You are on page 1of 26

Getting to Know the Arabic

Language
A Brief Overview
Susan A. Hodge
September 2011

Did you know?


-Arabic is one of the 6 official languages of
the United Nations (+ English, French,
Chinese, Russian, and Spanish)
-Arabic is the fourth most widely-spoken
language, after English, Spanish, and
Chinese
-number of native speakers: 220-280 million

(Did you know?)


There are 3 functional types of Arabic
language:
Classical Arabic is the language of the
Quran, and is used primarily for reading
and reciting Islamic holy text
Spoken Arabic has 4 regional dialects, but
over 30 actual varieties of colloquial
(spoken) Arabic around the world
Modern Standard Arabic is used in the
news and on TVthe common language
used by speakers of different dialects

Dialect
A dialect is a different way of speaking the
SAME language to say the SAME thing
A dialect is not right or wrong, just different
Can you name a dialect of English?
Do you think that Rasha, Sami, Yasmin, and
Akram speak the same dialect?

(Did you know?)


Countries where Arabic is the primary
spoken language:
Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran,
Iraq, Palestinian territories in Israel, Jordan,
Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco,
Oman, Palestinian West Bank & Gaza, Qatar,
Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania,
Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

(Classical Arabic is read everywhere that


Islam is practiced.)

(Did you know?)


Speakers of colloquial Arabic from different
parts of the world use dialects and may not
understand each other! (They can use Modern
Standard Arabic to communicate with each
other.)
Native speakers of Arabic include Muslims,
Christians, and people of other faithsbut
Arabic is the liturgical (religious) language of
Islam.
Which character in Bayoumis book is Christian?

Arabic literature
Arabic has been a highly developed
literary language for over 1,500 years
(including poetry).
Some writers:
Hafiz (poet)
Khalil Gibran (poet)
Mourid Barghouti
Naguib Mahfouz living novelist from
Egypt (Nobel Prize for literature, 1988)

Words derived from Arabic

Algebra (al Jabr)


Cipher (sifr, the name for zero)
Alcohol (al quhul)
Sugar (sukkar)
Cotton (qutun)
Coffee (kahwa)
Lemon (limon)
Checkmate (shek mat, the king is
dead)

Characteristics of Arabic
language
Arabic an Afro-Asiatic language of the Semitic
group
Arabic is considered one of the younger Semitic
languages (4th century)
As the religious language of the Quran (7th
century), it
expanded rapidly during the rise of
Islam in the 8th century
Can you name another Semitic language?

Hebrew Aramaic

(characteristics of Arabic
language)
Semitic languages share this characteristic:
Verbs (and related adjectives) are based
on a
group of 3 consonants

For example: k-t-b : write


aktubu = I writekatib = writer
maktub = written
kuttab = writers
kitab = book
maktab = office
kutub = books maktabah = library

Text is written from right to


left

An Arabic name and an


American name both written
in Arabic
Kareem

Robert

Numbers are also listed from right to


left, but a number with meaning is
written left to right:
12,345,678,910

(Characteristics of Arabic
language)
28 letters (plus variations to make the
sounds for /p/ and /g/)
no distinction between capital and small
letters
Only 3 long vowels (a, i, u)
Other vowels are indicated by diacritical
marks (slashes, small circles, squiggles)

Arabic alphabet
Letter and its name

Letter and its name

aleph
bet
taw
ta
gimel
heth
ha
dalet
dal
zayin
resh

zayin
sin
shin
tsad
daad
teth
za
ayin
ghain
pe
Qoph

Arabic alphabet, continued

kaph
lamedh
mim

nun
he
waw
yaa

Vowels:
/a/

aleph

/i/

yaa

/u/

waw

Summary of the alphabet

Diacritical marks


bismi llhi r-ramni r-rami
In the Name of Allh, the Most Gracious, the Most
Merciful.
-Quran, (Al-Fatiha 1:1)

(Characteristics of Arabic
writing)
Most letters change form and look
different when they appear at the
beginning, in the middle, or at the end of
a word.
Ex:

/h/

Sometimes the letters are connected, but


not always it depends.

Mbrook = congratulations!
(notice: only some letters connect)

Writing as religious art


Bismallah
(In the name of God the Merciful the
Compassionate- Quran)

Dr. Bayoumis book title


Kaifa tashour
wa
ladaika ahnsas
anaka mushkela
(Mushkela = problem)

Some commonly used


expressions
In sha Allah

God willing

(said seriously or even informally)

Bism Allah =

in the name of God

(said when beginning a trip, reading, walking,


or even eating)

Alhamdulillah! =

Praise to Allah!

(said to express satisfaction, even after


eating)

Meeting friends, in Arabic


Please:
Thank you:
Youre welcome:

min fadlak (m), fadliki (f)


shukran
afwan

Hello! (informal)
Welcome!
Hello (peace to you):
How are you?:
Im very well:
And you?

ahlan wa sahlan!
Marhaba!
Salaam.

kheif halak? (m), haliki (f)


ana bekhair
Wa anta? (m), anti (f)

Now, meet the person next


to you!
A: What is your name? ma ismuk? (m),
ismuki? (f)
B: My name is ___ ismee
_____
A: I live in _____
B: I am a student

askun fi __________
ana talib (m), ana taliba (f)

Both: Good bye!


Maa salaama
(peace with you)

Sources
Contact Susan Hodge at:
shodge@uscupstate.edu
if you would like a list of websites for further
investigation, or a copy of these slides.
Special thanks to my teachers:
Dr. Mirko Hall (Converse College)
Mrs. Laila Miraziz (USC Upstate)
and to Mr. John Miraziz
Shukran jiddan! (Thank you very much!)