Arabic is a tapestry
Modern Standard Arabic is a construct used to help Arabic speakers living over a wide expanse to understand each other. To speak the language, and yet be understood, you have to choose among Arabic dialects specific to particular geographical areas, as suggested by the map below:
Modern Standard Arabic is akin to Esperanto among its many speakers: about 400 million Arab speakers on this planet of ours!
Lines on a map I’ve viewed 10,000 times mask the neighborhood scenes, but empires find borders (preferably using a straight edge) an expedient means for control. Africa before Europeans. Is there a downside? Empires rape as much as they can as fast as they can, but what’s wrong with that? Endless decadence for one.
My safari (سفر, from Swahili) into Arabic started some years ago when teaching a German class: sample, sample. One student was born in Jerusalem. Palestinians live under constant occupation. Occupied by Ottomans until 1923, British Empire until May 1948, then another legal entity to 2016 and counting (down). But Palestine is a forever place.
I made a good deal “if you can learn some German I can learn some Arabic.” It was a means for transcending culture and stereotypes, the kind explained in the documentary Reel Bad Arabs.
It’s fun tackling curiosities in Indo-European roots. Only recently did I discover that Persian shares Indo-European roots along with most European countries. Their alphabet looks like Arabic, but there isn’t much overlap in vocabulary.
Farsi doesn’t use the root system – a fundamental building-block system for assigning meaning. Arabic dictionaries are arranged by consonant groupings
SFR = SaFaRi, a journey
Arabic script is brilliantly beautiful. The Roman alphabet has a tiny toolbox, as useful as thimbles for trumping fingers and thumb IMO.
Latin doesn’t even have lowercase letters and it does not often include curved letters like U when a V will do. But they are easier to chisel into stone.
Nothing beats a zero when speaking the language of science. The Romans didn’t get there. To paraphrase the John Cleese (Why does British food suck? “they had an empire to run.” It’s not easy to derive square roots using Roman numerals.
Let me say something about resources: not all Arabic alphabet aids are good. This one helped me the most: Sugar comes from Arabic.
Many Spanish words derive from Arabic. They stayed on after Arabic culture was forceably ejected from Spain in 1492. So at least two all-time epic fails happened in 1492.
The Crusades and the Inquisition (The Church Militant) were not good ideas. Spreading lies like Joseph Goebbels lends not a single grain of truth. Truth went into exile from 1933 to 1945. No literature or art of any value springs forth under Fascism. Nothing good comes of Fascism. “When I hear the word ‘culture’…”
Islamophobia (from the xeno family of racism) will not lead to a better gentler world.
An earlier post on this theme: Thinking about language
2 thoughts on “Speak Arabic Openly and Joyfully!”
As you say, Arabic is a tapestry, excellent description. I have forever thought it beautiful, although exceeding complicated and cryptic to the eye of the ignorant. Such as me, who used to the merely functional block and tackle language.
Thank you for the many interesting links provided in your posts. Unfortunately, time and the impulses of curiosity and the tangents they serve, prevent me both too much and too little exploration. That said, thanks for the link to the Newspeak Dictionary.
Thank *you* for the great kindness you extend and for every support. It genuinely buoys my spirit and encourages me to continue writing here. And, yes, I must confess to including more links than all-get-out at least.
That Newspeak Dictionary link is quite a fine reference, I’m glad you liked it. George Orwell’s timeless “Politics and the English Language” was written in 1946 but is more than relevant 70 years on.
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