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Language, Technology, and the Decentralization of the State: Comparative Analysis of Turkey, Iran, and Iraq
Unformatted Document Text:  10 Language development for administration and education is usually one of the primary concerns of these centers. French advocates are at the forefront of the challenge to English as the dominant language of the global economy. In contrast to their (well documented) colonial language policy orientations, which were the epitome of urban monolingual centralization and state control, the French are now increasingly advocates of minority language group rights internationally. 25 Many authors have proposed possible explanations for this. One of the dominant arguments is that the French are hoping to use their clout with minority language groups in order to secure their position as the language of international affairs and negotiation (Wright 2004). 26 However, it may be best to take the individual explanations provided by French advocates and advocate organizations at face value. With reference to the Kurds and the creation of a Kurdish national identity, the Kurdish Institute of Paris 27 has published several papers on the importance of Kurdish language development for nationalist purposes: To build a text corpus of Kurdish language cannot be seen as a neutral action: doing this is first to assert the existence of the language, of a territory, of a nation; it is also to confront oneself with the division of this nation and of this language, a division which is as well imposed and suffered than perpetuated by Kurds themselves. (Gautier 1998) The quotation above does two things: it identifies the nation as equal to language within a geographic territory, and it undermines the legitimacy of state authority over the Kurds in Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Syria. It represents a Gellnerian attitude to language, placing it above any other single indicator for nation and assumes that identification within a Kurdish state would depend on language and would therefore be legitimate. 28 25 The movement uses technology but is really linguistic in nature. It is not about “bridging the digital divide” so much as it is about bridging the national divide by allowing minority language groups the chance to compete internationally. There are other advocates working to bridge the digital divide. A recent Ubuntu distribution was translated into Kurdish, sparking a heated debate in Turkey and among users of Linux operating systems (Peters Dec. 9 2006). Kurds seem to have bought into the idea that the internet will allow them complete access to all the information that the West has in store (Jacobson 1996). 26 From the mid-17 th to the mid-20 th centuries the French were dominant as the language of international affairs (Wright 2004). 27 The Kurdish Institute of Paris was created in 1983. It is an “independent, non-political, secular organization, embracing Kurdish intellectuals and artists from different horizons as well as Western specialists on Kurdish Studies” and in 1993 it obtained French public funding and the support of many famous French intellectuals like Simone de Beauvoir . 28 However, a shared language does not indicate an alignment of ideologies within the state. This is the argument presented by Michelle Penner Angrist in her article on regime change and party ideology in Turkey. Angrist argues that peaceful regime change has occurred in Turkey only when opposition party ideologies are aligned with the

Authors: Gannon-Kurowski, Solveig.
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background image
10
Language development for administration and education is usually one of the primary concerns
of these centers. French advocates are at the forefront of the challenge to English as the dominant
language of the global economy. In contrast to their (well documented) colonial language policy
orientations, which were the epitome of urban monolingual centralization and state control, the
French are now increasingly advocates of minority language group rights internationally.
25
Many
authors have proposed possible explanations for this. One of the dominant arguments is that the
French are hoping to use their clout with minority language groups in order to secure their
position as the language of international affairs and negotiation (Wright 2004).
26
However, it may be best to take the individual explanations provided by French
advocates and advocate organizations at face value. With reference to the Kurds and the creation
of a Kurdish national identity, the Kurdish Institute of Paris
27
has published several papers on the
importance of Kurdish language development for nationalist purposes:
To build a text corpus of Kurdish language cannot be seen as a neutral
action: doing this is first to assert the existence of the language, of a
territory, of a nation; it is also to confront oneself with the division of
this nation and of this language, a division which is as well imposed and
suffered than perpetuated by Kurds themselves. (Gautier 1998)
The quotation above does two things: it identifies the nation as equal to language within a
geographic territory, and it undermines the legitimacy of state authority over the Kurds in Iran,
Iraq, Turkey, and Syria. It represents a Gellnerian attitude to language, placing it above any other
single indicator for nation and assumes that identification within a Kurdish state would depend
on language and would therefore be legitimate.
28
25
The movement uses technology but is really linguistic in nature. It is not about “bridging the digital divide” so
much as it is about bridging the national divide by allowing minority language groups the chance to compete
internationally. There are other advocates working to bridge the digital divide. A recent Ubuntu distribution was
translated into Kurdish, sparking a heated debate in Turkey and among users of Linux operating systems (Peters
Dec. 9 2006). Kurds seem to have bought into the idea that the internet will allow them complete access to all the
information that the West has in store (Jacobson 1996).
26
From the mid-17
th
to the mid-20
th
centuries the French were dominant as the language of international affairs
(Wright 2004).
27
The Kurdish Institute of Paris was created in 1983. It is an “independent, non-political, secular organization,
embracing Kurdish intellectuals and artists from different horizons as well as Western specialists on Kurdish
Studies” and in 1993 it obtained French public funding and the support of many famous French intellectuals like
Simone de Beauvoir .
28
However, a shared language does not indicate an alignment of ideologies within the state. This is the argument
presented by Michelle Penner Angrist in her article on regime change and party ideology in Turkey. Angrist argues
that peaceful regime change has occurred in Turkey only when opposition party ideologies are aligned with the


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