The Philological Revolution and the Latinization of Arabic
This article looks at the philological revolution and its influence on Oriental studies and Arabic studies in Germany generally, and on the German philological approach to Arabic studies within the Jewish community in Mandatory Palestine in particular. I argue that following this philological surge, the field of Arabic studies within the Jewish community went through a process of “Latinization”—a shift from an Arabic that is connected to daily, social life as a vehicle for communication to an Orientalist textual orientation having three clear principles: emphasis on the study of Arabic grammar, de-Arabization of the field in terms of experts and decision makers, and the treatment of Arabic as a classical language whose value lies in the past. I argue that the study of Arabic was juxtaposed with the study of Latin, which resulted in Arabic being seen not as a “living language” that is heard and used but as a language with mainly historical, religious, and disciplinary values. These Latinized pillars of Arabic studies—alongside additional sociopolitical processes that are beyond the scope of this article—had great influence in shaping the field of Arabic language studies in the Jewish community. I show how the main figures behind this shift were primarily German Jewish scholars who graduated from German universities. These scholars played a dominant role in two central, competing educational spheres in the country, in which the field of Arabic studies was forged and in which new norms of study and knowledge of Arabic were founded: The Hebrew University (where the Institute of Oriental Studies was established) and the school system (led by the Hebrew Reali School in Haifa). This new situation resulted in the creation of a new “Europeanized” Arabic in the heart of the Arab world.