The Arab

The Arabic Language


The Arab homeland originated on the Saudi Arabian semi- Island. Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is the descendant of Classic Arabic (CA) found in pre-Islamic literature and in the Quran. Quran has played a major role in the making of MSA. After the emergence of Islam and the subsequent wars of Islamization, the Arabs conquered and spread across more than 22 countries (according to the League of Arab Nations) stretched over a vast geographic area of the Middle East and North Africa. Accordingly, spoken languages in these countries vary greatly the larger the distance is. In spite of repeated national Arab attempts since Egypt’s Nassir to achieve political and economic union at least between those extremely nationalist countries (hawks)  such as Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon no political or economic unity which could unite all Arab under its banner was realized. For this reason Modern Standard Arabic plays an important role and ensures the linguistic unity of the Arab world. It is a medium of communication over this vast geographical area. It gives the Arabs a sense of identity and an awareness of their common cultural heritage (although Arab nowadays are not homogenous vary from European looking Lebanese to black African Sudanese). Arabs in Iraq for example might have more in common with the Kurds (an Indo-Iranian nation) in Iraq than with the Arabs in many other countries.



Aspects of Arabic

Morphology and syntax

Vocabulary differences only in the domain of specialised vocabulary


Synchronically:         From country to country (geographical distance, original ethnic minorities and neighbourhood). Languages of different countries can be organised to different groups:


Libanon, Syria, Plaestine, Jordan

Egypt/Sudan, Libya

Dialects within different a country

Countries which are only nominally counted as Arabic or some kind of Arabic is spoken:

Chad, Somalia, Mauritania, Djibouti, Malta


Diachronically             Different epochs in Arabic history which can be divided into four periods:

Classic Arabic (CA) and dialectal varieties  before Islam and immediately after the emergence of Islam


Development of the modern Arabic lexicon

1. The Puristic doctrine: A movement originated in Lebanon and Syria has energised the old conviction of educated Arabs that the ancient 3arabiya of pre-Islamic times is better and more accurate and that new vocabulary must be derived exclusively in accordance with ancient models or by semantic extension of older forms. They also believe that loanwords contaminate the pure Arabic language.


The Purists are interested in classical words and phrases of elegant rhetorical style side by side with new coinages that conform to the demands and tastes of the Purists. They prefer the so called invisible loans and loan translations to loan words and colloquialisms


2. Under the influence of Western civilization a host of new concepts and ideas especially in he fields of science and technology previously alien to the Arab way of life since they were developed outside the Arab world challenges MSA. The purists were not able to cope with the sheer bulk of new linguistic material which has to be incorporated into the language to make it current with advances in world knowledge.


Egyptian Arabic

Egyptian dialect of Cairo has become the spoken Arabic number one for a variety of reasons:

1. The dominance of the  Egyptian film industry

2. The dominance of Egyptian music

3. Nassir’s emergence as the national leader for all Arabs

4. Azhar and its base in Cairo as Muslim reference like Vatican

5. Well-known Writers like Najib Mahfouz

6. The beauty of Egyptian Arabic



Arab writers and journalist have to deal with these modern ideas and concepts and many fields of knowledge and everyone tries to translate them first literally, second without any coordination or harmonization (this is generally not accepted terminology) and third without any awareness whether these news coins impart the necessary meaning or whether the readers or the audience understand them. For example translating the English “price ceiling” into Arabic literally without the audience understanding them is as a normative presentation of what theoretically ought to be. The reader is left  alone.


Still a normalised journalistic style has evolved for factual reporting of news or discussion of matters of political and topical interest over the radio/TV, internet and in the press. This style shows Western influence especially English has become uniform through out the Arab world.


MSA is the official formal language of all Arab countries from Iraq to Morocco

MSA is the language of formal public address since the turn of the century:

Print media: prose, books, periodicals and letters

Audio and video: radio and TV,

Face-to-face; religious ceremonials


Although MSA has been developing to a neutral spoken language additionally speakers from different Arab countries soon fall back (after the second or third sentence) on their own dialects and the language of verbal communication has a marked regional flavour.



Pausal Ending

The popularity of TV in the Arab World as a must for poor and rich families has contributed to making MSA a spoken language and normalising the language.