|agency = Syria: Arab Academy of Damascus (the oldest)
Egypt: Academy of the Arabic Language in Cairo
Iraq: Iraqi Science Academy
Sudan: Academy of the Arabic Language in Khartum
Morocco: Academy of the Arabic Language in Rabat (the most active)
Jordan: Jordan Academy of Arabic
Libya: Academy of the Arabic Language in Jamahiriya
Tunisia: Beit Al-Hikma Foundation
Israel: Academy of the Arabic Language |iso1=ar |iso2=ara |lc1=ara |ld1=Arabic (generic)
(see varieties of Arabic for the individual codes) |ll1=none |map =
Arabic (الْعَرَبيّة (informally: عَرَبيْ )), in terms of the number of speakers, is the largest living member of the Semitic language family. Classified as Central Semitic, it has its roots in a Proto-Semitic common ancestor. In ISO 639-3, modern Arabic is classified as a macrolanguage with 27 sub-languages. These varieties are spoken throughout the Arab world, and Standard Arabic is widely studied and used throughout the Islamic world.
Modern Standard Arabic derives from Classical Arabic, the only surviving member of the Old North Arabian dialect group, attested in Pre-Islamic Arabic inscriptions dating back to the 4th century. Classical Arabic has also been a literary language and the liturgical language of Islam since its inception in the 7th century.
Arabic has lent many words to other languages of the Islamic world, as Latin has contributed to most European languages. It has also borrowed from those languages, as well as Persian and Sanskrit from early contacts with their affiliated regions. During the Middle Ages, Arabic was a major vehicle of culture, especially in science, mathematics and philosophy, with the result that many European languages have also borrowed numerous words from it. Arabic influence is seen in Mediterranean languages, particularly Spanish, Portuguese, Sicilian, and Maltese, due to both the proximity of European and Arab civilization and 700 years of caliphate government in the Iberian peninsula (see Al-Andalus).
The sociolinguistic situation of Arabic in modern times provides a prime example of the linguistic phenomenon of diglossia, which is the normal use of two separate varieties of the same language, usually in different social situations. In the case of Arabic, educated Arabs of any nationality can be assumed to speak both their local dialect and their school-taught literary Arabic. When speaking with someone from the same country, many speakers switch back and forth between the two varieties of the language (code switching), sometimes even within the same sentence. When educated Arabs of different nationalities engage in conversation (for example, a Moroccan or Saudi speaking with a Lebanese), both switch into Literary Arabic for the sake of communication.
Like other languages, literary Arabic continues to evolve. Classical Arabic (especially from the pre-Islamic to the Abbasid period, including Qur'anic Arabic) can be distinguished from Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) as used today. Classical Arabic is considered normative; modern authors attempt to follow (with varying degrees of success) the syntactic and grammatical norms laid down by Classical grammarians (such as Sibawayh), and use the vocabulary defined in Classical dictionaries (such as the Lisān al-Arab). However, many modern terms would have been mysterious to a Classical author, whether taken from other languages (for example, فيلم film) or coined from existing lexical resources (for example, هاتف hātif "telephone" = "caller"). Structural influence from foreign languages or from the colloquial varieties has also affected Modern Standard Arabic. For example, MSA texts sometimes use the format "A, B, C, and D" when listing things, whereas Classical Arabic prefers "A and B and C and D," and subject-initial sentences may be more common in MSA than in Classical Arabic. For these reasons, Modern Standard Arabic is generally treated separately in non-Arab sources.
The influence of Arabic has been most important in Islamic countries. Arabic is a major source of vocabulary for languages such as Spanish, Portuguese, Berber, Kurdish, Pashto, Persian, Swahili, Urdu, Hindustani (especially the spoken variety), Turkish, Malay, Bengali, Tagalog, and Indonesian, as well as other languages in countries where these languages are spoken. For example, the Arabic word for book (/kitāb/) has been borrowed in all the languages listed, with the exception of Spanish and Portuguese which use the Latin-derived word "libro". In addition, English has quite a few Arabic loan words, and, some directly but most through the medium of other Mediterranean languages. Other languages such as Maltese and Kinubi derive from Arabic, rather than merely borrowing vocabulary or grammar rules.
The terms borrowed range from religious terminology (like Berber taẓallit "prayer" < salat), academic terms (like Uyghur mentiq "logic"), economic items (like English sugar) to placeholders (like Spanish fulano "so-and-so") and everyday conjunctions (like Hindustani lekin "but".) Most Berber varieties (such as Kabyle), along with Swahili, borrow some numbers from Arabic. Most Islamic religious terms are direct borrowings from Arabic, such as salat 'prayer' and imam 'prayer leader.' 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. For example, most Arabic loanwords in Hindustani entered through Persian, and many older Arabic loanwords in Hausa were borrowed from Kanuri. Some words in English and other European languages are derived from Arabic, often through other European languages, especially Spanish and Italian. Among them are commonly-used words like "sugar" (sukkar), "cotton" (quṭn) and "magazine" (). English words more recognizably of Arabic origin include "algebra", "alcohol", "alchemy", "alkali", "zenith" and "nadir". Some words in common use, such as "intention" and "information", were originally calques of Arabic philosophical terms.
Arabic words also made their way into several west-African languages as islam spread across the Sahara. "Moumini", for example, is a common name in the Sahel region.
Arabic was also influenced by other languages including Persian, Berber language and Egyptian. The influences from Berber and Egyptian on Arabic happened mainly before Islam, making these influences not directly noticeable by non-linguists. .
Most of the world's Muslims do not speak Arabic as their native language but can read the script and recite the words of religious texts.
Modern Arabic is considered to be part of the Arabo-Canaanite sub-branch of the central group of West Semitic languages. While Arabic is not the oldest of the Semitic languages, it shares many features with the common ancestor for all Semitic languages in the Afro-Asiatic group of languages, Proto-Semitic whose phonological, morphological, and syntactic features have been determined by linguists. Many linguists consider Arabic to be the most conservative of the modern Semitic languages because of how completely it preserves the features of Proto-Semitic.
The earliest texts in Proto-Arabic, or Ancient North Arabian, are the Hasaean inscriptions of eastern Saudi Arabia, from the 8th century BC, written not in the modern Arabic alphabet, nor in its Nabataean ancestor, but in variants of the epigraphic South Arabian musnad. These are followed by 6th-century BC Lihyanite texts from southeastern Saudi Arabia and the Thamudic texts found throughout Arabia and the Sinai, and not actually connected with Thamud. Later come the Safaitic inscriptions beginning in the 1st century BC, and the many Arabic personal names attested in Nabataean inscriptions (which are, however, written in Aramaic). From about the 2nd century BC, a few inscriptions from Qaryat al-Faw (near Sulayyil) reveal a dialect which is no longer considered "Proto-Arabic", but Pre-Classical Arabic. By the fourth century AD, the Arab kingdoms of the Lakhmids in southern Iraq, the Ghassanids in southern Syria the Kindite Kingdom emerged in Central Arabia. Their courts were responsible for some notable examples of pre-Islamic Arabic poetry, and for some of the few surviving pre-Islamic Arabic inscriptions in the Arabic alphabet.
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. Thus Iraqi aku, Levantine fīh, and North African kayən all mean "there is", and all come from classical Arabic forms (yakūn, fīhi, kā'in respectively), but now sound very different.
The major dialect groups are:
Other varieties include:
|Inter-dental||Dental (incl. alveolar)|| Post-|
|Fricative||voiceless||ف f||ث θ||s||sˁ||ش sh ʃ||x||ħ||h|
|voiced||ذ ð||ز z||ظ ðˁ||غ ɣ||ع ʕ|
|Nasal||م m||ن n|
|Lateral||ل l ²|
|Approximant||و w||ي j|
Arabic has consonants traditionally termed "emphatic" , which are both velarized and pharyngealised . This simultaneous velarization and pharyngealization is deemed "Retracted Tongue Root" by phonologists. In some transcription systems, emphasis is shown by capitalizing the letter, for example, /dˁ/ is written ‹D›; in others the letter is underlined or has a dot below it, for example, ‹ḍ›.
Vowels and consonants can be phonologically short or long. Long (geminate) consonants are normally written doubled in Latin transcription (i.e. bb, dd, etc.), reflecting the presence of the Arabic diacritic mark shaddah, which indicates doubled consonants. In actual pronunciation, doubled consonants are held twice as long as short consonants. This consonant lengthening is phonemically contrastive: qabala "he accepted" vs. qabbala "he kissed."
For example: ki-TAA-bun "book", KAA-ti-bun "writer", MAK-ta-bun "desk", ma-KAA-ti-bu "desks", mak-TA-ba-tun "library", KA-ta-buu (MSA) "they wrote" = KA-ta-bu (dialect), ka-ta-BUU-hu (MSA) "they wrote it" = ka-ta-BUU (dialect), ka-TA-ba-taa (MSA) "they (dual, fem) wrote", ka-TAB-tu (MSA) "I wrote" = ka-TABT (dialect). Doubled consonants count as two consonants: ma-JAL-la "magazine", ma-HALL "place".
Some dialects have different stress rules. In the Cairo (Egyptian Arabic) dialect, for example, a heavy syllable may not carry stress more than two syllables from the end of a word, hence mad-RA-sa "school", qaa-HI-ra "Cairo". In the Arabic of Sana, stress is often retracted: BAY-tayn "two houses", MAA-sat-hum "their table", ma-KAA-tiib "desks", ZAA-rat-hiin "sometimes", mad-RA-sat-hum "their school". (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.)
Interdental fricatives ([θ] and [ð]) are rendered as stops [t] and [d] in some dialects (such as Levantine, Egyptian, and much of the Maghreb); some of these dialects render them as [s] and [z] in "learned" words from the Standard language. Early in the expansion of Arabic, the separate emphatic phonemes [dˁ] and [ðˁ] coallesced into a single phoneme, becoming one or the other. Predictably, dialects without interdental fricatives use [dˁ] exclusively, while those with such fricatives use [ðˁ]. Again, in "learned" words from the Standard language, [ðˁ] is rendered as [zˁ] (in the Middle East) or [dˁ] (in North Africa) in dialects without interdental fricatives.
Another key distinguishing mark of Arabic dialects is how they render the original velar and uvular stops /q/, /dʒ/ (Proto-Semitic /g/), and /k/:
Verbs in Literary Arabic are marked for person (first, second, or third), gender, and number. They are conjugated in two major paradigms (termed perfective and imperfective, or past and non-past); two voices (active and passive); and five moods in the imperfective (indicative, imperative, subjunctive, jussive and energetic). There are also two participles (active and passive) and a verbal noun, but no infinitive. As indicated by the differing terms for the two tense systems, there is some disagreement over whether the distinction between the two systems should be most accurately characterized as tense, aspect or a combination of the two. The perfective aspect is constructed using fused suffixes that combine person, number and gender in a single morpheme, while the imperfective aspect is constructed using a combination of prefixes (primarily encoding person) and suffixes (primarily encoding gender and number). The moods other than imperative are primarily marked by suffixes (/u/ for indicative, /a/ for subjunctive, no ending for jussive, /an/ for energetic). The imperative has the endings of the jussive but lacks any prefixes. The passive is marked through internal vowel changes. Plural forms for the verb are only used when the subject is not mentioned, or is preceding it, and the feminine singular is used for all non-human plurals.
Adjectives in Literary Arabic are marked for case, number, gender and state, as for nouns. However, the plural of all non-human nouns is always combined with a singular feminine adjective, which takes the /-ah/ or /-at/ suffix.
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. The first-person singular pronoun has a different enclitic form used for verbs (/-ni/) and for nouns or prepositions (/-ī/ after consonants, /-ya/ after vowels).
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.
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 lost the mood distinctions other than imperative, but many have since gained new moods through the use of prefixes (most often /bi-/ for indicative vs. unmarked subjunctive). They have also mostly lost the indefinite "nunation" and the internal passive. Modern Standard Arabic maintains the grammatical distinctions of Literary Arabic except that the energetic mood is almost never used; in addition, Modern Standard Arabic sometimes drop the final short vowels that indicate case and mood.
As in many other Semitic languages, Arabic verb formation is based on a (usually) triconsonantal root, which is not a word in itself but contains the semantic core. The consonants , for example, indicate 'write', indicate 'read', indicate 'eat', etc. Words are formed by supplying the root with a vowel structure and with affixes. (Traditionally, Arabic grammarians have used the root 'do' as a template to discuss word formation.) From any particular root, up to fifteen different verbs can be formed, each with its own template; these are referred to by Western scholars as "form I", "form II", ... up through "form XV". These forms, and their associated participles and verbal nouns, are the primary means of forming vocabulary in Arabic. Forms XI to XV are extremely rare.
The Arabic alphabet derives from the Aramaic script (through Syriac and then Nabatean), to which it bears a loose resemblance like that of Coptic or Cyrillic script to Greek script. Traditionally, there were several differences between the Western (North African) and Middle Eastern version of the alphabet—in particular, the fa and qaf had a dot underneath and a single dot above respectively in the Maghreb, and the order of the letters was slightly different (at least when they were used as numerals). 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. There are several styles of script, notably Naskh which is used in print and by computers, and Ruq'ah which is commonly used in handwriting.
After the definitive fixing of the Arabic script around 786, by Khalil ibn Ahmad al Farahidi, many styles were developed, both for the writing down of the Qur'an 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 alphabet, Arabic script is used to write down a verse of the Qur'an, a Hadith, or simply a proverb, in a spectacular composition. The composition is often abstract, but sometimes the writing is shaped into an actual form such as that of an animal. Two of the current masters of the genre are Hassan Massoudy and Khaled Al Saa’i
There are a number of different standards of Arabic transliteration: methods of accurately and efficiently representing Arabic with the Latin alphabet. There are multiple conflicting motivations for transliteration. Scholarly systems are intended to accurately and unambiguously represent the phonemes of Arabic, generally supplying making the phonetics more explicit than the original word in the Arabic alphabet. These systems are heavily reliant on diacritical marks such as "š" for sound equivalently written sh in English. In some cases, the sh or kh sounds can be represented by italicizing or underlining them that way, they can be distinguished from separate s and h sounds or k and h sounds, respectively. (Compare gashouse to gash.) At first sight, this may be difficult to recognize. Less scientific systems often use digraphs (like sh and kh), which are usually more simple to read, but sacrifice the definiteness of the scientific systems. Such systems may be intended to help readers who are neither Arabic speakers nor linguists to intuitively pronounce Arabic names and phrases. An example of such a system is the Bahá'í orthography. A third type of transliteration seeks to represent an equivalent of the Arabic spelling with Latin letters, for use by Arabic speakers when Arabic writing is not available (for example, when using an ASCII communication device). An example is the system used by the US military, Standard Arabic Technical Transliteration System or SATTS, which represents each Arabic letter with a unique symbol in the ASCII range to provide a one-to-one mapping from Arabic to ASCII and back. This system, while facilitating typing on English keyboards, presents its own ambiguities and disadvantages. During the last few decades and especially since the 1990s, 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 alphabet only, and some of them still do not have the Arabic alphabet as an optional feature. As a result, Arabic speaking users communicated in these technologies by transliterating the Arabic text using the Latin script, sometime known as IM Arabic.
To handle those Arabic letters that cannot be accurately represented using the Latin script, numerals and other characters were appropriated. For example, the numeral "3" may be used to represent the Arabic letter "ع", ayn. 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. For instance, using capitalization, the letter "د", or daal, may be represented by d. Its emphatic counterpart, "ض", may be written as D.
Academy of the Arabic Language is the name of a number of language-regulation bodies formed in Arab countries. 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.