university tuition in the USA.
Therefore, what we really have here is a look at how, within an immigrant family, the older generation and the younger generation are differentially affected by moving from Arabic-speaking place to Arabic-speaking place. This is something that millions of families around the world can also claim has happened, regardless of the language of origin.You know, like how Brazilian kids would speak Portuguese like their neighbours do if the family moved to Portugal while the parents would most likely retain the Brazilian dialect, to some extent at least.
Older immigrants tend to maintain their native accents and dialects, whereas their kids acquire the linguistic qualities of the place in which they spend their younger years. What has that got to do with trauma? This paper never says. It infers that you only have to know the history of the Jewish takeover of Palestinian land to understand that the changes in the way Riad speaks Arabic when contrasted with his mother’s maintenance of her Palestinian Arabic are Israel’s fault.
And in case words are not enough (even in a linguistics paper) to understand the treachery of us Jews, the authors include the famous map that totally distorts the situation. The fact that they can get away with using this map shows that nobody really knows the truth and probably nobody much cares. But you can read about what this map really means, if you want.
The one point I thought might be interesting in this paper was the following:
During the Lebanese Civil War (1975-92), the pronunciation of the Levantine word for ‘tomato’ served as a clue to one’s ethnic/national identity in a war situation (Suleiman, 2004). In some cases, the pronunciation served as a boundary setter, a matter of life or death.
Unable to access the book by Suleiman, I turned to a Lebanese friend for help in understanding what this might mean. He said he had no idea what they were getting at. I am reading into it that perhaps the authors mean that the Palestinians’ lives were in danger during the Civil War and they could be identified by their accents. Unable to check it out leaves me wondering if and how this is Israel’s fault as well.
In the dramatic conclusions to this paper, the authors claim that the grandmother
is trying to maintain her birth language, the language of her Palestinian identity. . . . This is an indication of pride in her rural identity and solidarity with her rural roots.
I think anyone who knows middle-aged or elderly immigrants knows that she does not have to try very hard. In fact, she would have to work hard at abandoning her birth language if that was what she wanted to do. Maintaining her birth language is the most natural eventuality, especially if the people with whom she interacted when in Lebanon and Kuwait were other Palestinian Arab refugees, and the fact of her age at immigration to the United States. If in all places, her environment was made up of people who left the land that soon became Israel, then it is easy to see how she would have maintained her original manner of speaking. You do not need a linguistics degree to know that.
Thus, we have seen that war and displacement has resulted in the younger participants shift in language use, whereas the older participants maintain their identity and language.
When I looked up to see how the term language and displacement was being used in the linguistics literature, I discovered that it referred to a stage before the extinction of a language. In other words, it referred to the common process by which younger generations are raised in languages different from the native tongue of their parents, leading to the disappearance of the latter. They are usually talking about indigenous languages, such as First Nations in Canada. Alive and well in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, I do not think Palestinian Arabic is in any danger of extinction. Do you?