Language policy and Language Revitalization or Devitalisation: The case of Amazigh in Morocco

Submitted by: Yassine Boussagui
Abstract: Since the independence, Morocco’s adopted language policies have fundamentally rested on the Arabic language and Islam as the two foundational narratives legitimizing the exclusion of the Amazigh varieties from the classroom and normalizing the use of standard Arabic as the only language of instruction. This has resulted in the stigmatization of the Amazigh linguistic and cultural heritage and the moulding of culture of resistance to Amazigh linguistic revival. Despite the attempts made recently to reconcile Moroccans with Amazigh, first as a national language in 2001 and second as an official language in 2011, it remains legitimate to question these attempts in the light of the constitutional incongruity and inconsistency in treating Amazigh and Standard Arabic. While the constitution vows to develop, protect, and promote the use of Arabic, it pledges no such treatment for Amazigh. A better understanding of the impact of language policy cannot be attained unless it is interpreted within a framework that draws closely on the power and interests of a dominant group (Tollefson, 1991). Amazigh revitalization policy accordingly should be investigated in relation to its role in serving the dominant narrative. This study intends to contribute to a better understanding of how language perception and language attitudes towards Amazigh are affected by the constructed language ideologies in Morocco over the decades of policy formulation. The main objective is to investigate how language-in-education policy in particular contribute to Amazigh devitalisation rather than revitalization. The findings discussed here are based on a mixed methods approach involving both the quantitative and qualitative research methods conducted between 2016 and 2018. The main research instruments used in the collection of the data are questionnaires and interviews. The study addresses and tries to answer three research questions, namely (i) What attitudes do Moroccan have towards the Amazigh language? (ii) To what extent has the State’s official recognition of Amazigh influenced the status of the language and changed Moroccans’ attitudes towards it? (iii) To what extent do the structural forces of dominance and power constrain the teaching of Amazigh language and inhibit its revitalization?

Key words: Amazigh; Language policy; Language-in-education policy; Language
Revitalization; Language devitalisation.

Tollefson, 1991