He obtained a Masters and a PhD in comparative literature from UC Berkeley , with a dissertation focusing on modern poetry as spiritual practice. He has taught university courses in writing, language, literature, and philosophy in four different languages at Berkeley, Mannheim and Heidelberg , and currently works as a freelance translator from Arabic, French, and German into English, as well as a freelance editor of English-language texts. He also does a significant amount of work editing the translations of other translators.
A highly regarded translator of modern Arabic literature , Abu-Zeid has the following books to his name:. He contributes regularly to literary journals and websites such as Words Without Borders , Guernica , and Three Percent. Examples of such words include admiral, adobe, alchemy, alcohol, algebra, algorithm, alkaline, almanac, amber, arsenal, assassin, candy, carat, cipher, coffee, cotton, ghoul, hazard, jar, kismet, lemon, loofah, magazine, mattress, sherbet, sofa, sumac, tariff, and zenith.
Most Berber varieties such as Kabyle , along with Swahili, borrow some numbers from Arabic.
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In languages not directly in contact with the Arab world, Arabic loanwords are often transferred indirectly via other languages rather than being transferred directly from Arabic. Older Arabic loanwords in Hausa were borrowed from Kanuri. Arabic words also made their way into several West African languages as Islam spread across the Sahara.
Since throughout the Islamic world, Arabic occupied a position similar to that of Latin in Europe, many of the Arabic concepts in the fields of science, philosophy, commerce, etc. This process of using Arabic roots, especially in Kurdish and Persian, to translate foreign concepts continued through to the 18th and 19th centuries, when swaths of Arab-inhabited lands were under Ottoman rule.
The most important sources of borrowings into pre-Islamic Arabic are from the related Semitic languages Aramaic ,  which used to be the principal, international language of communication throughout the ancient Near and Middle East, Ethiopic , and to a lesser degree Hebrew mainly religious concepts.
There have been many instances of national movements to convert Arabic script into Latin script or to Romanize the language. Currently, the only language derived from Classical Arabic to use Latin script is Maltese. The major head of this movement was Louis Massignon , a French Orientalist, who brought his concern before the Arabic Language Academy in Damascus in Massignon's attempt at Romanization failed as the Academy and population viewed the proposal as an attempt from the Western world to take over their country. Sa'id Afghani , a member of the Academy, mentioned that the movement to Romanize the script was a Zionist plan to dominate Lebanon.
After the period of colonialism in Egypt, Egyptians were looking for a way to reclaim and re-emphasize Egyptian culture. As a result, some Egyptians pushed for an Egyptianization of the Arabic language in which the formal Arabic and the colloquial Arabic would be combined into one language and the Latin alphabet would be used.
He also believed that Latin script was key to the success of Egypt as it would allow for more advances in science and technology. This change in alphabet, he believed, would solve the problems inherent with Arabic, such as a lack of written vowels and difficulties writing foreign words that made it difficult for non-native speakers to learn. The Quran introduced a new way of writing to the world. People began studying and applying the unique styles they learned from the Quran to not only their own writing, but also their culture.
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Writers studied the unique structure and format of the Quran in order to identify and apply the figurative devices and their impact on the reader. The Quran inspired musicality in poetry through the internal rhythm of the verses. The arrangement of words, how certain sounds create harmony, and the agreement of rhymes create the sense of rhythm within each verse. At times, the chapters of the Quran only have the rhythm in common. The repetition in the Quran introduced the true power and impact repetition can have in poetry. The repetition of certain words and phrases made them appear more firm and explicit in the Quran.
The Quran uses constant metaphors of blindness and deafness to imply unbelief. Metaphors were not a new concept to poetry, however the strength of extended metaphors was. The explicit imagery in the Quran inspired many poets to include and focus on the feature in their own work. The poet ibn al-Mu'tazz wrote a book regarding the figures of speech inspired by his study of the Quran. Poets such as badr Shakir al sayyab expresses his political opinion in his work through imagery inspired by the forms of more harsher imagery used in the Quran.
The study of the pauses in the Quran as well as other rhetoric allow it to be approached in a multiple ways. Although the Quran is known for its fluency and harmony , the structure can be best described as chaotic. The suras , also known as chapters of the Quran, are not placed in chronological order.
The only constant in their structure is that the longest are placed first and shorter ones follow. The topics discussed in the chapter often have no relation to each other and only share their sense of rhyme. The Quran introduces to poetry the idea of abandoning order and scattering narratives throughout the text. Harmony is also present in the sound of the Quran. The elongations and accents present in the Quran create a harmonious flow within the writing. Unique sound of the Quran recited, due to the accents , create a deeper level of understanding through a deeper emotional connection.
The Quran is written in a language that is simple and understandable by people. The simplicity of the writing inspired later poets to write in a more clear and clear-cut style. The simplicity of the language makes memorizing and reciting the Quran a slightly easier task. The writer al-Khattabi explains how culture is a required element to create a sense of art in work as well as understand it. He believes that the fluency and harmony which the Quran possess are not the only elements that make it beautiful and create a bond between the reader and the text. While a lot of poetry was deemed comparable to the Quran in that it is equal to or better than the composition of the Quran, a debate rose that such statements are not possible because humans are incapable of composing work comparable to the Quran.
The Hadith were passed down from generation to generation and this tradition became a large resource for understanding the context. Poetry after the Quran began possessing this element of tradition by including ambiguity and background information to be required to understand the meaning. After the Quran came down to the people, the tradition of memorizing the verses became present. It is believed that the greater the amount of the Quran memorized, the greater the faith. As technology improved over time, hearing recitations of the Quran became more available as well as more tools to help memorize the verses.
The tradition of Love Poetry served as a symbolic representation of a Muslim's desire for a closer contact with their Lord. While the influence of the Quran on Arabic poetry is explained and defended by numerous writers, some writers such as Al-Baqillani believe that poetry and the Quran are in no conceivable way related due to the uniqueness of the Quran.
Poetry's imperfections prove his points that they cannot be compared with the fluency the Quran holds. Classical Arabic is the language of poetry and literature including news ; it is also mainly the language of the Quran. Classical Arabic is closely associated with the religion of Islam because the Quran was written in it. Most of the world's Muslims do not speak Classical Arabic as their native language, but many can read the Quranic script and recite the Quran. Among non-Arab Muslims, translations of the Quran are most often accompanied by the original text. Some Muslims present a monogenesis of languages and claim that the Arabic language was the language revealed by God for the benefit of mankind and the original language as a prototype system of symbolic communication, based upon its system of triconsonantal roots, spoken by man from which all other languages were derived, having first been corrupted.
Colloquial Arabic is a collective term for the spoken dialects of Arabic used throughout the Arab world , which differ radically from the literary language. The main dialectal division is between the varieties within and outside of the Arabian peninsula, followed by that between sedentary varieties and the much more conservative Bedouin varieties.
All the varieties outside of the Arabian peninsula which include the large majority of speakers have a large number of features in common with each other that are not found in Classical Arabic. This has led researchers to postulate the existence of a prestige koine dialect in the one or two centuries immediately following the Arab conquest, whose features eventually spread to all newly conquered areas.
These features are present to varying degrees inside the Arabian peninsula. Generally, the Arabian peninsula varieties have much more diversity than the non-peninsula varieties, but these have been understudied. Within the non-peninsula varieties, the largest difference is between the non-Egyptian North African dialects especially Moroccan Arabic and the others. Moroccan Arabic in particular is hardly comprehensible to Arabic speakers east of Libya although the converse is not true, in part due to the popularity of Egyptian films and other media.
One factor in the differentiation of the dialects is influence from the languages previously spoken in the areas, which have typically provided a significant number of new words and have sometimes also influenced pronunciation or word order; however, a much more significant factor for most dialects is, as among Romance languages, retention or change of meaning of different classical forms. Transcription is a broad IPA transcription , so minor differences were ignored for easier comparison.
Also, the pronunciation of Modern Standard Arabic differs significantly from region to region. According to Charles A. Although many other features are common to most or all of these varieties, Ferguson believes that these features in particular are unlikely to have evolved independently more than once or twice and together suggest the existence of the koine:. Various other consonants have changed their sound too, but have remained distinct.
Other changes may also have happened. Classical Arabic pronunciation is not thoroughly recorded and different reconstructions of the sound system of Proto-Semitic propose different phonetic values. One example is the emphatic consonants, which are pharyngealized in modern pronunciations but may have been velarized in the eighth century and glottalized in Proto-Semitic. Early Akkadian transcriptions of Arabic names shows that this reduction had not yet occurred as of the early part of the 1st millennium BC.
The Classical Arabic language as recorded was a poetic koine that reflected a consciously archaizing dialect, chosen based on the tribes of the western part of the Arabian Peninsula , who spoke the most conservative variants of Arabic. Most of these changes are present in most or all modern varieties of Arabic. An interesting feature of the writing system of the Quran and hence of Classical Arabic is that it contains certain features of Muhammad's native dialect of Mecca, corrected through diacritics into the forms of standard Classical Arabic.
Although Classical Arabic was a unitary language and is now used in Quran, its pronunciation varies somewhat from country to country and from region to region within a country.
It is influenced by colloquial dialects. The "colloquial" spoken dialects of Arabic are learned at home and constitute the native languages of Arabic speakers. Both varieties can be both written and spoken, although the colloquial varieties are rarely written down and the formal variety is spoken mostly in formal circumstances, e. Even when the literary language is spoken, however, it is normally only spoken in its pure form when reading a prepared text out loud and communication between speakers of different colloquial dialects.
When speaking extemporaneously i. In fact, there is a continuous range of "in-between" spoken varieties: from nearly pure Modern Standard Arabic MSA , to a form that still uses MSA grammar and vocabulary but with significant colloquial influence, to a form of the colloquial language that imports a number of words and grammatical constructions in MSA, to a form that is close to pure colloquial but with the "rough edges" the most noticeably "vulgar" or non-Classical aspects smoothed out, to pure colloquial. The particular variant or register used depends on the social class and education level of the speakers involved and the level of formality of the speech situation.
Often it will vary within a single encounter, e. This type of variation is characteristic of the diglossia that exists throughout the Arabic-speaking world. Although Modern Standard Arabic MSA is a unitary language, its pronunciation varies somewhat from country to country and from region to region within a country. The variation in individual "accents" of MSA speakers tends to mirror corresponding variations in the colloquial speech of the speakers in question, but with the distinguishing characteristics moderated somewhat. Note that it is important in descriptions of "Arabic" phonology to distinguish between pronunciation of a given colloquial spoken dialect and the pronunciation of MSA by these same speakers.
Although they are related, they are not the same. Another reason of different pronunciations is influence of colloquial dialects. The differentiation of pronunciation of colloquial dialects is the influence from other languages previously spoken and some still presently spoken in the regions, such as Coptic in Egypt, Berber , Punic , or Phoenician in North Africa, Himyaritic , Modern South Arabian , and Old South Arabian in Yemen and Oman, and Aramaic and Canaanite languages including Phoenician in the Levant and Mesopotamia.
In many spoken varieties, the backed or "emphatic" vowel allophones spread a fair distance in both directions from the triggering consonant; in some varieties most notably Egyptian Arabic , the "emphatic" allophones spread throughout the entire word, usually including prefixes and suffixes, even at a distance of several syllables from the triggering consonant. Speakers of colloquial varieties with this vowel harmony tend to introduce it into their MSA pronunciation as well, but usually with a lesser degree of spreading than in the colloquial varieties.
For example, speakers of colloquial varieties with extremely long-distance harmony may allow a moderate, but not extreme, amount of spreading of the harmonic allophones in their MSA speech, while speakers of colloquial varieties with moderate-distance harmony may only harmonize immediately adjacent vowels in MSA. The pronunciation of the vowels differs from speaker to speaker, in a way that tends to reflect the pronunciation of the corresponding colloquial variety.
Nonetheless, there are some common trends. The point is, Arabic has only three short vowel phonemes, so those phonemes can have a very wide range of allophones. The definition of both "emphatic" and "neighborhood" vary in ways that reflect to some extent corresponding variations in the spoken dialects. Many dialects have multiple emphatic allophones of each vowel, depending on the particular nearby consonants. In most MSA accents, emphatic coloring of vowels is limited to vowels immediately adjacent to a triggering consonant, although in some it spreads a bit farther: e.
Generally this corresponds with the pronunciation in the colloquial dialects. In fact, it also exists in a few other minority Semitic languages, e. This simultaneous articulation is described as "Retracted Tongue Root" by phonologists. Vowels and consonants can be phonologically short or long. Long geminate consonants are normally written doubled in Latin transcription i. In actual pronunciation, doubled consonants are held twice as long as short consonants.
The syllable types with two morae units of time , i. There are no cases of hiatus within a word where two vowels occur next to each other, without an intervening consonant. When actually pronounced, one of three things happens:. Word stress is not phonemically contrastive in Standard Arabic.
It bears a strong relationship to vowel length. The basic rules for Modern Standard Arabic are:. These rules may result in differently stressed syllables when final case endings are pronounced, vs. Some dialects have different stress rules. This also affects the way that Modern Standard Arabic is pronounced in Egypt. In this dialect, only syllables with long vowels or diphthongs are considered heavy; in a two-syllable word, the final syllable can be stressed only if the preceding syllable is light; and in longer words, the final syllable cannot be stressed.
The final short vowels e. The following levels of pronunciation exist:. This is the most formal level actually used in speech. All endings are pronounced as written, except at the end of an utterance, where the following changes occur:. This is a formal level of pronunciation sometimes seen. It is somewhat like pronouncing all words as if they were in pausal position with influence from the colloquial varieties. The following changes occur:. This is the pronunciation used by speakers of Modern Standard Arabic in extemporaneous speech, i. It is similar to formal short pronunciation except that the rules for dropping final vowels apply even when a clitic suffix is added.
Basically, short-vowel case and mood endings are never pronounced and certain other changes occur that echo the corresponding colloquial pronunciations. The extent of emphasis spreading varies. For example, in Moroccan Arabic, it spreads as far as the first full vowel i. In some dialects, there may be more or fewer phonemes than those listed in the chart above.
For example, non-Arabic [ v ] is used in the Maghrebi dialects as well in the written language mostly for foreign names. Semitic [ p ] became [f] extremely early on in Arabic before it was written down; a few modern Arabic dialects, such as Iraqi influenced by Persian and Kurdish distinguish between [ p ] and [ b ]. Pharyngealization of the emphatic consonants tends to weaken in many of the spoken varieties, and to spread from emphatic consonants to nearby sounds.
As a result, it may difficult or impossible to determine whether a given coronal consonant is phonemically emphatic or not, especially in dialects with long-distance emphasis spreading. As in other Semitic languages, Arabic has a complex and unusual morphology i. Arabic has a nonconcatenative "root-and-pattern" morphology: A root consists of a set of bare consonants usually three , which are fitted into a discontinuous pattern to form words. For example, the word for 'I wrote' is constructed by combining the root k-t-b 'write' with the pattern -a-a-tu 'I Xed' to form katabtu 'I wrote'. Other verbs meaning 'I Xed' will typically have the same pattern but with different consonants, e.
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From a single root k-t-b , numerous words can be formed by applying different patterns:. Nouns in Literary Arabic have three grammatical cases nominative , accusative , and genitive [also used when the noun is governed by a preposition] ; three numbers singular, dual and plural ; two genders masculine and feminine ; and three "states" indefinite, definite, and construct. Plural is indicated either through endings the sound plural or internal modification the broken plural.
Adjectives in Literary Arabic are marked for case, number, gender and state, as for nouns. Pronouns in Literary Arabic are marked for person, number and gender. There are two varieties, independent pronouns and enclitics. Enclitic pronouns are attached to the end of a verb, noun or preposition and indicate verbal and prepositional objects or possession of nouns.
Nouns, verbs, pronouns and adjectives agree with each other in all respects. However, non-human plural nouns are grammatically considered to be feminine singular. Furthermore, a verb in a verb-initial sentence is marked as singular regardless of its semantic number when the subject of the verb is explicitly mentioned as a noun.
Numerals between three and ten show "chiasmic" agreement, in that grammatically masculine numerals have feminine marking and vice versa. Verbs in Literary Arabic are marked for person first, second, or third , gender, and number. They are conjugated in two major paradigms past and non-past ; two voices active and passive ; and six moods indicative , imperative , subjunctive , jussive , shorter energetic and longer energetic , the fifth and sixth moods, the energetics, exist only in Classical Arabic but not in MSA.
The past and non-past paradigms are sometimes also termed perfective and imperfective , indicating the fact that they actually represent a combination of tense and aspect. The moods other than the indicative occur only in the non-past, and the future tense is signaled by prefixing sa- or sawfa onto the non-past. The past and non-past differ in the form of the stem e. The following shows a paradigm of a regular Arabic verb, kataba 'to write'. Note that in Modern Standard, the energetic mood in either long or short form, which have the same meaning is almost never used.
Like other Semitic languages , and unlike most other languages, Arabic makes much more use of nonconcatenative morphology applying a large number of templates applied roots to derive words than adding prefixes or suffixes to words. For verbs, a given root can occur in many different derived verb stems of which there are about fifteen , each with one or more characteristic meanings and each with its own templates for the past and non-past stems, active and passive participles, and verbal noun.
These stems encode grammatical functions such as the causative , intensive and reflexive. Stems sharing the same root consonants represent separate verbs, albeit often semantically related, and each is the basis for its own conjugational paradigm. As a result, these derived stems are part of the system of derivational morphology , not part of the inflectional system. Form II is sometimes used to create transitive denominative verbs verbs built from nouns ; Form V is the equivalent used for intransitive denominatives.
The associated participles and verbal nouns of a verb are the primary means of forming new lexical nouns in Arabic. This is similar to the process by which, for example, the English gerund "meeting" similar to a verbal noun has turned into a noun referring to a particular type of social, often work-related event where people gather together to have a "discussion" another lexicalized verbal noun.
Another fairly common means of forming nouns is through one of a limited number of patterns that can be applied directly to roots, such as the "nouns of location" in ma- e. The spoken dialects have lost the case distinctions and make only limited use of the dual it occurs only on nouns and its use is no longer required in all circumstances. They have also mostly lost the indefinite "nunation" and the internal passive. The Arabic alphabet derives from the Aramaic through Nabatean , to which it bears a loose resemblance like that of Coptic or Cyrillic scripts to Greek script.
However, the old Maghrebi variant has been abandoned except for calligraphic purposes in the Maghreb itself, and remains in use mainly in the Quranic schools zaouias of West Africa. Arabic, like all other Semitic languages except for the Latin-written Maltese, and the languages with the Ge'ez script , is written from right to left. Finally signs known as Tashkil were used for short vowels known as harakat and other uses such as final postnasalized or long vowels.
After Khalil ibn Ahmad al Farahidi finally fixed the Arabic script around , many styles were developed, both for the writing down of the Quran and other books, and for inscriptions on monuments as decoration. Arabic calligraphy has not fallen out of use as calligraphy has in the Western world, and is still considered by Arabs as a major art form; calligraphers are held in great esteem. Being cursive by nature, unlike the Latin script, Arabic script is used to write down a verse of the Quran, a hadith , or simply a proverb. The composition is often abstract, but sometimes the writing is shaped into an actual form such as that of an animal.
One of the current masters of the genre is Hassan Massoudy. In modern times the intrinsically calligraphic nature of the written Arabic form is haunted by the thought that a typographic approach to the language, necessary for digitized unification, will not always accurately maintain meanings conveyed through calligraphy.
There are a number of different standards for the romanization of Arabic , i. There are various conflicting motivations involved, which leads to multiple systems.
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Some are interested in transliteration , i. Some systems, e. Other systems e. These are usually simpler to read, but sacrifice the definiteness of the scientific systems, and may lead to ambiguities, e.
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During the last few decades and especially since the s, Western-invented text communication technologies have become prevalent in the Arab world, such as personal computers , the World Wide Web , email , bulletin board systems , IRC , instant messaging and mobile phone text messaging. Most of these technologies originally had the ability to communicate using the Latin script only, and some of them still do not have the Arabic script as an optional feature.
As a result, Arabic speaking users communicated in these technologies by transliterating the Arabic text using the Latin script, sometimes known as IM Arabic. To handle those Arabic letters that cannot be accurately represented using the Latin script, numerals and other characters were appropriated. There is no universal name for this type of transliteration, but some have named it Arabic Chat Alphabet.
Other systems of transliteration exist, such as using dots or capitalization to represent the "emphatic" counterparts of certain consonants. In most of present-day North Africa, the Western Arabic numerals 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 are used. When representing a number in Arabic, the lowest-valued position is placed on the right, so the order of positions is the same as in left-to-right scripts.
Sequences of digits such as telephone numbers are read from left to right, but numbers are spoken in the traditional Arabic fashion, with units and tens reversed from the modern English usage. For example, 24 is said "four and twenty" just like in the German language vierundzwanzig and Classical Hebrew , and is said "a thousand and nine-hundred and five and seventy" or, more eloquently, "a thousand and nine-hundred five seventy".
Academy of the Arabic Language is the name of a number of language-regulation bodies formed in the Arab League. The most active are in Damascus and Cairo. They review language development, monitor new words and approve inclusion of new words into their published standard dictionaries. They also publish old and historical Arabic manuscripts. Arabic has been taught worldwide in many elementary and secondary schools, especially Muslim schools. Universities around the world have classes that teach Arabic as part of their foreign languages , Middle Eastern studies , and religious studies courses.
Arabic language schools exist to assist students to learn Arabic outside the academic world. There are many Arabic language schools in the Arab world and other Muslim countries. Because the Quran is written in Arabic and all Islamic terms are in Arabic, millions [ citation needed ] of Muslims both Arab and non-Arab study the language.
Software and books with tapes are also important part of Arabic learning, as many of Arabic learners may live in places where there are no academic or Arabic language school classes available. Radio series of Arabic language classes are also provided from some radio stations. With the sole example of Medieval linguist Abu Hayyan al-Gharnati — who, while a scholar of the Arabic language, was not ethnically Arab — Medieval scholars of the Arabic language made no efforts at studying comparative linguistics, considering all other languages inferior.
In modern times, the educated upper classes in the Arab world have taken a nearly opposite view. Yasir Suleiman wrote in that "studying and knowing English or French in most of the Middle East and North Africa have become a badge of sophistication and modernity and From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This is the latest accepted revision , reviewed on 8 July This article is about the general language.
For modern vernaculars, see varieties of Arabic. For the literary standard, see Modern Standard Arabic. For the historical language family, see Classification of Arabic languages. Central Semitic language. Language family. Modern Standard Arabic. Writing system. Signed forms. Dispersion of native Arabic speakers as the majority dark green or minority light green population. Further information: Classification of Arabic languages. Main article: Old Arabic. Main articles: Old Hijazi and Classical Arabic. Play media. See also: List of Arabic dictionaries. See also: List of Arabic loanwords in English.
Main article: Varieties of Arabic. Main article: Arabic phonology. See also: Literary Arabic phonology. Further information: Varieties of Arabic. Main article: Arabic grammar. Main article: Modern Standard Arabic. Main articles: Arabic alphabet and Arabic Braille. Main article: Islamic calligraphy. Main article: Romanization of Arabic.