Literary Arabic

Literary Arabic

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Modern Standard Arabic (MSA; "the most eloquent Arabic language"), Standard Arabic, or Literary Arabic is the standard
Standard language
A standard language is a language variety used by a group of people in their public discourse. Alternatively, varieties become standard by undergoing a process of standardization, during which it is organized for description in grammars and dictionaries and encoded in such reference works...

 and literary
Literary language
A literary language is a register of a language that is used in literary writing. This may also include liturgical writing. The difference between literary and non-literary forms is more marked in some languages than in others...

 variety of Arabic used in writing and in most formal speech.

Most western scholars distinguish two standard varieties of the Arabic language: the Classical Arabic
Classical Arabic
Classical Arabic , also known as Qur'anic or Koranic Arabic, is the form of the Arabic language used in literary texts from Umayyad and Abbasid times . It is based on the Medieval dialects of Arab tribes...

(CA) of the Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

 and early Islamic (7th to 9th centuries) literature
Arabic literature
Arabic literature is the writing produced, both prose and poetry, by writers in the Arabic language. The Arabic word used for literature is adab which is derived from a meaning of etiquette, and implies politeness, culture and enrichment....

, and Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) , the standard language in use today. The modern standard language is based on the Classical language. Most Arabs consider the two varieties to be two register
Register (sociolinguistics)
In linguistics, a register is a variety of a language used for a particular purpose or in a particular social setting. For example, when speaking in a formal setting an English speaker may be more likely to adhere more closely to prescribed grammar, pronounce words ending in -ing with a velar nasal...

s of one language, although the two registers can be described in Arabic as (MSA) and (CA).

Classical Arabic



Classical Arabic, also known as Qur'anic Arabic, is the language used in the Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

 as well as in numerous literary texts from Umayyad
Umayyad
The Umayyad Caliphate was the second of the four major Arab caliphates established after the death of Muhammad. It was ruled by the Umayyad dynasty, whose name derives from Umayya ibn Abd Shams, the great-grandfather of the first Umayyad caliph. Although the Umayyad family originally came from the...

 and Abbasid
Abbasid
The Abbasid Caliphate or, more simply, the Abbasids , was the third of the Islamic caliphates. It was ruled by the Abbasid dynasty of caliphs, who built their capital in Baghdad after overthrowing the Umayyad caliphate from all but the al-Andalus region....

 times (7th to 9th centuries).

Classical Arabic is often considered to be the parent language of all the spoken varieties of Arabic
Varieties of Arabic
The Arabic language is a Semitic language characterized by a wide number of linguistic varieties within its five regional forms. The largest divisions occur between the spoken languages of different regions. The Arabic of North Africa, for example, is often incomprehensible to an Arabic speaker...

, but recent scholarship, such as Clive Holes' (2004), shades this view, showing that other Ancient North Arabian
Ancient North Arabian
Ancient North Arabian is a language known from fragmentary inscriptions in modern day Iraq, Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia, dating to between roughly the 6th century BC and the 6th century AD, all written in scripts derived from Epigraphic South Arabian...

 dialects were extant in the 7th century and may be the origin of current spoken varieties.

Modern Standard Arabic

See also Arabic phonology
Arabic phonology
While many languages have numerous dialects that differ in pronunciation, the Arabic language is more properly described as a continuum of varieties. This article deals primarily with Modern Standard Arabic, which is the standard variety shared by educated speakers throughout Arabic-speaking regions...


Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is the literary standard across the Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 and North Africa
North Africa
North Africa or Northern Africa is the northernmost region of the African continent, linked by the Sahara to Sub-Saharan Africa. Geopolitically, the United Nations definition of Northern Africa includes eight countries or territories; Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, South Sudan, Sudan, Tunisia, and...

, and one of the official six languages of the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

. Most printed matter in the Arab World
Arab world
The Arab world refers to Arabic-speaking states, territories and populations in North Africa, Western Asia and elsewhere.The standard definition of the Arab world comprises the 22 states and territories of the Arab League stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the Arabian Sea in the...

—including most books, newspapers, magazines, official documents, and reading primers for small children—is written in MSA. "Colloquial" Arabic
Varieties of Arabic
The Arabic language is a Semitic language characterized by a wide number of linguistic varieties within its five regional forms. The largest divisions occur between the spoken languages of different regions. The Arabic of North Africa, for example, is often incomprehensible to an Arabic speaker...

 refers to the many national or regional varieties derived from Arabic spoken daily across the region and learned as a first language
First language
A first language is the language a person has learned from birth or within the critical period, or that a person speaks the best and so is often the basis for sociolinguistic identity...

. They are not typically written, although a certain amount of literature (particularly plays and poetry) exists in many of them. Literary Arabic is the official language of all Arab countries and is the only form of Arabic taught in schools at all stages.

The sociolinguistic situation of Arabic in modern times provides a prime example of the linguistic phenomenon of diglossia
Diglossia
In linguistics, diglossia refers to a situation in which two dialects or languages are used by a single language community. In addition to the community's everyday or vernacular language variety , a second, highly codified variety is used in certain situations such as literature, formal...

the use of two distinct varieties of the same language, usually in different social contexts. Educated Arabic-speakers are usually able to communicate in MSA in formal situations across national boundaries thus, MSA is a classic example of a Dachsprache. This diglossic situation facilitates code-switching
Code-switching
In linguistics, code-switching is the concurrent use of more than one language, or language variety, in conversation. Multilinguals—people who speak more than one language—sometimes use elements of multiple languages in conversing with each other...

 in which a speaker switches back and forth between the two varieties of the language, sometimes even within the same sentence. In instances in which highly educated Arabic-speakers of different nationalities engage in conversation but find their dialects mutually unintelligible (e.g. a Moroccan speaking with a Lebanese), they are able to code switch into MSA for the sake of communication.

Although closely based on Classical Arabic
Classical Arabic
Classical Arabic , also known as Qur'anic or Koranic Arabic, is the form of the Arabic language used in literary texts from Umayyad and Abbasid times . It is based on the Medieval dialects of Arab tribes...

 (especially from the pre-Islamic to the Abbasid
Abbasid
The Abbasid Caliphate or, more simply, the Abbasids , was the third of the Islamic caliphates. It was ruled by the Abbasid dynasty of caliphs, who built their capital in Baghdad after overthrowing the Umayyad caliphate from all but the al-Andalus region....

 period, including Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

ic Arabic), literary Arabic continues to evolve. Classical Arabic is considered normative; modern authors attempt (with varying degrees of success) to follow the syntactic and grammatical norms laid down by Classical grammarians (such as Sibawayh
Sibawayh
Abū Bishr ʻAmr ibn ʻUthmān ibn Qanbar Al-Bishrī , commonly known as Sībawayh , was an influential linguist and grammarian of the Arabic language. He was of Persian origin born ca...

), and to use the vocabulary defined in Classical dictionaries (such as the Lisan al-Arab.)

Switch from Classical Arabic to MSA


In spite of the romantic and variously successful attempts of modern Arab authors to follow the syntactic and grammatical norms of Classical Arabic, the exigencies of modernity have led to the adoption of numerous terms which would have been mysterious to a Classical author, whether taken from other languages (e.g. film) or coined from existing lexical resources (e.g. hātif  "telephone" < "caller").

Structural influence from foreign languages or from the vernaculars has also affected Modern Standard Arabic: for example, MSA texts sometimes use the format "X, X, X, and X" when listing things, whereas Classical Arabic prefers "X and X and X and X", and subject-initial sentences may be more common in MSA than in Classical Arabic.

For all these reasons, Modern Standard Arabic is generally treated as a separate language in non-Arab sources. Arab sources generally tend to regard MSA and Classical Arabic as different registers of one and the same language. Speakers of Modern Standard Arabic do not always observe the intricate rules of Classical Arabic grammar. Modern Standard Arabic principally differs from Classical Arabic in three areas: lexicon, stylistics, and certain innovations on the periphery that are not strictly regulated by the classical authorities. On the whole, Modern Standard Arabic is not homogeneous; there are authors who write in a style very close to the classical models and others who try to create new stylistic patterns. Add to this regional differences in vocabulary depending upon the influence of the local Arabic varieties and the influences of foreign languages, such as French in North Africa and Lebanon or English in Egypt, Jordan, and other countries.

Reading out loud in MSA for various reasons is becoming increasingly simpler, using less strict rules compared to CA, notably the inflection or i`rāb is often omitted making it closer to spoken varieties of Arabic
Varieties of Arabic
The Arabic language is a Semitic language characterized by a wide number of linguistic varieties within its five regional forms. The largest divisions occur between the spoken languages of different regions. The Arabic of North Africa, for example, is often incomprehensible to an Arabic speaker...

. It depends on the speaker's knowledge and attitude to the grammar of the Classical Arabic, as well as the region and the intended audience.

Pronunciation of foreign names in MSA can be sometimes inconsistent, names can be pronounced or even spelled differently in different regions and by different speakers. Generally, foreign geographical or personal names don't have case endings. There may be sounds used, which are missing in the Classical Arabic but they may exist in colloquial varieties - consonants - v, p, t͡ʃ, these consonants may or may not be written with special letters; and vowels - o, e (both short and long), there are no special letters in Arabic to distinguish between [e~i] and [o~u] pairs but the sounds o and e (short and long) exist in the colloquial varieties of Arabic and some foreign words in MSA.

Regional variants




MSA is used largely uniformly across the Middle East. Regional variations exist due to influence from the spoken vernaculars
Varieties of Arabic
The Arabic language is a Semitic language characterized by a wide number of linguistic varieties within its five regional forms. The largest divisions occur between the spoken languages of different regions. The Arabic of North Africa, for example, is often incomprehensible to an Arabic speaker...

. TV hosts who "speak" MSA, for example in Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera
Al Jazeera is an independent broadcaster owned by the state of Qatar through the Qatar Media Corporation and headquartered in Doha, Qatar...

, are ordered to give up their national or ethnic origins by changing their pronunciation of certain phonemes (e.g. the realization of the Classical as ɡ by Egyptians), though other traits may show the speaker's region, such as the stress
Stress (linguistics)
In linguistics, stress is the relative emphasis that may be given to certain syllables in a word, or to certain words in a phrase or sentence. The term is also used for similar patterns of phonetic prominence inside syllables. The word accent is sometimes also used with this sense.The stress placed...

 and the exact value of vowels and the pronunciation of some consonants. People who speak MSA also mix between vernacular and Classical in pronunciation, words and forms. Classical/vernacular mixing in formal writing can also be found (e.g. in some Egyptian newspaper editorials).

Formal Spoken Arabic



Formal Spoken Arabic is a new Western term used to describe Arabic spoken by educated native speakers in a formal situation or when communicating with Arabs from other Arab countries. It represents a grammatically simplified version of Modern Standard Arabic with some elements of colloquial dialects. Other similar terms are: Educated Spoken Arabic, Inter-Arabic, Middle Arabic and Spoken MSA. In Arabic this term can be described as (approximately "Educated/Cultured Colloquial" or "Colloquial of the Educated/Cultured") or ("Middle [Arabic] Language").

Common phrases

Translation Phrase IPA Romanization (DIN 31635
DIN 31635
DIN 31635 is a Deutsches Institut für Normung standard for the transliteration of the Arabic alphabet adopted in 1982. It is based on the rules of the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft as modified by the International Orientalist Congress 1936 in Rome...

)
Arabic /alʕarabijja/
hello/welcome /marħaban/, /ahlan wa sahlan/
peace /saˈlaːm/
how are you? /kajfa ħaːluka/ (to male); /kajfa ħaːluki/ (to female)
see you /ʔilalliqaːʔ/
goodbye /maʕassalaːma/
please /min fadˤlika/ (to male); /min fadˤliki/ (to female)
thanks /ˈʃukran/
that one /ðaːlika/
How much/How many? /kam/
English (varies) /alʔinɡ(i)li(ː)zijja/ (may vary)
What is your name? /masmuka/ (to male); /masmuki/ (to female)
I don’t know /laː ʔaʕrif/

See also



  • Arabic language
    Arabic language
    Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

  • Varieties of Arabic
    Varieties of Arabic
    The Arabic language is a Semitic language characterized by a wide number of linguistic varieties within its five regional forms. The largest divisions occur between the spoken languages of different regions. The Arabic of North Africa, for example, is often incomprehensible to an Arabic speaker...

  • Arabic literature
    Arabic literature
    Arabic literature is the writing produced, both prose and poetry, by writers in the Arabic language. The Arabic word used for literature is adab which is derived from a meaning of etiquette, and implies politeness, culture and enrichment....

  • Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic
    Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic
    The Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic is an Arabic-English dictionary compiled by Hans Wehr and edited by J Milton Cowan.First published in 1961 by Otto Harrassowitz in Wiesbaden, Germany, it was an enlarged and revised English version of Wehr's German Arabisches Wörterbuch für die Schriftsprache...

  • Arabic English Lexicon
  • Arabic Diglossia
  • Arabic phonology
    Arabic phonology
    While many languages have numerous dialects that differ in pronunciation, the Arabic language is more properly described as a continuum of varieties. This article deals primarily with Modern Standard Arabic, which is the standard variety shared by educated speakers throughout Arabic-speaking regions...

  • WP:IPA for Arabic


External links