House-mine = House-your.

Learning a language is a great way to open a window into a different culture, to understand your mother tongue from a fresh perspective. The words you are presently reading are descendants of an ancient family of languages known as Proto-Indo-European (PIE). My first second language, German, is as ancient a member of PIE as Persian — Persian adopted the Arabic alphabet but it retains heritage in the PIE family. Persian did not adopt the root system, the engine that drives the Afro-Asian family. Farsi looks like Arabic but reads like Gellerese.

Taking a Safari — a post I published more than three years ago, examines how the root system operates in Arabic.

Russian gets along just fine without the aid of a definite article: “the” in English or “der, die, das, den, des… in German, for example. Arabic adds a definite article to noun modifiers as well — a dozen or so diacritical marks provide an absolutely extraordinary level of finesse, making the definite even more specific.

Two indispensable verbs in the PIE family are “to be” and “to have.” Arabic uses neither. That does not mean that existence and possession do not occur, the language just uses different means to express them.

Mi casa es su casa / بيتي بيتك (bayti baytik) / House-mine (=) House-your. Possession in Arabic is expressed by adding a suffix to a noun rather than a possessive pronoun.

My house is yours

Arabic nouns take on two genders, masculine and feminine. 99.9% of feminine nouns end in what they call a ta marbuta. German has three genders and four cases. Surprisingly, Arabic grammar is far (about a lightyear) more intuitive and logically structured than German. I became functionally illiterate in Arabic when I failed to realize that much of its grammar is contained in the script itself. English, Latin, and German (I learned them in that order) are members of the PIE family. I now consider Latin a language constructed with a chisel to stone in mind. Roman numerals are even more cumbersome. Fortunately, a marvelous mosque in my area is presently making the language available for recalcitrant learners (such as myself) to reinforce a much crumbling foundation. Zoom meetings allow us to carry on during a pandemic.

Become very familiar with the script and those dozen or so diacritical marks and you are 90% of the way there. IMO anyway.

‘Ta’ Marbouta’ campaign spreads message of female empowerment

Thanks for reading.

Arabic Accordance

Where Africa Meets Asia

Arabic words illustrated to match their literal meaning, by Mahmoud Tammam

Should Americans, as part of their school curriculum, learn Arabic numerals?

“Civic Science” a Pittsburgh-based research firm, put that question to some 3,200 Americans recently in a poll seemingly about mathematics, but the outcome was a measure of students’ attitudes toward the Arab world. Some 56 percent of the respondents said, “No.” Fifteen percent had no opinion.

Mustafa Akyol

In the ancient days(the years between 1971 and 1973), I was an exchange student at Justus Liebig University, a small (80,000) town north of Frankfurt. German was the lingua Alamannia spoken by fellow students from Iran to Japan. Learning an unfamiliar language breaks barriers in unexpected and humbling ways.

German and English are close lingual relatives. They share familial bonds with Proto-Indo-European (PIE). Persian, although it hardly looks the part, is a branch of the PIE tree. Persian borrowed Arabic script, but its grammar and vocabulary roots place it among most European languages.

A wall between two once and future German-speaking occupied lands had been erected, enforced, and thought eternal ten-years earlier. Politik: Real. Of course, English has long become the international language. But languages offer a way out, an outlet, an escape. I often go to YouTube in order to learn Arabic from people who also learned German as their second language — people like me, people like you.

Visit a local mosque (masjid). I’ve visited ours dozens of times and have always left with hope in my soul. Don’t allow a propagandist, an ideologue, a demagogue, a polemicist… to monger your mind.

  • Arabic is a beautiful artful language.
  • It’s not from the Protoindo-European family.
  • It is a friendly language.
  • has an intensely intuitive grammar.
  • is the language of the Qur’an.
  • Arabic is a fun language.

Thanks for reading.

Below, a draft I wrote in German to organize my thoughts. FWIW.

In den alten Zeiten (zwischen 1971 und 1973) war ich Austauschstudent an der Justus Liebig Universität. Deutsch als eine zweite Sprache musste ich ohne Computer und ohne Internet lernen.

Natürlich ist Englisch schon lange die internationale Sprache geworden. Aber Sprachen bieten einen Ausweg, einen Auslass, einen Escape. Oft gehe ich zum YouTube, um Arabisch zu lernen. Jede Menge von Videos stehen zur Verfügung. Da finde ich Lehrer und Lehrerinnen in Deutschland, die, wie ich Deutsch als ‘ne zweite Sprache zu lernen. Leute wie ich, Leute wie du. Eine kleine Clue: sie sind keine Monsters.

Resultat: Arabisch finde ich eine ganz logische dritte Sprache. Na klar! Fabelhaft.

Arabisch:

  • ist eine wunderschön kunsthafte Sprache.
  • stammt nich aus der protoindoeuropäischen Familie.
  • ist eine freundliche Sprache.
  • bietet eine Einleitung zu Islam an.
  • hat eine intensiv intuitive Grammatik.
  • ist die Sprache der Qur’an.
  • العربية ممتعة. — Arabisch macht Spass.

Arabisch lerne ich um Verständnis und Mitgefühl erreichen zu können. Auf der anderen Seite, Propaganda ist Verfälschung. Übersetzungen sollten nie verschmiert werden. Arabisch lerne ich um die Wahrheit zu erkennen. Übersetzungen können grosse Lügen werden, giftige Lügen. Sprachen sollten Verständnis bauen — Propaganda zerstört die Wahrheit mit Absicht.

Who’s Afraid of Arabic Numerals?

Reel bad Arabs

Arabic.Mike

cibarA Arabic

I think of Proto-Indo-European as a linguistic continent comprised of many languages — geographies mapped by language. Though PIE has left nothing in writing for her descendants to examine, a process of reverse engineering points to a hub at the greater Ukraine vicinity.

All homo sapiens came from East Africa, the shortest and most easily traversed paths have gone through what is now Palestine. Those who took up residence in the fertile bread-basket of Western Asia stopped to create PIE before proceeding to various points of the compass.

My first steps taken outside the world of English were in German, where I wrestled her complex set of inflections — function signals developed over the millennia on the Northern European Plain — an easily traversed topography as well. The shortest distance between two points takes longer if you must scale mountains along the way.

Arabic doesn’t look three-quarters of a smidgeon like PIE.

Saxons brought German across the channel, The English. Along that path, the “b” became a “v”, the “t” became a “d” and a few other things I shall leave unexamined right now. Vikings made short work of inflections when they occupied Isles, The British. The “t” latched onto the “h” to do something not done in proper German society — sticking the tongue out. A native German-speaking friend once told me that her mother would scold her at any spoken breach, such as allowing your tongue to extend beyond the teeth.
“It’s what the Englanders do. Tut tut. The very idea…”

One of my German students, a Palestinian, introduced me to the Arabic alphabet. I accepted his interest in German as a challenge to learn Arabic, at the time I hadn’t known that Arabic was not one of the PIE tongues. The excerpt of the Qu’ran included below might alert you that Arabic doesn’t look three-quarters of a smidgeon like PIE. Peruse this image for a long take at nine English words. It’s a color-coded snapshot of those nine that elucidate many aspects of Arabic grammar. The Quranic Arabic Corpus provides detail from the hair strands to the toenails.


Quranic Arabic Corpus (67:1)

Search any translation, interpretation, analysis, mistranslation, misinterpretation, or spurious analysis in any Qu’ran 67:1. Take it where you will or where you won’t. Languages should always offer a means for removing barriers, not exacerbating them. Weaponizing translations for propaganda value is a kind of false witness that literally obfuscates communication for a hidden or unstated agenda.

A few closing thoughts:

Arabic language has

  • a script that makes many alphabets (alpha, beta…) based on Latin look hammered and chiseled by comparison.
  • a root system that works as precise architecture — form follows function. It combines beauty with linguistic precision.
  • some amazing flexibility. German, my second language, can concatenate nouns, can use entire prepositional and adverbial phrases to function as adjectives. However, Arabic can incorporate entire sentences into a single word.
  • a different look and feel that distinguishes it from Proto-Indo-European language. Farsi is a PIE language, it’s not based on a root system — even though its words look like Arabic.
  • something for the left-handed student. Arabic allows me to see what I am writing as I write, to sweep a pen across a piece of paper. To pull along a sheet of paper rather than to plow into it.

All my posts on a theme of Arabic Language

All my posts on a theme of German Language

Thanks for reading.

Arabic Script or Latin Alphabet: What Gives?

Arabic is a subtle language with a script that flows from right to left one millimeter at a time. Arabic sounds originate from vocal chord to the tip of the tongue, each brings slight variations in tone, in duration — these determine intent, what you seek to share. Meaning relies on accurate spoken and written construction.

It’s also a shape-shifter. Each letter may morph in four ways — a single letter may assume four forms, yet remain as unambiguously and reliably distinguishable as a pattern-matching schema. Examine the Arabic letter nunn (“n”):

nun
Unambiguous after all, is it not?

Arabic describes those slight but significant sound variations with a dozen diacritical marks, then it permits one to double those diacritics when ambiguity threatens to destroy the intended meaning.

Tughra_Suleiman
Tughra of Suleiman the Magnificent

Yes, Arabic has an impressive set of tools. Here are a few:

It sets a meter with musical aspects. Each sound may extend in duration by holding a tone twice or three times as long. It’s really much like reading a piece of sheet music, a musical score.

It has tools for creating calligraphic expressions that allow each writer to break away — to proceed beyond a ceiling-line and below a floor-line. By comparison, Latin-based alphabets seem designed with confinement in mind, something designed with the chisel in mind. Keep within the lines, please. The Romans manipulated numbers borrowed from their alphabet. You can count to 100 in Roman numerals before encountering a curved figure.

malcolm-x-arabic-calligraphy-centre
“Malcolm” by Everitte Gurney Barbee

Did you know that Arabic vocabulary is context sensitive? Language environments are dynamic places, words adapt to merge with the spirit and the moment and the intent — not the other way around. Translations that do not recognize context contort meaning, they must be challenged. Twisting words to serve agendas is a dark art.

The English language uses a different set of tools, different metrics that root into the soil of a different geography.

faltblatt-gleiche-rechte-arabisch
Equal Rights for Women and Men: Self-determined Life in Germany

Language has brought me opportunities to remove borders. A thorough understanding of the German language (my second language) permits me to learn Arabic from a teacher who has likewise learned German as her second language. There’s something breathtaking about acquiring a third language without the unnecessary baggage of my mother tongue. Something very humbling and very satisfying.

Thanks for reading.

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