The Change in Vocabularies of Freedoms and Rights in Egyptian Political Writings from al-Ṭahṭāwī until 1952 A Diachronic Approach to Lexical Semantics
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
I wish to publish papers using material that is substantially drawn from my thesis
Human rights terms can be understood and categorised in different ways, according to various standards, in different periods of history. Studying the development of these vocabularies in their historical context provides the grounds for understanding the history of ideas involving human rights. This research used a diachronic approach to examine the changes in the use of terms associated with freedoms and rights in Egyptian political writings in three periods between 1869 and 1952. Three main sources were used as an analytic corpus: (1) Al-Ṭahṭawī’s books; (2) Muḥammad cAbduh’s political articles in Al-Waqā’ic newspaper (published 1880-1882), and (3) political articles published in Al-Ahrām newspaper (1876-1952). The semantic changes identified were assessed using two criteria: First, changes in the terms and expressions that were used to convey types of freedoms and rights were evaluated, and second, changes in the contexts in which these terms were used in three chronological periods were assessed. These periods corresponded to the period of Al-Ṭahṭāwī (1869-1873); the period of the cUrābī Revolution to prior to the Revolution of 1919 (1879-1918), and the period from the Revolution of 1919 until the end of 1952, the year of the July Revolution. The first period registered a lexical contribution represented by the production of new expressions of freedoms and rights, with very little semantic contribution. In the second period, a limited lexical and semantic expansion was found, involving an increase in terms and the entitlements to which they referred; these terms and entitlements were mainly confined to the private sphere of individuals, and new entitlements were applicable to people who did not oppose the political authorities. In the third period, terms were found to refer to entitlements for individuals in the public sphere; this was considered to be, at the linguistic level, a lexical and semantic development. In all cases, the meaning of the terms was dependent on context and thus necessarily subject to cultural and political interpretations. The study concludes with recommendations for considering the evolution of Arabic political vocabularies (mainly vocabularies of freedoms and rights) in different historical periods involving different political circumstances.
PhD in Arab and Islamic Studies