Volume 10, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1569-2159
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9862
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In 1973, former President of Tunisia, Habib Bourguiba delivered nine speeches in which he recounted episodes of the national movement. Even though delivered in an official setting and to a highly educated audience, the semi-planned speeches were delivered in the dialectal variety of Arabic, i.e. Tunisian Arabic. The speeches were brought together in a book form titled ḥayātī, ’ārā’ī, jihadi (My Life, My Opinions, My Jihād). Their publication in a book form meant that the original performed texts were modified from a spoken mode to a written mode and ‘translated’ from Tunisian Arabic, a dialectal form of Arabic, to fuṣḥā, the High variety of Arabic (Ferguson 1959). The rewriting of the speeches led to strategic sociolinguistic choices. In the translation process, the linguistic product was regulated by a web of competing institutions of power, sites of linguistic ideologies, and linguistic practices; each of which represents an institution of power whose interests shift strategically between moments of ideological convergence and/or divergence, if not rivalry and connivance, among and between them. The present essay is an attempt to explore those sociolinguistic choices translated into erasures, shifts, modifications, and polishing of the original text. The carefully orchestrated changes in the original text, I believe, aim at re-establishing the authoritative presidential voice, restoring the institutional linguistic status quo, and rendering Bourguiba’s personal ‘ḥkāyāt’, stories, to ‘tārīkh aš-šaʿb t-tūnsi’, ‘the history of the Tunisian people’.


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