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Between EmpiresArabs, Romans, and Sasanians in Late Antiquity$
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Greg Fisher

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199599271

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199599271.001.0001

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Arabic, Culture, and Ethnicity

Arabic, Culture, and Ethnicity

(p.128) 4 Arabic, Culture, and Ethnicity
Between Empires

Greg Fisher (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the function of the Arabic language and its influence on notions of ethnic identity. It begins by establishing the low‐key role that ancient authors assigned to language in this regard, noting that the high‐profile connection between language and identity is very much a modern phenomenon. It surveys the evidence for Old Arabic, and revisits the Nemara inscription — one of the oldest Arabic inscriptions — to ascertain what it might say about ‘Arab’ identity. The chapter also examines the role of Arabic in Nabataea, the function and importance of other Arabic inscriptions in Syria, the pre‐Islamic oral poetry corpus, and so‐called ‘Ishmaelite’ and bedouin identities. The chapter notes that the lack of evidence precludes a definite statement of how any use of Arabic reflected any concrete notion of identity, but links its use and the evidence for increased political confidence, status, and visibility of Arab elites examined in chapter three.

Keywords:   Nemara, Old Arabic, Ishmael, Syria, poetry, Arabic inscriptions, Nabataea, bedouin

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