Handwritten Signature, Minority Language, and Identity: The Case of Palastenian Arab in Israel

Author: Deia Ganayim (Arab Center for Mind, Brain and Behavior , Israel)
Speaker: Deia Ganayim
Topic: Language Minorities and Majorities
COMELA 2021 General Session


People tend to craft a signature that is clearly distinguishable from others’ signatures and thus difficult to forge. This highlights the important meaning associated with signing one’s name on a document and, thus, supports the premise of a strong relationship between signatures and identity. We hypothesize that signing one’s name in his mother tongue reflects one’s identification with his social group.

In the reality of Israel, there are strong pressures towards ‘Hebraization’ among Palestinians. This places a further burden on them, as Hebrew is the dominant language in the public sphere of Israel.

In this research, we aim to examine in what language do Palestinian Arab students of higher education in Israel sign their own handwritten signature. Do they sign in Arabic, their mother tongue and native first language(L1) but still the language of minority? In Hebrew, their second language(L2) but the language of the dominant majority of Israel and the language of most official documents if not all? In English, their third language(L3)? Or in a symbolic-logographic manner (difficult to be classified into a specific language)?

In the current study we have asked 843 Palestinian Arab students of higher education in northern Israel to sign their own handwritten signature. Their signatures were classified based on the signature language into Arabic, Hebrew, English and Symbolic-Logographic. As in Figure 1 about 81% of the signatures were not in Arabic the native firs language. The findings were unpredictable and make several key contributions to our understanding of minority language and identity behaviour in general and their relation in the Palestinian Israeli context in special.

Keywords: Minority Language, Handwritten Signature, Identity, Palestinian Arabs in Israel