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Languages of Islam: Hybrid Genres of Taalibe Baay Oratory in Senegal

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Abstract:

This paper shows how religious speeches by leaders of the Taalibe Baay, disciples of the Senegalese Sufi Shaykh Ibrahim √Ďas, uphold Islamic knowledge and authority while accommodating competing yet intertwined knowledge regimes. French and Arabic enter into Wolof religious discourse in multiple ways through contrasting educational methods, uses, and language ideologies. These three languages are combined and separated in numerous linguistic registers juxtaposed in religious speeches: classical Arabic prologues and textual quotations, "deep Wolof" narratives largely excluding loanwords, more conversational registers using some French terms, and so on. Although orators typically use French terms sparingly, they sometimes break this pattern and use them liberally, especially when critiquing Western hegemony and secular values. They sometimes incorporate French discourses of "liberty" and "progress" in passages designed to demonstrate Islam's superiority in achieving these ideals. Orators tend to replace common French terms for morally positive concepts with Arabic terms, yet they usually reinsert the French as a gloss to facilitate comprehension. I discuss these utterances as cases of linguistic "hybridity" in which contrasting voices combine to serve an authorial purpose. These rhetorical patterns fit into a larger pattern of accommodating, contesting, and appropriating hegemonic languages, institutions, and ideas while upholding Islam's unique authoritativeness.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5192/021540993020167

Publication date: March 1, 2011

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