Bridging Borders: Bilingualism and Diplomacy across the Sixteenth-Century Mediterranean

Sunday, January 9, 2011: 11:40 AM
Room 101 (Hynes Convention Center)
Claire Gilbert , University of California at Los Angeles
After the conquest of Muslim Granada in 1492, tension and anxieties about Arabic-language use in the Iberian Peninsula increased and were manifested in several areas of discourse. This paper explores Iberian political relations with Arabic speakers during the sixteenth century, focusing on the attitudes that shaped Arabic usage and how multilingualism in politics contributed to the larger conflict between preserving or preventing the survival of Arabic as a peninsular language. In the Castilian-ruled kingdoms, the sixteenth century was a period of administrative centralization, programs of cultural homogenization, and imperial ambition.  Concomitantly, linguistic ideologies and practices underwent shifts in various domains: an increase in codified vernacular philology, especially in Castile, the development of missionary linguistics on a wide scale, in particular in the New World, and the legislations against Arabic use and Arabic materials among Moriscos. This paper explores multilingualism and attitudes about language use in the context of a growing global empire, focusing in particular on the exchange between actors using Arabic and Romance dialects across the Mediterranean and between communities in the Peninsula itself.  Inter-Iberian relations, before and after 1492, and contacts between Maghrebi communities and the Peninsula, reveal communication networks that operated outside the public ideologies of linguistic homogeneity.  The language ideologies about Arabic in both Christian and Muslim communities in Iberia in the sixteenth century are complex, and not always as rigid as legislation would suggest.  In this paper I will complicate the story of the so-called decline of Arabic in Iberia by exploring what is known about language use and multilingualism in the correspondence and diplomatic exchanges between the Iberian kingdoms, Morocco, Mamluk Egypt, and even with the North African Ottoman regencies if space permits.