Opinions on Arabic

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This article is about the general language or language group. For the literary standard, see Modern Standard Arabic. For the various vernaculars, see varieties of Arabic. For the small family also encompassing the North Arabian languages, see Arabic languages.

Arabic Listen/ˈærəbɪk/ (Arabic: العَرَبِيةُal-ʻarabiyyah [alʕaraˈbijja] or Arabic: عربي ,عربىʻarabī [ˈʕarabiː]) is the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century and its modern descendants excluding Maltese. Arabic is spoken in a wide arc stretching across Western Asia, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa. Arabic belongs to the Afroasiatic family.

The literary language, called Modern Standard Arabic or Literary Arabic, is the only official form of Arabic. It is used in most written documents as well as in formal spoken occasions, such as lectures and news broadcasts.

Arabic is a Central Semitic language, closely related to Aramaic, Hebrew, Ugaritic and Phoenician. Standard Arabic is distinct from and more conservative than all of the spoken varieties, and the two exist in a state known as diglossia, used side-by-side for different societal functions.

Some of the spoken varieties are mutually unintelligible, both written and orally, and the varieties as a whole constitute a sociolinguistic language. This means that on purely linguistic grounds they would likely be considered to constitute more than one language, but are commonly grouped together as a single language for political and/or religious reasons (see below). If considered multiple languages, it is unclear how many languages there would be, as the spoken varieties form a dialect chain with no clear boundaries. If Arabic is considered a single language, it is perhaps spoken by as many as 420 million speakers (native) in the Arab world, making it one of the six most-spoken languages in the world. If considered separate languages, the most-spoken variety would most likely be Egyptian Arabic, with 69 million native speakers—still greater than any other Afroasiatic language. Arabic also is a liturgical language of 1.6 billion Muslims. It is one of six official languages of the United Nations.

The modern written language (Modern Standard Arabic) is derived from the language of the Quran (known as Classical Arabic or Quranic Arabic). It is widely taught in schools, universities and used to varying degrees in workplaces, government and the media. The two formal varieties are grouped together as Literary Arabic, which is the official language of 26 states and the liturgical language of Islam. Modern Standard Arabic largely follows the grammatical standards of Quranic Arabic and uses much of the same vocabulary. However, it has discarded some grammatical constructions and vocabulary that no longer have any counterpart in the spoken varieties and adopted certain new constructions and vocabulary from the spoken varieties. Much of the new vocabulary is used to denote concepts that have arisen in the post-Quranic era, especially in modern times.

Arabic is the only surviving member of the Ancient North Arabian dialect group attested in pre-Islamic Arabic inscriptions dating back to the 4th century. Arabic is written with the Arabic alphabet, which is an abjad script and is written from right-to-left although the spoken varieties are sometimes written in ASCII Latin from left-to-right with no standardized forms.

Arabic has influenced many languages around the globe throughout its history; some of the most influenced languages are Urdu, Persian, Kurdish, Somali, Swahili, Bosnian, Kazakh, Bengali, Hindi, Malay, Indonesian, Tigrinya, Pashto, Punjabi, Tagalog, Sindhi and Hausa. During the Middle Ages, Literary Arabic was a major vehicle of culture in Europe, especially in science, mathematics and philosophy. As a result, many European languages have also borrowed many words from it. Many words of Arabic origin are also found in ancient languages like Latin and Greek. Arabic influence, mainly in vocabulary, is seen in Romance languages, particularly Spanish, Catalan, Galician, Portuguese, and Sicilian, owing to both the proximity of Christian European and Muslim Arab civilizations and 800 years of Arabic culture and language in the Iberian Peninsula, referred to in Arabic as al-Andalus.

Arabic has also borrowed words from many languages, including Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Persian and Syriac in early centuries, Kurdish in medieval times and contemporary European languages in modern times, mostly English and French.


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