This article deals with Arabic as it relates to NationStates. For more general information, see the Wikipedia article on this subject.
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Arabic (اللغة العربية; al-luġatu-l-ʻarabiyyatu, less formally, عربي ʻarabī) is the largest member of the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family (classification: South Central Semitic) and is closely related to Hebrew and Aramaic. It is spoken throughout the Arab world and is widely studied and known throughout the Islamic world. Arabic has been a literary language since at least the 6th century and is the liturgical language of Islam.
Quite a few English words are ultimately derived from Arabic, often through other European languages, especially Spanish, among them every-day vocabulary like "sugar" (sukkar), "cotton" (quṭūn) or "magazine" (maḫāzin). More recognizable are words like "algebra", "alcohol" and "zenith"
The term "Arabic" may refer either to literary Arabic or Modern Standard Arabic or to the many localized varieties of Arabic commonly called "colloquial Arabic." Arabs consider literary Arabic as the standard language and tend to view everything else as mere dialects. Literary Arabic, al-luġatu-l-ʻarabiyyatu-l-fuṣḥā (Literally: "the most eloquent Arabic language" — اللغة العربية الفصحى) refers both to the language of present-day media across North Africa and the Middle East and to the more articulate language of the Qur'an. (The expression media here includes most television and radio, and all written matter, including all books, newspapers, magazines, documents of every kind, and reading primers for small children.) "Colloquial" or "dialectal" Arabic refers to the many national or regional varieties derived from Classical Arabic, spoken daily across North Africa and the Middle East, which constitute the everyday spoken language. These sometimes differ enough to be mutually incomprehensible. These dialects are not typically written, although a certain amount of literature (particularly plays and poetry) exists in many of them. They are often used to varying degrees in informal spoken media, such as soap operas and talk shows. 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 diglossia–the normal use of two separate varieties of the same language, usually in different social situations. In the case of Arabic, educated Arabs of any nationality can be assumed to speak both their local dialect and their school-taught literary Arabic (to an equal or lesser degree). This diglossic situation facilitates code switching in which a speaker switches back and forth unaware between the two varieties of the language, sometimes even within the same sentence. In instances in which Arabs of different nationalities engage in conversation only to find their dialects mutually unintelligible (e.g. a Moroccan speaking with a Lebanese), both should be able to code switch into Literary Arabic for the sake of communication.
Since the written Arabic of today differs from the written Arabic of the Qur'anic era, it has become customary in western scholarship and among non-Arab scholars of Arabic to refer to the language of the Qur'an as Classical Arabic and the modern language of the media and of formal speech as Modern Standard Arabic. Arabs, on the other hand, often use the term fuṣḥā to refer to both forms, thus placing greater emphasis on the similarities between the two. The difference between Arabic of the Qur'anic era and today's Classical Arabic is only in the degree of eloquence. The vocabulary, the syntactic and grammatical rules are the same.
Arabic and Islam
It is sometimes difficult to translate Islamic concepts, and concepts specific to Arab culture, without using the original Arabic terminology. The Qur'an is expressed in Arabic and traditionally Muslims deem it impossible to translate in a way that would adequately reflect its exact meaning—indeed, until recently, some schools of thought maintained that it should not be translated at all. A list of Islamic terms in Arabic covers those terms which are too specific to translate in one phrase. While Arabic is strongly associated with Islam (and is the language of salah), it is also spoken by Arab Christians, Oriental (Mizraḥi) Jews, and smaller sects such as Iraqi Mandaeans. Even so, a majority of the world's Muslims do not actually speak Arabic, but only know some fixed phrases of the language, such as those used in Islamic prayer. However, to counteract this trend, non-Arabic-speaking Muslims are strongly encouraged to learn the language.
Maltese, which is spoken on the Mediterranean island of Malta, is the only surviving European language to derive primarily from Arabic, though it contains a large number of Italian and English borrowings.
See varieties of Arabic for main article
"Colloquial Arabic" is a collective term for the spoken languages or dialects of people throughout the Arab world, which, as mentioned, differ radically from the literary language. The main dialectal division is between the Maghreb dialects and those of the Middle East, followed by that between sedentary dialects and the much more conservative Bedouin dialects. Maltese, though descended from Arabic, is considered a separate language. Speakers of some of these dialects are unable to converse with speakers of another dialect of Arabic; in particular, while Middle Easterners can generally understand one another, they often have trouble understanding Maghrebis (although the converse is not true, due to the popularity of Middle Eastern—especially Egyptian—films and other media).
One factor in the differentiation of the dialects is influence from the languages previously spoken in the areas, which have typically provided a significant number of new words, and have sometimes also influenced pronunciation or word order; however, a much more significant factor for most dialects is, as among Romance languages, retention (or change of meaning) of different classical forms. Thus Iraqi aku, Levantine fiih, and North African kayen all mean "there is", and all come from Arabic (yakuun, fiihi, kaa'in respectively), but now sound very different.
The major groups are:
Egyptian Arabic Maghreb Arabic (Algerian Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, Tunisian Arabic and western Libyan) Levantine Arabic (Western Syrian, Lebanese, Palestinian, and western Jordanian, Cypriot Maronite Arabic) Iraqi Arabic (and Khuzestani Arabic) - with significant differences between the more Arabian-like gilit-dialects of the south and the more conservative qeltu-dialects of the northern cities Gulf Arabic (Eastern Syrian, Kuwaiti, Saudi Arabian, Persian Gulf coast from Iraq to Oman including much of Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, and minorities on the other side) Other varieties include:
Ḥassānīya (in Mauritania and western Sahara) Andalusi Arabic (extinct, but important role in literary history) Maltese Sudanese Arabic (with a dialect continuum into Chad) Baharna Arabic (Bahrain, Saudi Eastern Province, and Oman) Hijazi Arabic (west coast of Saudi Arabia, Northern Saudi Arabia, eastern Jordan, Western Iraq) Najdi Arabic (Najd region of central Saudi Arabia) Yemeni Arabic (Yemen to southern Saudi Arabia)