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  • Back in 2013 I produced one of the strangest videos on YouTube: a video about Arabic in Japanese with English subtitles

  • and me teaching an arabic lesson to Japanese viewers at the end. Lots of people were bewildered. Today, I'm going to try again.

  • Hello everyone, welcome to the Lang Focus channel

  • and my name is Paul. Today's topic is the

  • Arabic language or "al Arabiya" as it's called in arabic. Arabic is the fifth most widely spoken language in the world

  • with 293 million native speakers, and 422 million speakers in total.

  • It's an official language in 26 countries. That doesn't mean it's the majority language in all of those countries,

  • but it's one of the official languages.

  • It is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations,

  • and as the language of the Quran - the holy book of Islam - it is also the liturgical language of

  • 1.7 billion muslims around the world. Most of those people don't speak Arabic

  • but many have some knowledge of arabic for reading, and for reciting prayers and religious study.

  • Speaking about Arabic can be confusing, because there are many different varieties of the language.

  • One of the main varieties is the classical arabic of the Quran.

  • This is considered by many to be the most perfect form of Arabic, and some say it's the only true Arabic,

  • because it was the language in which God revealed the quran to Muhammad. Then there's Modern Standard Arabic,

  • which is the form of Arabic used as an official language today. It's the modern form of literary arabic

  • which was based on the classical Arabic of the Quran,

  • but with some adaptations and a greatly expanded vocabulary to make it more suitable for modern times.

  • It's not exactly the same as classical Arabic,

  • but both of them are referred to by Arabs as "Al-Fusha", meaning "eloquent speech". Modern Standard Arabic is the language of books, media,

  • education and formal situations,

  • but not as the language of everyday speech. For everyday speech, Arabic speakers use their local dialects - or "Amiya" -

  • Which can differ quite significantly from country to country, and even from one place to another within a single country.

  • Arabic is a semitic language. Arabic and other Semitic languages like Hebrew,

  • Aramaic, and Phoenician all developed from the same proto-semitic language. Arabic forms one branch of Central Semitic, while another branch of Central

  • Semitic includes Hebrew, Aramaic, and Phoenician. Old Arabic.

  • Numerous Semitic languages related to Arabic were spoken in Arabia between the 13th and 10th century CE,

  • but they don't have features that would classify them as Arabic. The earliest evidence of people referred to as "Arab", is in an Assyrian

  • inscription from the Eighth Century Bce. But, it just mentions the Arabs.

  • It doesn't give any examples of their language. From the 6th century BCE to the 4th century CE

  • we have inscriptions

  • showing evidence of an early form of Arabic. Some of those inscriptions are written in that early form of Arabic, and others are written in

  • Aramaic, but show some influence from Arabic. Those inscriptions consist mostly of proper names, so they don't give us an awful lot of

  • information about what the language was like. The earliest inscription that is

  • unmistakably Arabic is from the 1st

  • Century BCE, and was found at Ein Avdat. It's an Aramaic inscription,

  • but it contains three lines of Arabic.

  • Another inscription was discovered at An-Namaara,

  • 120 kilometers southeast of Damascus, dating back to 329 CE.

  • The language of this inscription is nearly identical to classical Arabic as we know it, even though these inscriptions are

  • unmistakably written in Arabic,

  • They are not written in the Arabic script, but rather the Nabataean script, which derived from the Aramaic script.

  • But there are also inscriptions from the 4th and 5th century CE that are written in a script that's more like Arabic.

  • It's generally thought that the Arabic script developed from the Nabataean Script, and these inscriptions might be written in a script

  • that's somewhere between those two.

  • Classical Arabic

  • Before the beginning of Islam, there were numerous dialects of Arabic spoken around the peninsula,

  • but there was also a common literary language

  • used among the different tribes for poetry, a koine, which was a compromise between the various dialects.

  • The pieces of Poetry written in this literary koine are the earliest examples of classical Arabic.

  • The Quran was written in the 7th century

  • when muslims believe that the Quran was revealed to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel, and then it was written down over a

  • 23-year period. At the time the quran was written, there were seven dialects of classical Arabic, the Quran was written in all of them.

  • But the Quraishi version became the standard upon which the text of today's quran is based. The differences are in pronunciation,

  • not in vocabulary or grammar.

  • The Arabic of the Quran is similar to that of the pre-Islamic

  • classical Arabic poetry, but not exactly. Beginning during the life of Muhammad, and

  • continuing into the eighth century, the Islamic conquests spread the Arabic language into new faraway lands.

  • After the Islamic conquests,

  • there was an important need to standardize the language, because vast numbers of people were beginning to speak it.

  • The script was made more

  • practical, new vocabulary was created, and the grammar and style of prose was standardized.

  • Neo-Arabic and Middle Arabic

  • While classical Arabic was being standardized as a written language,

  • local dialects of Arabic also emerged in the cities of the Arab Empire.

  • These dialects did not descend directly from classical Arabic,

  • but rather from pre-islamic Arabic dialects or from a single Arabic "koine",

  • which was the common language of conquering Arab armies.

  • These new dialects were also

  • influenced by the original languages of areas that were conquered.

  • The dialects of the Levant and

  • Mesopotamia were influenced by Aramaic. The

  • dialects of the Maghreb were influenced by Berber. The dialects of Egypt were influenced by

  • Coptic, and so on. The early centuries of these newly-emerging dialects are referred to as neo-Arabic. Even though classical Arabic was

  • standardised, not everybody could write it perfectly. Writing that contains features of both classical Arabic and neo-Arabic or

  • dialects, is referred to as middle Arabic. "Middle" doesn't refer to a time period But rather these texts were somewhere in the middle between

  • classical and colloquial.

  • Modern Arabic

  • Over the centuries the neo arabic dialect continued to evolve into [the] modern

  • colloquial dialects of today,

  • but literary arabic remained relatively constant because the arabic of the quran was always seen as the ideal

  • Arabic to imitate and this probably had a conservative effect on the dialects limiting them from changing too much after

  • Napoleon entered Egypt in 1798 the Arab World entered a period of greater contact with the West the influx of new

  • Western concepts required the arabic language to be updated in the early 20th century

  • regional academies of the Arabic-language began a process of language reform focused Mainly on

  • Expanding and updating the languages vocabulary these updates culminated in what is now known as modern Standard arabic?

  • Diglossia Arabic is well known for its state of diglossia

  • Arabic speakers used two distinctly different

  • Forms of the language in parallel for different purposes modern Standard Arabic is not learned by anyone as a native language

  • But it's used in reading and writing in Media on children's TV shows and in formal speeches while the colloquial dialects are used almost universally

  • For daily conversation as I mentioned [before] there's quite a lot of variation amongst arabic dialects

  • how well two speakers

  • Understand each other depends on the geographic distance of their dialects as well as exposure many arabic speakers have told me that

  • Speakers of the Middle Eastern dialects really have no trouble understanding each other and that the main trouble comes in understanding the Maghrebi dialect

  • Especially Moroccan but these days with the spread of cable TV and the internet people are being exposed to a wider range of dialects on

  • a more regular basis which helps people understand different dialects more and of course there's also alpha Ska Modern Standard Arabic when speakers of

  • significantly different dialects communicate with each other they can switch [to] Modern Standard arabic

  • Or they can adjust their speech to make it more formal and literary and similar to Modern Standard arabic

  • But not exactly another common way [for] native speakers to bridge the dialect gap is to use something called the white

  • Dialect which is a more formal version of dialectal speech that uses features that are common to most of the different dialects

  • But it leaves out features that are limited to specific dialects

  • this is essentially a modern arabic coin a sowhat's arabic like

  • Let's take a look at some features of Arabic focusing on Modern Standard Arabic

  • the Script the Arabic Script is written from right to left and

  • Consists of letters that imitate handwriting most letters join to the letter that comes after them however [a] few letters remain disjoint

  • the letters that join have two forms one short form at the beginning or in the middle of words and

  • Another long form at the end of words or when the letter is by itself

  • The Arabic Script is an abjad meaning that each letter represents a consonant

  • And that short vowels are not really and that long vowels and diphthongs can be ambiguous

  • How can we read Arabic without vowels well can you read this?

  • Here the short vowels are not written and the others seem somewhat incomplete

  • But we have a hint about what the vowels are this is kind of like reading arabic

  • But arabic has more predictable vowel patterns than English so it's easier to guess

  • also

  • Arabic can be written with [hodduk] [ad] which are extra diacritic markings that indicate the short vowel sounds

  • These are generally only used in texts that are really important to pronounce perfectly like the quran or poetry or children's materials

  • Phonology, Arabic has a number of consonant sounds which are surprising or challenging for speakers of many other languages for example?

  • ha as in the word

  • Salines meaning golf

  • Then there's pause as in the word column pen this is like a [que] but pronounced further back in your throat

  • Then there's the letter ha like in the word par meaning hot

  • Wine some say [that] this is similar to the french r sound for example the word orifice meaning room

  • Arabic also has a number of in phatak consonants for example. There's scene

  • Which is like the regular s sound in English, but there is also [saab]

  • Which is an emphatic s as in the word [fuzzy] meaning small also notice the [sign] in the middle

  • To make this sound you have to keep your tongue close to the roof of your mouth if you want to try it

  • Position your mouth as though you are going to say a k and hold that position

  • Then make an s sound instead go ahead try it saw saw

  • There are three other emphatic consonants - an emphatic tall dog and Zhou?

  • Morphology

  • Arabic words are mostly constructed from three-letter roots or sometimes for and these letters are then inserted into templates

  • Consisting of a fixed vowel pattern and some structural

  • continents

  • if you know the root letters you can identify the core meaning of the word and

  • If you know the template you know what type of word it is

  • Let's take the root ha ha

  • [Jean] which means to go out or to exit and let's put it into this template we get the word maharaj

  • Which is the noun meaning exit like a door you exit through to?

  • This template indicates a place where the action of the route is done if we use the route [Dala] kah

  • Lam which means to come in we get led the hunt which means entrance

  • If we use the route cast that bear we get elected

  • meaning office

  • these kinds of recurring templates help you to know how to pronounce words even when the short vowels are not written if you see the

  • letter Meme followed by three route letters altogether with no long vowels you can guess [that] the word is in this template and

  • Pronounce it with too short a vowels

  • Verbs in Arabic are part of the same system of roots and templates the templates tell us the 10th

  • Person Gender and number of the verb and the Route Provides us the core meaning again

  • Let's take the route ha ha Jean and pop it into this template here

  • And we get hat Azzam, and we know what this means it's the past tense third [person] masculine singular conjugation

  • He exited

  • How does I mean Adam, [Edessa]?

  • This means he exited the school

  • Now put the root into this template how let's do this means I exited this Suffix here indicates past tense first person singular

  • [are] still me get elected?

  • this means I exited the office if

  • We put it into this template [yeah], so it means he exits. This is the present tense template

  • [yes], what was only elected this means he exits the office