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Language threat in the United Arab Emirates? Unpacking domains of language use

Keith Kennetz and Kevin S. Carroll


The United Arab Emirates’ economic and population growth within the past 30 years has led to a vibrant country where linguistic, cultural and religious diversity is the norm. Nevertheless, as Arabic-speaking Emiratis comprise approximately 10–15% of the country’s residents, academics and Emiratis themselves have questioned the level to which Arabic is threatened in the country. Given the use of English in many domains outside of the home, coupled with its global prestige, such uncertainty regarding the future of Arabic are warranted, yet there is currently no baseline data on how Emiratis are using language in their daily lives. This article examines language threat within this context and uses survey data completed by 248 Emirati participants regarding their reported use of Arabic and other languages. Findings suggest that although Arabic plays a major role in the daily lives of majority of Emiratis, English often co-exists in a variety of different domains and adds to the context’s multilingualism. The authors argue that Emiratis live in a multilingual country where Arabic and English co-exist together in relative harmony. Nevertheless, given the rapidly changing demographics and educational policies in the country, further research is essential.


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Published Online: 2018-09-19
Published in Print: 2018-10-25

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