Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics

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Subject: Language and Linguistics

Managing Editors Online Edition: Lutz Edzard and Rudolf de Jong

The Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics Online comprehensively covers all aspects of Arabic languages and linguistics. It is interdisciplinary in scope and represents different schools and approaches in order to be as objective and versatile as possible. The Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics Online is cross-searchable and cross-referenced, and is equipped with a browsable index. All relevant fields in Arabic linguistics, both general and language specific are covered and the Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics Online includes topics from interdisciplinary fields, such as anthropology, psychology, sociology, philosophy, and computer science.

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(1,115 words)

Author(s): Dominique Caubet
Cantineau (1960:30) mentions what he calls “l'affrication des labiales b, m, f”, which can be uttered with “un w furtif, ‘spirante de passage’”. This appears mainly before vowels with “une ouverture maxima des lèvres”, whereas the labials need “une fermeture des lèvres”. The contradiction leads to a mechanic “son de passage”, used as a transition. In the Maghreb, one finds two types of labiovelarization, whose origins are probably quite different. One is a labialization of velars, which clearly comes from contact with Berber and is one of the discriminants used in the compara…


(3,791 words)

Author(s): Djamel Eddine Kouloughli
1. Preliminary remarks Etymologically, the term lafḏ̣ is a maṣdar, i.e. a verbal noun. Originally it meant ‘to spit, reject, vomit’ and, in the specific context of speech activities, ‘to emit words, to utter’. In practice, there has been a shift from action to result and hence from a verbal value of the maṣdar to a nominal one. Taken substantively, lafḏ̣ is not to be understood as a singular noun but rather as a collective one. This collective and consequently generic meaning implies a globalizing comprehension of the utterance perceived as a whole, as opposed to the words that mak…


(4,685 words)

Author(s): Georgine Ayoub
There is yet another element in the sense of the word which is significant for the history of language and culture. In the classical era, linguistic thought clearly distinguishes between laḥn and luġa , for instance in a treatise by Ibn Hišām al-Laxmī (d. 577/1181): “On what has been transmitted by the Arabs with two luġa or even more. The common language has used the weakest luġa, sometimes the better established one, and sometimes it has diverged from the correct form and has used laḥn” ( Taqwīm II, 99). In this passage, luġa refers to the dialectal variant of the kalām al-ʿArab, particular t…

Language Academies

(5,005 words)

Author(s): Mohammed Sawaie
1. Academy precursors The first ‘academy’ in the Arab world was established by the French during the Napoleonic occupation of Egypt (1798–1801); it came to an end with the French exit from Egypt in 1801. There were several attempts in the 19th century, especially in Egypt and Lebanon, by enlightened scholars concerned with intellectual issues in general, and language matters in particular, to establish similar organizations. A serious effort was made in 1892/1893 when the first meeting of al-Majmaʿ al-Luġawī al-ʿArabī ‘Arabic Language Academy’ was held at the home of Muḥamm…

Language Acquisition

(11 words)

see First Language Acquisition ; Second Language Acquisition

Language and Gender

(5,909 words)

Author(s): Fatima Sadiqi
1. Introduction The Arabic fuṣḥā has two gender-linked characteristics: it is not a mother tongue, and it entertains a diglossic (diglossia) relationship with the dialectal Arabic mother tongues with which it co-exists. Both characteristics make of Arabic a typically ‘public’ language in an overall patriarchal context where ‘public’ denotes ‘male power’, as opposed to ‘private’, which denotes ‘women's realm’ (El Saadawi 1980; Mernissi 1997; Sadiqi and Ennaji 2006). The study of Arabic from a gender perspecti…

Language Attitudes

(10,179 words)

Author(s): Keith Walters
Anthropologists have likewise been interested in what psychologists term ‘ language attitudes’ because “a group's beliefs about language, often unexamined beliefs at that, are typically at the heart of its sense of group identity” (Kroskrity 2004:511). Much of the recent work on this subject falls under the rubric of language ideology (Kroskrity 2004; cf. Eagly and Chaiken 1988 for social psychologists' understanding of attitudes and ideology), which can be defined as “the cultural system of ideas about social and linguistic relationships, tog…

Language Contact

(7,062 words)

Author(s): Sarah G. Thomason
1. Topics and territories By far the most prominent topic in virtually all studies on language contact involving Arabic is the adoption and adaptation of loanwords (see Sec. 2), primarily from Arabic into other languages but also, in a small number of cases, from other languages into Arabic. The prominence of this topic comes as no surprise: with the exception of isolated minority communities of Arabic speakers in Latin America, North America, and Europe, structural interference is only likely to have occurred…

Language Impairment

(4,619 words)

Author(s): Mohammad T. Alhawary
1. Classification and causes Language impairments can generally be classified into two main categories: acquired and developmental disorders. Acquired language impairments result from a variety of causes affecting the functioning of the brain and the nervous system, including disease (e.g. degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, and brain tumor), stroke or brain injury, and mental retardation due to genetic disorders such as Down Syndrome, Williams Syndrome, and Fragile X syndrome. The most widely and historically studied phenomenon of acquired language …

Language Loss

(4,374 words)

Author(s): Abderrahman El Aissati
1. Introduction Language loss refers to a variety of phenomena relating to the loss of a whole language or a portion thereof by an individual or a speech community (Freed 1982:1; Jaspaert a.o. 1986:38; Lambert and Freed 1982:6). Different definitions converge onto an understanding of language loss as partial or complete disappearance of one or more linguistic features from the grammar of a speaker. This feature can be the meaning of a lexical item (reception skills), the item itself (production skills), or a language rule (phonological, morphological, syntactic, or pragmatic). A comm…

Language Maintenance

(7 words)

see Language Shift: Amazigh

Language Pathology

(4,614 words)

Author(s): Sabah M.Z. Safi
Language pathologies are distinguished from speech pathologies in that the former are concerned with dysfunctions of the symbolic linguistic system, including manifestations of the deficit in all modes of language use such as writing, reading, speech, hearing, and signing (e.g. aphasia, dyslexia, agraphia), while the latter are concerned with the use of sounds without any reference necessarily to meaning or phonology (e.g. aphonia, stuttering, or hearing impairment). The traditional classification of language pathologies is along the lines of production and c…

Language Policies and Language Planning

(9,385 words)

Author(s): Kassim Shaaban
1. Introduction The place of Arabs in the modern world has been determined to a large extent by the fact that, beginning around the end of World War I and well into the post-World War II period, the majority of the countries of the Arab world were under British or French mandate, in accordance with the Sykes-Picot agreement of 1916. The development plans of these countries and their emergent political, economic, administrative, and educational systems were established during the colonial period and modeled largely after the French and British s…

Language Shift: Amazigh

(6,332 words)

Author(s): Yamina El Kirat el Allame
1. Introduction The term ‘ language shift’ refers to the change from the habitual use of one language to that of another. This implies that a community gives up a language in favor of another one. When shift has taken place, members of the community are said to have collectively chosen a new language instead of their native one (Fasold 1984). This is, in fact, a common result of extensive language contact, occurring typically where there is a sharp difference in prestige and levels of official support for the languages concerned. Language shift is not the only possible outcome of language cont…

Language Teaching

(11 words)

see First Language Teaching ; Second Language Teaching

Latin America

(3,388 words)

Author(s): Ernesto Capello
1. Introduction Arabic speakers have been part of Latin American society since the mid-17th century, when the Syrian Chaldean priest ʾIlyās al-Mawṣilī came to South America on a papal mission. The ties between Iberian and Arab culture date even further back, to the conquest of the Iberian Peninsula by the Moors, an event that left an indelible impression on Spanish and Portuguese culture, architecture, and language. So it should come as no surprise that Latin America, in particular the great economic powerhouses of Brazil and Argentina, formed one of the most important destinati…

Latin Loanwords

(1,880 words)

Author(s): Irfan Shahîd
Greek contributed more loanwords than Latin, but some loanwords from Latin, as relatively few as they are, have become part and parcel of the Arabic language, owing to the strong Roman military and administrative presence in the region. Others had an ephemeral life in Arabic and have survived only in medieval historical texts that refer to the distant past, sometimes used only once hapax legomena. Sirāṭ < strata ‘paved Roman road’ is a key Qurʾānic term meaning ‘path’ or ‘way’ (Q. 1/5, 6). Qaṣr < castrum, in the sense of both ‘castle’ and ‘palatial mansion’ (Q. 22/45, 7/74), now…


(6,615 words)

Author(s): Elie Wardini
1. Historical overview The Canaanite dialect known as Phoenician, attested from the second half of the second millennium BCE up to first century CE in Canaan proper, seems to have been the only language indigenous to Lebanon (Canaan/ Phoenicia). Along with Phoenician, and in the context of the domination of the great powers of the time, Egypt and Mesopotamia, both Egyptian and Akkadian were used in the mid-second and first half of the first millennium BCE, mainly for diplomatic purposes. The first millennium BCE saw the rise of Aramaic as the lingua franca of the Near East,…


(3,469 words)

Author(s): Reem Bassiouney
1. Definition Leveling is defined by Blanc (1960:62) as a process that occurs in “inter-dialectal contact”. In such contacts, speakers may replace some features from their own dialect with those of another dialect that carries more prestige. The different dialect is not necessarily that of the listener. Blanc cites the example of villagers in central Palestine who may try to use the dialect of Jerusalem, or of non-Muslim Baghdadis who may try to move toward linguistic features of Muslim Baghdadis. Leveling does not necessarily mean that the speakers will abandon their own d…
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