Language as a Means of Excommunication: An Exploration of the Use of Language to Oust 'Others' in Contemporary Egyptian/Arabic Discourse

  •  Ahmed Abdel Azim ElShiekh    


One of the most common definitions of language is that it is a means of communication. The present research is, however, interested in quite a different aspect of language use, hence the title: Language as a Means of Excommunication. The term 'excommunication', strictly meaning to "exclude from a church or a religious community"(Note 1), is also used to mean "oust or exclude from a group or membership by decree" (Note 2). This paper deals with the use of language to 'excommunicate' 'others', whether literally or metaphorically, from the membership of a particular group, regardless of its secular or religious nature. The act of excommunication in its broad sense denotes "exclusion from fellowship" (Note 3) (Merriam-Webster, 2002) (Note 4). The researcher focuses on informal acts of 'excommunication' practiced by language users who are not authorized to do so in any way. The research is thus an exploration in contemporary Egyptian discourse with an eye on the use of language to oust 'others' as such. Two events have been selected for that purpose: a basically religious one (Note 5) and an originally sports event that has almost turned into a national dispute (Note 6). The paper shall mainly deal with two linguistic tools used for the disqualification of others as members of a given group; the use of particular lexemes that imply rather than state that the 'other' is some sort of 'infidel' or 'traitor', and the resort to direct quotations from and allusions to decontextualized religious texts that would virtually entail the condemnation of the 'other' as an outcast.

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