Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics


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Middle Arabic

(6,027 words)

Author(s): Jérôme Lentin
1. Definition The very term ‘Middle Arabic’ is ambiguous because of the history of its use, the multiple meanings of the term ‘middle’ (historically middle, sociolinguistically intermediate, linguistically mixed – not to mention the middling quality of texts, in the opinion of some people), and the variety of views on the history of the Arabic language. Different definitions or characterizations have thus been proposed. As is the case for other languages, ‘Middle’ has been used to refer to a historic…
Date: 2018-04-01

Christian Middle Arabic

(3,222 words)

Author(s): Jacques Grand'Henry
  1. Definition For methodological reasons, two forms of Christian Middle Arabic are distinguished here, according to the date of the texts written in it: Early Christian Middle Arabic and Late Christian Middle Arabic. Early Christian Middle Arabic refers to the form of Middle Arabic used in texts and/or manuscripts dating back to the 9th or the 10th century. Many of these texts were copied in monasteries of South Palestine, among which the famous monastery of Saint Catherine in the Sinai (Blau 1966:20). Late Christian Middle Arabic refers to Middle Arabic used in texts and…
Date: 2018-04-01

Luġa wusṭā

(4,590 words)

Author(s): Gunvor Mejdell
  Definition “The communicative tensions which arise in the diglossia situation may be resolved by the use of relatively uncodified, unstable, intermediate forms of the language (Arabic: al-luġa al-wusṭā) and repeated borrowing of vocabulary items from H to L” (Ferguson 1959:332). This intensional definition of luġa wusṭā, cited from Charles Ferguson’s seminal article “Diglossia” (1959), constitutes the point of departure for the treatment of this lemma. The extension of the term, however, covers a wide range of styles and linguistic practices, as will be demonstrated below. In f…
Date: 2018-04-01

History of Arabic

(4,819 words)

Author(s): Ignacio Ferrando
This entry describes the evolution of the Arabic language through all its phases, paying special attention to the causes and implications of the changes which have taken place in the language. In order to place Arabic in its broad context and to offer a diachronic insight into the history of a language which is spoken today by approximately 200 million people worldwide and is the preferred religious language of all Islamic countries, it is necessary to consider its historical setting and present-day situation. From the outset it is necessary to consider the scope and limits of…
Date: 2018-04-01

A (Arabic, Lahej - Arabic, Tourkou)

(2,579 words)

Arabic, Lahej Yemen, Yemen, Yemen Arabic, Lake Chad Dialects: Classification Arabic, Latakia Dialects: Classification Arabic, Late Christian Middle Christian Middle Arabic, Christian Middle Arabic Arabic, Lawdar Yemen Arabic, Lebanese Beirut Arabic, Beirut Arabic, Binding, Clitic, Cohesion, Connectives, Cypriot Maronite Arabic, Cypriot Maronite Arabic, Damascus Arabic, Deixis, Determiners, Dialect Literature, Diphthongs, Educated Arabic, Gender, Hamza, ʾImāla, Interface Linguistics, Interface Linguistics, Intonation, Jord…
Date: 2018-04-01

Educated Arabic

(3,160 words)

Author(s): Karin C. Ryding
The terms ‘Educated Arabic’ (EA) or ‘Educated Spoken Arabic’ (ESA) are broad designations that refer to spoken Arabic showing the following features: i.A higher, more formal register than the colloquial of primary discourses of familiarity among family and acquaintances; ii.A mix of literary and colloquial lexical items; iii.Absence of ʾiʿrāb, the markers of desinential inflection (case and mood). Some scholars define Educated Arabic as the higher-register spoken variety of a particular country or region. “Of all spoken varieties it is the most dynamic, v…
Date: 2018-04-01


(3,835 words)

Author(s): Jonathan Owens
  Introduction It is curious that one of the most fundamental concepts of historical linguistics, a discipline that came of age in the 19th century, the proto-language as a product of comparative reconstruction has never been systematically integrated into a historical linguistic interpretation of Arabic. One of the historical linguistic landmarks in the study of Arabic is found in an article by Fleischer (1854:155) in which the entities Old, Middle, and New (or Neo) Arabic are proposed. Fleischer…
Date: 2018-04-01

Classical Arabic

(5,531 words)

Author(s): Wolfdietrich Fischer
  1. General definitions Classical Arabic designates that form of Arabic which was described by the Arab grammarians of the 8th century and called by them al-ʿarabiyya. They regarded this as the only correct Arabic language. Western scholars call it Classical Arabic to differentiate it from the Arabic vernaculars of the neo-Arabic type. It is the language in which the Arabic texts of pre-Islamic and early Islamic times were handed down, first of all the Qurʾān and pre-Islamic and early Islamic poetry, but also the historical and legal traditions of that time. In the process …
Date: 2018-04-01


(7,765 words)

Author(s): Geoffrey Khan
The term ‘Judaeo-Arabic’ refers to a type of Arabic that was used by Jews and was distinct in some way from other types of Arabic. It is by no means a uniform linguistic entity and is used to refer both to written forms of Arabic and also to spoken dialects. The Arabic language was used by Jews in Arabia before the rise of Islam. Some of the pre-Islamic Arabic poets were Jewish, the most famous of whom was as-Samawʾal ibn ʿAdī. The surviving written works of those Jewish poets do not exhibit anything that distinguishes them from the equivalent works …
Date: 2018-04-01

Ḥassāniyya Arabic

(5,344 words)

Author(s): Catherine Taine-Cheikh
1. General information Ḥassāniyya (or klām əl-Bīḏ̣ān ‘language of the Whites’) is the mother tongue of the Arabic-speaking population of the western Sahara, especially the Moors (Bīḏ̣ān) of Mauretania and the former Spanish Sahara (from the Sagya el-Ḥamra and the Rio del Oro). It is difficult to draw the precise geographical limits of this dialect, but its approximate borders are Goulimine in the north, Tindouf in the northeast, Tombouctou in the southeast, and the Senegal River in the south. The percentage of Ḥassāniyya speakers is highest in the central regions. The…
Date: 2018-10-26

Middle Verbs

(2,223 words)

Author(s): Zouhair Maalej
The transitivity system in Arabic includes two classes of verbs: lāzim lit. ‘stationary’, corresponding to the intransitive pattern in English, and mutaʿaddin lit. ‘crossing over [to an object]’, corresponding to the transitive pattern (taʿaddin). Intran-sitive verbs are self-sufficient, not requiring for the completion of their meaning more than the subject or fāʿil lit. ‘the doer’, e.g. ḏahaba zaydun ‘Zayd left’. It is agreed that transitive verbs need for the completion of their meaning a mafʿūl bihi lit. ‘affected complement’, a direct object form. For a more compr…
Date: 2018-04-01

Algiers Arabic

(5,498 words)

Author(s): Aziza Boucherit
1. Generalities 1.1 Located in the center of the Algerian coast, Algiers, al-Jazāʾir, Algeria's capital, chief town of a wilāya, faces both the sea and its hinterland. It is organized into 15 communes and has 1,483,000 inhabitants. The incorporation of 28 suburban communes into Greater Algiers makes that agglomeration the second in the Maghreb after Casablanca; it is the first city in the country with 2,562,428 inhabitants out of an estimated population of 29,100,867 inhabitants and represents 13.69 percent of the…
Date: 2018-04-01

Damascus Arabic

(6,059 words)

Author(s): Jérôme Lentin
1. General Damascus Arabic ( llahže ššāmiyye) is spoken in Damascus, capital of the Syrian Arab Republic (1.6 million people in 2004; 3.5 million including Greater Damascus, with an important proportion of non-native speakers: immigrants from various parts of the country, Palestinians). In the old villages of the surrounding Ġūṭa different dialects are spoken, which have not yet been studied. Damascus Arabic is well understood in the whole country, and in Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine. Contiguous to the Damascus area are the Qalamūn dialects in the north, the Ḥōrān di…
Date: 2018-04-01

Andalusi Arabic

(6,672 words)

Author(s): Federico Corriente
1. Andalusi Arabic Andalusi Arabic is a dialect bundle, constituted by scarcely differentiated members and generated by the occupation of the Iberian Peninsula at the beginning of the 8th century by armies of Muslim Arabs and (partially) Arabicized Berbers. It appears to have spread rapidly and been in general oral use in most parts of the geopolitical entity resulting from those events, called al-Andalus by its native population, between the 9th and 15th centuries. It reached its highest peak of users, which can be roughly estimate…
Date: 2018-04-01

Arabic Typography

(3,989 words)

Author(s): Thomas Milo
  Introduction Typography in Eurasia and the pre-Islamic world Before the appearance of typography in Europe, striking of coins had already been known as a means of mass-producing text surfaces (with writing to render dates, geographical and personal names, titles and ideological phrases). It has been observed that printing and paper are complementary inventions that cannot exist without each other (see: Carter 1955). The Chinese invention of paper was passed to Europe by the world of Islam (see: Bloom 2…
Date: 2018-04-01

Beirut Arabic

(6,186 words)

Author(s): Samia Naïm
1. General Remarks Beirut has a population of 1,500,000 people. The country's oldest urban communities are the Sunnis and Greek-Orthodox. Successive waves of migration brought Maronites, Shiʿis, Druzes, Greek-Catholic, Syriacs, as well as Syrians, Palestinians, Kurds, Armenians, and others. Colloquial Arabic is the means of communication, par excellence. To varying degrees, the population is bilingual: French or English is taught at the primary school level. It is mostly among the upper classes that foreign languages are used, often alternating with A…
Date: 2018-04-01

Negev Arabic

(5,707 words)

Author(s): Roni Henkin
1. General 1.1 Area and range Negev Arabic is spoken by some 150,000 Bedouin in the Negev ( án-Nagab in Negev Arabic) desert, which occupies most of southern Israel. Today it is an isolated, peripheral minority dialect, not spoken and barely understood elsewhere within the contemporary political boundaries. Before 1948, however, the Negev belonged to a vast historical, economic, sociocultural, and linguistic continuum extending from the Ḥijāz to North Africa, along which nomadic and seminomadic tribes conducted raiding, trading, and smuggling relations with ot…
Date: 2018-04-01

Cairo Arabic

(6,134 words)

Author(s): Manfred Woidich
1. General Cairo Arabic, often simply called Egyptian Arabic, is the main linguistic vehicle used all over Egypt. Originally the dialect of the capital Cairo, it is being adopted by millions of speakers all over Egypt, in particular in urban areas, as a language of daily life. The number of native speakers is also several millions. The variety described here is spoken by the middle class as it is also commonly heard in the media (radio, television, movies). Owing to the cultural export of Egypt to other Arab countries, Cairo Arabic is widely understood in the whole Arab world. Cairo Arabic is…
Date: 2018-04-01

Chad Arabic

(5,078 words)

Author(s): Peder Patrice | Jullien de Pommerol
More than 850,000 Arabs live in the Sahelian zone of Chad. Chadian Arabic is a vehicular language spoken by about 60 percent of the population. It has its own characteristics, which come from the rural nomadic society in which it originated and the society of city-dwellers in which it developed. 1. A mosaic of peoples The population of Chad, estimated at 8 million persons, is a true ethnic mosaic of diverse peoples spread unequally over a territory of 1,284,000 square kilometers. Several groups of peoples can be distinguished in the three climatic regions of the country. i.The ‘ Sara’ group …
Date: 2018-04-01

Jerusalem Arabic

(6,281 words)

Author(s): Judith Rosenhouse
1. General Jerusalem Arabic is the colloquial Arabic dialect spoken in Jerusalem. It includes three communal subdialects of the Muslims, Christians, and Jews, although the differences among them are not large (Blanc 1960). Jerusalem Arabic is an urban dialect within the larger dialect area of aš-Šām, which extends from Syria to Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan. The dialects of this region are part of the Eastern dialects within the Arabic-speaking world. The number of Jerusalem's inhabitants is at present about 500,000 people (mainly Jewish since the establishment of I…
Date: 2018-10-27
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