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What's special about the Arabic language? Quora: 17 answers.

Amir E. Aharoni, I have a Linguistics degree, and I loved languages for as long as I can remember Updated Oct 8
A bunch of things...

There's the Modern Standard Arabic ("MSA"), which is more or less uniform across all the Arab countries in books, newspapers, documents and solemn speeches, but each region has its own spoken variety, and they are massively different. Arabic is almost at a point at which the Latin language was in the tenth century or so, when it started to split to French, Italian, Catalan, Spanish, Galician and other Romance languages. People from Morocco and Yemen, for example, may have difficulty understanding each other if they speak the language that they are used to speak in their home towns to each other, but nevertheless I saw people from different Arab countries adapt and understand each other.

The most popular movies in the Arabic language are produced in Egypt, so the Egyptian colloquial language is well known across all Arab countries, even though it is itself quite different from the Standard.

It has a bunch of sounds that are very unusual to speakers of European languages, but the most famous example is the very rare sound that is written as [d'] in the International Phonetic Alphabet. In the standard language it's a kind of a very strongly pronounced "D", although it has different pronunciations across the different colloquial varieties. In the Arabic alphabet it's written using the letter ض, which is called Dad. It is so unusual that Arabic is sometimes called "the language of the Dad".

In addition to being the official language in all the Arab countries, it is also an official language in several countries that don't have an Arab majority: Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea and Israel. It is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations.

Because of how central it is to Islam, Arabic words can be found in languages spoken by all Muslims, far beyond the Arab countries. Arabic words can be found in many non-Arabic languages of Africa, like Swahili; in Turkish and other Turkic languages like Azeri, Tatar, Kazakh and Uzbek; in Persian, Pashto and other languages of Iran and Afghanistan; in Urdu, Punjabi and many languages of India; and even as far as Malaysian and Indonesian.

Arabic words can also be found in languages of non-Muslim people because of their contacts with Muslims. There is an enormous number of Arabic words in Spanish, such as azucar, alcachofa, aceite.

There are also Arabic words in French, Russian, English, Serbian and others.

The Arabic alphabet is written right to left.

The Arabic alphabet is used by many other languages, usually because the culture around these languages has a Muslim background. The most notable of these languages are Persian, Urdu and Pashto, and there are many others.

In the past it was also used for Turkish, which switched to the Latin alphabet in the 1920s as part of the secular republican reforms, and by some languages of Muslim ethnic groups of the Soviet Union, which switched to Cyrillic or Latin.

In the Arabic alphabet, there are spaces between words, but inside the word most letters are connected to each other (except six letters that never connect to the next letter). This is similar to how letters are connected to each other handwritten cursive Latin or Cyrillic, but in Arabic it happens everywhere - in both handwriting and printed texts. If the letters are not connected, it's definitely wrong, probably because of using computer software that doesn't support the Arabic alphabet correctly.

In the Arabic alphabet there are no vowel letters. The three long vowels are written using three consonant letters, and there are easy ways to guess whether a letter is in a consonant or a vowel role. There are special signs that can be used to indicate short vowels, but usually they are not written, and the reader has to guess them! This is one of the biggest challenges to beginners who learn Arabic, although after a while everybody manages to learn the tricks to guess the vowels correctly.

In the Arabic language, the root of the word is an unpronounceable sequence of consonant letters, usually three or four. To form actual words, people add prefixes and suffixes and insert vowels between the consonants.

There's much more, of course...

David Minger, BA, MA Linguistics, PhD Education (almost) Lives in Washington.

I think a fitting question would be, “What is special about Semitic languages?” — Arabic being one example of a broader family. The reason I suggest this is that related languages pattern with shared or similar features. Understanding the broader genetic relationships can give insights into specific languages in a family. (Linguists often use the term genetic relationship for related languages; this is not about DNA or biology of course.)

Here is a chart of Semitic languages and their family tree. You can see that languages like Arabic, Aramaic, Hebrew, and Amharic all evolved from an ancestor language (a proposed group) called West Semitic. Arabic and Hebrew share a closer relationship due to their more recent emergence from the Central Semitic group.

Brief List of Arabic Roots Introduction to the Use of Arabic Roots

Annika Schauer, Arabic is my jam!

OMG, yes! The Arabic language is wonderfully interesting.

The triliteral root and measure system of makes it a really cool language. The fundamental concepts of the language are encoded into simple three-letter combinations that take on more and more nuanced shades of meaning as rules are applied.

Rajae Mesnaoui, Curious Soul.

Here are some facts about Arabic language:

Arabic is the 5th common language in the world.

Arabic language can claim a vocabulary more than 12 million words.

Arabic Alphabet consists of 28 letters.

Arabic is written from right to left in the cursive way.

Arabic belongs to the Semitic language family which includes Aramaic and Hebrew, and it is the most common spoken Semitic language.

The oldest form of Arabic literature is poetry. Arabic literature has a great old history, it goes back to 16 centuries ago. It began in the Arabian Peninsula.

The Arabic calligraphy is considered as one of the most beautiful art in the world.

There are hundreds of English words of Arabic origin, for instant: sugar = سكر (sukkar)

There are more than 300 words for lion in Arabic language.

Moustafa Elqabbany, poet, translator, and researcher of Classical Arabic and Islamic texts

The question is too vast to answer completely. The below is just some copy-paste that I wrote earlier about why there isn't really an Arabic study of etymology:

To state the obvious: Arabic hasn't changed fundamentally in 1400 years. This was intentionally done in order to preserve core Islamic texts (i.e. the Qur'an and Hadith). The Muslims did a better job with Arabic than the Jews did with Hebrew. Whereas the Jews preserved their sacred texts, Muslims preserved sacred texts in addition to a significant corpus of pre-Islamic and early-Islamic literature. This provided a large body of Revelation-Era literature through which one could contextualize and corroborate usages found in Scripture. (There were also a number of historical, geographic, and political reasons why Hebrew wasn't preserved as well as Arabic, but my point is to emphasize the importance of literature in the preservation of the Arabic language, a fact that Western students of Islamic Studies often miss.)

Arabic is like having Latin still around. Arabic words return to Arabic most of the time. Sure, there's new vocabulary being added all the time. However, scientific and and other terminological words in Arabic have no requirement that they be from another language. Thus, in Arabic when you say something is majroor, the average Arab high school drop out understands that this means "dragged", which is at least more comprehensible than "genitive" to the average English-speaking university graduate. As another example, in Arabic, the word for "acoustic" would translate into English as "soundish". Wouldn't that be a nicer word than "acoustic"?

The Arabic discipline of etymology developed late as an extension of morphology. In reality, Arabic etymology is a thin layer over morphology.

Arabic's morphology is very normalized and extendable, to the point that common people can have a hunch of what a new word means by thinking about its morphological stem.

Combining Arabic's lack of change for 14 centuries with its normalized, extendable morphology offers a glimpse into why Arabic's morphology reads like legal reasoning while English's morphology is a historical, cultural, and linguistic mind-trip.

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Arabic Online

Traditional Saying:

Wisdom has alighted on three things:

the brain of the Franks
the hands of the Chinese
the tongue of the Arabs

The beauty of man lies in the eloquence of his tongue.


co@dadbyrn.com, Colby Glass, MLIS, PhDc, Professor Emeritus