Using sociolinguistic techniques to look at the use of language within the multi-linguistic Islamicate cultural space could provide important insights into the role of culture and identity in the history the Islamic world and the emphasis (or de-emphasis) on cultural, ethnic or national difference. The linguistic history of the Turkic nationalities of the Russian Empire and Soviet Union provide an interesting case study for this (admittedly preliminary) methodological framework. Summarizing the sociolinguistic history of language in the Turkic Islamic world, this paper then looks at two main stances towards language which appeared in the 19th and early 20th centuries among these groups (notably the Volga Tatars): Qayyum Nasyri’s (1825-1902) attempts to fabricate a modernized Tatar literary language and Ismail Gasprinski’s (1851-1914) efforts at a unified pan-Turkic literary language. These approaches touch upon issues of identity, modernism, pan-Islamism, pan-Turkism, nationalism and cultural assimilation, as well as questions of education and the Islamic scholarly tradition, and competed simultaneously within the same discursive space, where issues of language and its uses were at the forefront.
|Keywords:||Language and Linguistics, Islam and Muslims, Nationalism, Culture and Identity, Russia, Soviet Union, Eurasia, History and Historiography, Arabic, Methodology, Sociolinguistics|
Ph.D Candidate, Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
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