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The English Language In Turkey – A Case Study Of Linguistic Imperialism

1974 words - 8 pages

Juan L. Costa S 1229656 1 December 2013 Words: 1629 Course: Globalization and Cultural Studies Mr. Looi van Kessel, M.A.

The English language in Turkey – A case study of linguistic imperialism
English is considered to be the world’s lingua franca. It is the most extended language in all kinds of international interactions, including trade, culture, and academia. This is considered to be a factual statement and not a normative one. Certain scholars have considered the rise of English as a positive process in normative terms, while others have critiqued it as a form of imperialism. However, both sides of the argument agree on the principle that English is indeed the global language (Lin ...view middle of the document...

One of his main findings is that American missionaries tended to be less flexible than Europeans in their language choice for engaging in religious proselytism. While Europeans in many cases learned the local vernacular language, such as Arabic in the case of Middle East countries, Americans used only English (216). This is reflected in the case of Turkey as well, since many of the English-only schools established during the late 19th century were founded by American missionaries (Reagan and Schreffler 117-118). This case can be analyzed as a case of conception of identity via language, in a country with a history of pre-modern national churches. According to MyHill, there has been a conflict between pre-modern national
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church groups, such as the Maronites, and modern states that conceptualize national identity via language homogeneity, such as contemporary Lebanon (248-251). In Turkey, there was a long-term settlement of Greek Orthodox minorities that nonetheless spoke Turkish as their first language. Ottoman authorities thus faced the challenge of defining national identity via the Turkish language, or via Islam. They chose to define ‘Turkishness’ as being Muslim, thus leaving out the minority Greek groups from this nationalistic conception (Zok 3-6). As a result what had once been the capital of Christendom, Constantinople, became the center of a homogeneously Muslim society. Turks chose not to be like Lebanon, a multi-religious society under a single language, and instead considered Islam to be a stronger factor for national identity than language. This key choice should be taken into consideration for explaining why English expanded rapidly and smoothly in Turkish territory. While Ottoman authorities adopted a strong position towards religious minorities, as the horrors of the Armenian genocide show, the same level of opposition was not adopted against institutions that undermined the hegemony of the Turkish language (Zok 4). In this regard, it is thus not surprising that English schools rapidly became key institutions of the national educational system. In fact, one of the many schools established during the 1860s, Robert College, later became one of Turkey’s most prestigious universities, adopting the name of Bogazici University (Phillipson 216). This rapid expansion and gain of prestige of English institutions was only possible with the explicit approval of Turkish governments that were more concerned with maintaining the hegemony of the Islamic religion, instead of the hegemony of the Turkish language. Linguistic imperialism in Turkey developed during its early stages in a similar way to colonial settings in Africa and Asia. Despite the fact that Turkish territory was never colonized by France or Great Britain, English spread via schools that actively engaged in linguistic imperialism endeavors, with the consent of Ottoman authorities (Zok 2-3). However, modern expansion of English has taken a neocolonial form in Turkey....

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