Polyglotism and Identity in Modern-Day Lebanon


  • Sarya Sofia Baladi Boston College




Lebanon is a polyglot country, where Western languages such as English or French, or more traditional/oriental languages such as Classical Arabic, have much societal and political power. Although all Lebanese speak Levantine Arabic (Shaami), many of them master multiple languages and can decide to strongly identify with a select few not only for the love of the language, but mostly for the message each language brings with it: is Lebanon a cosmopolitan Westernized country that differentiates itself from the Arab world? Or should Lebanon look towards its Oriental roots and celebrate its Muslim-Arabic heritage? This paper seeks to prove that, in Lebanon, the implicit or explicit choice of language is a tool to convey one’s political, religious, and cultural views. This created a strong divide between Eastern and Western oriented Lebanese in the 20th century and is one of the main causes for the political turmoil in modern Lebanon.

Author Biography

Sarya Sofia Baladi, Boston College

College of Arts and Sciences, Class of 2019

Major: Islamic Civilizations and Societies


Abou, Sélim. Arabic-French Bilingualism in Lebanon. Presses Universitaires De France, 1962.

Aly, Waleed. "Divided Lebanon Has an Identity Crisis." The Sydney Morning Herald. January 10, 2014. Accessed November/December, 2016.

Bahous, Rima, Nahla Nola Bacha, and Mona Nabhani. "Multilingual Educational Trends and Practices in Lebanon: A Case Study." Springer, December 9, 2011.

Corm, Charles. The Sacred Mountain. Beirut: La Revue Phénicienne, 1964.

Courbage, Youssef. "Une Enquête Sur La Pratique De La Langue Française Au Liban." Population (French Edition) 51, no. 6 (November/December 1996).

Dawisha, A. I. Arab Nationalism in the Twentieth Century: From Triumph to Despair. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003.

Diab, Rula. "Political and Socio-Cultural Factors in Foreign Language Education: The Case of Lebanon." Texas Papers in Foreign Language Education 5 (2000).

Esposito, John L. Islam: The Straight Path. 5th ed. New York, NY: Oxford UP, 2016. Print.

Ferree Womackn, Deanna. "Lubnani, Libanais, Lebanese: Missionary Education, Language Policy and Identity Formation in Modern Lebanon." Studies in World Christianity 18, no. 1 (2012).

Frayha, Nemer. "Education and Social Cohesion in Lebanon." Prospects XXXIII, no. 1 (March 2003).

Joseph, John E. Language and Identity: National, Ethnic, Religious. Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.

Maalouf, Amin. In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong. New York: Arcade, 2001.

Mabry, Tristan. "Arab Dinationalism." The Levantine Review 2, no. 1 (2013): 27-53.

Salameh, Franck. Charles Corm: An Intellectual Biography of a Twentieth-Century Lebanese "Young Phoenician" Lanham: Lexington Books, 2015.

Salameh, Franck. Language, Memory, and Identity in the Middle East: The Case for Lebanon. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2010.

Shawish, Hesham. "Campaign to save the Arabic Language in Lebanon." BBC. June 24, 2010. Accessed November 30, 2016.




How to Cite

Baladi, S. S. (2018). Polyglotism and Identity in Modern-Day Lebanon. Lingua Frankly, 4. https://doi.org/10.6017/lf.v4i0.9611