The sociolinguistics of nationalism in the Sudan: The politicisation of Arabic and the Arabicisation of politics

Ashraf Abdelhay, Busi Makoni, Sinfree Makoni, Abdel Rahim Mugaddam

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21 Scopus citations


This monograph describes the historiography of language ideologies that led to the politicisation of Arabic and the Arabicisation of politics in the Sudan, starting from British colonial rule until the Comprehensive Peace Agreement that was a precursor to the separation of the South as an independent state. The monograph shows that the politicisation of Arabic in the Sudan is largely a product of British colonial language planning practices that essentially amalgamated Arabic, Islam and a pigmented, spatialised identity, constituting in the process 'northern Sudan' vis-à-vis its southern counterpart. The widely celebrated South-North multilingualism is largely a product of colonial linguistic intervention, which has been sustained by postcolonial rules. The postcolonial sociolinguistic order, which is a result of power holders' competing agendas, has reproduced this colonial narrative as the legitimate base of its official (northern) language policy, leading to the Arabicisation of politics. The monograph analyses these different historical trajectories in order to establish how they have intertextually played themselves out in the recent language policies of the South-North peace agreements. Although the 'New Sudan' project, promulgated by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army, was intended to de-politicise Arabic and de-Arabicise politics by advocating a political programme aimed at deconstructing the South-North polarisation, the South-North semiotically invented cartography is re-entextualised in the very 'libratory' postcolonial discourse of the CPA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)457-501
Number of pages45
JournalCurrent Issues in Language Planning
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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