Navigating Language in the Early Islamic World

Borrut, Antoine, Manuela Ceballos and Alison Vacca (eds.). 2024. Navigating language in the early Islamic world: Multilingualism and language change in the first centuries of Islam (Interdisciplinary Studies in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance 2). Turnhout: Brepols.

Traditional accounts of Arabicization have often favoured linear narratives of language change instead of delving into the diversity of peoples, processes, and languages that informed the fate of Arabic in the early Islamic world. Using a wide range of case studies from the caliphal centres at Damascus and Baghdad to the provinces of Arabia, Egypt, Armenia, and Central Asia, Navigating Language reconsiders these prevailing narratives by analysing language change in different regions of the early Islamic world through the lens of multilingualism and language change. This volume complicates the story of Arabic by building on the work of scholars in Late Antiquity who have abundantly demonstrated the benefits of embracing multilingualism as a heuristic framework. The three main themes include imperial strategies of language use, the participation of local elites in the process of language change, and the encounters between languages on the page, in the markets, and at work. This volume brings together historians and art historians working on the interplay of Arabic and other languages during the early Islamic period to provide a critical resource and reference tool for students and scholars of the cultural and social history of language in the Near East and beyond.