Literary Arabic

Literary Arabic

Infobox Language
name=Literary Arabic
nativename= _ar. اللغة العربية الفصحى
speakers=ca. 300 million; up to 1 billion (mainly Muslims around the globe) with a significant or working knowledge of the language.
states=Arab world
nation="Arab world", Israel
script=Arabic alphabet
fam3=West Semitic
fam4=Central Semitic
fam5=South Central Semitic
agency=modelled after the Qur'an; Academy of the Arabic Language

Literary Arabic ( _ar. اللغة العربية الفصحى "ArabDIN|al-luġatu l-ʿarabiyyatu l-fuṣḥā" "the Eloquent Arabic language") or Standard Arabic is the literary and standard variety of Arabic used in writing. It is part of the Arabic macrolanguage.

Most western scholars distinguish two common "ArabDIN|(al-)fuṣ-ḥā" (الفصحى) varieties: the Classical Arabic (CA) of the Qur'an and early Islamic (7th to 9th centuries) literature, 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 registers of one language.

Classical Arabic

Classical Arabic, also known as Qur'anic Arabic, is the language used in the Qur'an as well as in numerous literary texts from Umayyad and Abbasid times (7th to 9th centuries).

Classical Arabic is often believed to be the parent language of all the spoken varieties of Arabic, but recent scholarship, such as Clive Holes' (2004), questions this view, showing that other Old North Arabian dialects were extant in the 7th century and may be the origin of current spoken varieties.

Modern Standard Arabic

Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is the literary standard across the Middle East and North Africa, and one of the official six languages of the United Nations. Most printed matter–including most books, newspapers, magazines, official documents, and reading primers for small children–is written in MSAFact|date=February 2007. "Colloquial" Arabic refers to the many national or regional varieties derived from Arabic spoken daily across the region and learned as a first language. These sometimes differ enough from each other to be mutually incomprehensible. They are not typically written, although a certain amount of literature (particularly plays and poetry) exists in many of them. Literary Arabic or classical 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 diglossiandash 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 boundariesndash thus, MSA is a classic example of a Dachsprache. This diglossic situation facilitates code-switching 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 (especially from the pre-Islamic to the Abbasid period, including Qur'anic 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), 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 (eg فيلم "film") or coined from existing lexical resources (eg هاتف "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 thingsFact|date=February 2007, whereas Classical Arabic prefers "X and X and X and X", and subject-initial sentences may be more common in MSA than in Classical ArabicFact|date=February 2007.

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 or English in Egypt, Jordan, and other countries. [Wolfdietrich Fischer. 1997. "Classical Arabic," "The Semitic Languages". London: Routledge. Pg 189.]

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. 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", "g", "ch" (ʧ), "zh" (French "j" - ʒ), 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 uniformly across the Middle East, but some regional variations exist due to influence from the spoken vernaculars. People who "speak" MSA during interviews often give away their national or ethnic origins by their pronunciation of certain phonemes (e.g. the realization of the Classical "jUnicode|īm" ج (/dIPA|ʒ/) as /g/ by Egyptians, and as /IPA|ʒ/ by Lebanese), and by mixing between vernacular and Classical words and forms. Classical/vernacular mixing in formal writing can also be found (e.g. in some Egyptian newspaper editorials).




* [ Ethnologue entry for Standard Arabic]
* Holes, Clive (2004) Modern Arabic: Structures, Functions, and Varieties Georgetown University Press. ISBN 1-58901-022-1

ee also

* Arabic language
* Varieties of Arabic
* Arabic literature
* Dictionary of Modern Written Arabic
* Arabic English Lexicon
* Arabic Diglossia
* Arabic phonology

External links

* [ Learn Arabic via podcast]
* [ Classical Arabic Blog]
* [ Arabic Gems] Learn about the intricacies and subtleties of Arabic linguistics and morphology.

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