Culture

Arabic Language Day – Let’s see the origins of the language

An integral part of understanding Arabs is to understand their language. One key aspect of any language is the root or the origin.

December 18th is officially designated as UN Arabic Language Day. The day was recognized to promote the use of Arabic and multilingualism throughout the UN. An interesting piece of trivia, this date in particular was chosen because of what it meant in 1973 when Arabic was officially accepted as UN’s sixth working language. The other official UN languages include English, Russian, French, Spanish and Chinese.

Arabic is not just an old language but one that has a history stretching back several thousand years and thanks to dialect variations, calligraphy forms and styles, the language is not just historical but equally complex too. The history of Arabic can be quite an intriguing study.

In total, there are four regional dialects considered to be prime among all of Arab world. All other dialects can be reached with subtle variations of these major four. The four dialects include Egyptian Arabic, Levantine Arabic, Maghreb Arabic and Gulf or Iraqi Arabic.

The last dialect is obviously spoken through the Gulf countries. As for Egyptian Arabic it is not just local to Egypt but heavily preferred through Sudan as well. Maghreb dialect is the preferred version across entire North Africa and finally Levantine Arabic is what you hear when you visit Palestine, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.

Some scholars suggest that the first dialects of the language actually appeared sometime around second millennium BC. It belongs to the Semitic family of languages. This family includes other ancient civilization languages such as Aramaic, Phoenician and of course Hebrew.

As for the script itself, also known as the Swahili script, it is a common script among several more languages. Most affluent of these languages include Kashmiri, Kurdish, Malay, Pashto, Farsi, Sindhi, Kyrgyz, Turkish, Tatar and many more.

A common mistake no Arabic speakers make is that the language took its first breath around the time the Quran was written and Islam as a religion was born. In fact, this language predates Islamic history and was indeed a clear choice for pre-Islamic poetry. It is also believed that due to the preference of Arabic in poetry, the Prophet would teach the Quran and God’s dictate through the most dominant dialects of Arabic at the time. It was only later that the Quran was made into the book it is today.

As for the actual origin of the language, some scholars suggest that the 4th to 7th century Mesopotamians were the innovators. They lived somewhere to the south of Arabia but this version is just as likely as a few others. The discovery of the language and its exact origin is a hotly debated topic however, one thing is for sure that the language is indeed very old as evidenced by a discovery made in 2014. This discovery revealed a particular inscription on a tablet that was in Arabic alphabets. Carbon dating has revealed the time of the tablet’s creation around 470 AD.

One thing is for sure that over the millennia since, the language has aggressively spread across the entire middle east and with it each adopting culture and region has introduced variations in the original language leading to the four main dialects observed today.

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