Linguistic Othering and “knowledge deserts”: Perspectives on Arabic use in linguistically diverse Islamic institutions

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Linguistic capital is context-specific: the power of a language in one context changes in another. While English might be the language of highest linguistic capital in many settings in “Western” countries, that trend can shift when in a different linguistic context. This is the case for Islamic institutions in the “West” and how Arabic use is oftentimes perceived by non-Arabic speakers. This article examines views on Arabic use by attendees of three linguistically diverse Islamic institutional settings through the responses provided by 15 members of the Islamic community in one city in the U.S. Qualitative data was collected over a period of two years using semi-structured interviews. This work draws attention to three primary findings: 1) Arabic maintains linguistic capital within Islamic institutional spaces, 2) “linguistic othering” (Jaspal and Coyle, 2010) occurs in Islamic institutional settings and can have a significant effect on the way that attendees view their relationship to the institution, and 3) education and teaching methods can contribute to linguistic marginalization in Islamic education spaces. The subsequent sense of isolation can lead to decreased institutional attendance and may have a significant negative impact on the identity of institutional attendees. The conclusion of this paper offers recommendations on how Arabic can be incorporated into Islamic spaces without it being a source of alienation through the method of translanguaging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101076
JournalLinguistics and Education
StatePublished - Oct 2022


  • Arabic
  • Equity in education
  • Islamic Institution
  • Islamic School
  • Language teaching
  • Linguistic capital
  • Linguistic othering
  • Translanguaging

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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