Arabic

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Arabic ranks sixth among the world's most prominent multi-national languages and with an estimated 186 million speakers, also one of the most prevalent. As the primary language of the Qur'an, the Islamic Holy Book, it is firmly embedded in the Muslim culture, traditionally used for both ritual and ceremonial incantations dating back thousands of years. The trajectory of Arabic to its status as one of the most widespread languages in the world is firmly attributed to the unprecedented growth of Islam, both as a culture and a religion. Historians reference Prophet Muhammad's death in 632 C. E as the starting point from which both Islam and Arabic became inextricably linked. Prior to this, Arabic was a minority language; an extension of the Semitic language tree spoken by just a sprinkling of primitive tribes along the Arabian Peninsula.

Semitic Background

Today, Arabic is one of the most proliferate languages of the modern world, its rapid growth fed by dutiful prophets of Islam continuing Prophet Muhammad's promise to Allah, made during the Common Era. Islam's growth can be determined by the documented boundaries of the “old Empire” which were once limited to the farthest corners of the Arabian Peninsula. Within the space of 100 years, Islam had prompted the spread of the Arabic Language from the Oxus River, to as far afield as the Mediterranean Basin. Where once Persian Aramaic had superseded Arabic, it was now dwarfed by the 'developed' world's fast growing international language. Coupled with Amharic, Arabic constitutes one of the youngest languages of the Southern Semitic group, estimated to have been formulated in the 4th Century C. E. Both were assimilations of much older “proto-Semitic” formats, including Hamitic, widely spoken during the Pharaonic era.

Dialects

Much like regional variations of US English, Arabic comprises a great many sub-dialects. Classical Arabic, the original dialect of Mecca, continues to be the core language of natives within Saudi Arabia. It is also the default language of the Qur'an, despite the emergence of Modern Standard Arabic now used in mainstream media, literature and language among 'international' natives. Arab armies introduced Classical Arabic to the Iranian Plateau around 630 C. E, however its dissolution by the late 900's rendered the move unsuccessful. A revised format of Persian (Pahlavi) continued to dominate the region for the next 600 years, although pockets of Arabic remained. Similar occurrences in Morocco, East Africa and Ethiopia saw Arabic virtually wiped from the cultures until quite recently. There are marked differences in the variations of Arabic spoken across these areas, influenced by strong Bedouin accents and Italian/ French Grammar which can significantly alter the tonation of Classic Arabic words. In all, there are 14 key derivatives of Arabic, including Egyptian (spoken in Pharaonic regions), Maghrebi in Morocco, Hassaniya spoken throughout the Western Sahara, Levantine Arabic and Siculo, variously spoken within small pockets of the Iberian Peninsula. Modern Standard Arabic has largely replaced Classic Arabic in all but religious context.

Structure

Arabic, in written form, is often mistaken for being an exceptionally complex language to master. In fact, it shares one defining characteristic with all Semitic languages that actually make them easier than English, French or German to understand. Semitic languages all rely upon verbs made up of the 'tri-consonantal root', or three consonants. These act as the foundation upon which other building blocks can be derived and shaped. Arabic consists of 28 consonants and three vowels 'a', 'I' and 'u'. The pronunciation of vowels alludes to whether they are masculine or feminine. Lengthened vowels are typically masculine, whereas short form feminizes a verb. Letters 'p' and 'v' are omitted from Arabic alphabets, instead replaced with the sounds “baa” and “faa”. Prefixes are often used to produce nouns and adjectives. When “ma” is attached to the root “sharab” (to drink), its core meaning is evolved to refer to a “place of drinking”, such as a bar. The vowel is silent, whilst the “a” is shifted next to the second consonant to produce “mashrab”. It's key to note that the noun in Arabic can also be altered when discussing increased quantity and can be singular, dual or plural depending upon this amount.

Native name: 
العربية
ISO 639-1: 
ar
Language family: 
Semitic
Native speakers: 
310,000,000
Writing system: 
Arabic alphabet
ISO 639-3: 
ara

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