Joan Smith discusses the decline of spoken Arabic in the Turkish province of Hatay (formerly the Sanjak of Alexandretta, a part of Greater Syria in Ottoman times).
Although there are no official statistics on language use or on ethnic groups in Turkey, it is clear that in the province of Hatay (in the south, bordering Syria), most people are descended from Arabic speakers. Arabic entered the area as a result of the Arab conquests in the seventh century. Prior to this, the cities were Greek-speaking; people in surrounding areas spoke Aramaic. (Trimingham, 1979) The area first came under Turkish rule for a brief time at the end of the eleventh century, when Seljuks and Turkmen began eroding Byzantine control. Crusader rule followed…. The area subsequently came under Mameluke rule (from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries), then under Ottoman rule (from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries)…. As part of Greater Syria, Hatay was still largely Arabic-speaking when it was annexed by the Turkish Republic in 1938.
Until annexation, Turkish and Arabic co-existed for centuries; under republican policies, however, the use of Arabic began to decline.
Smith’s is one of a number of interesting articles on endangered languages (for example, Language Shift on the Kamchatka Peninsula, about the situation of Itelmen, and Gumbaynggirr, about the comeback of an Aboriginal language of New South Wales in Australia) in a special issue of Cultural Survival. (Via wood s lot.)