Welcome to Arabic

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Leslie McLoughlin
University of Exeter
WELCOME TO
ARABIC!!
‫تعلموا‬
‫ وتزيد في المروءة‬،‫ فإنها تثبت القلوب‬،‫اللغة العربية‬
Abu Muslim Al-Basri,quoting the Caliph Umar,7th century AD
“Learn the Arabic language since it gives hearts endurance and increases
[manly] virtue.”
Wisdom has alighted on three
things:the brain of the Franks,the
hands of the Chinese and the tongue
of the Arabs
(P.K.Hitti,History of the Arabs,10th
ed.,p. 91)
The beauty of man lies in the
eloquence of his tongue……..
Arabic-speaking countries
Arabic and Islam
In the name of the Most Compassionate,
the Most Merciful
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The Arab League:22 states
Arabic in the Modern World
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Arabic is spoken as the first or second language by some 325 million people
Modern Written Arabic is the direct descendant of Classical Arabic,of which the
first model was the Holy Koran: both versions use practically the same
grammar,vocabulary and writing system
Arabic is one of the 6 working languages of the United Nations
Written Arabic is uniform in all countries of the Arab League
The language of radio and television is simply the spoken form of Written Arabic
This media language is sometimes called Modern Standard Arabic and is also used
widely in teaching in schools and universities
It can be used conversationally between Arabs from widely separated areas,for
instance between a Moroccan and a Kuwaiti
Spoken Standard Arabic can also be of use for non-Arabs coming to an area whose
dialect is unfamiliar to them
Arabs normally speak the dialect they grew up with and have no complexes such as
are found in British English (Think of “My Fair Lady”,Pygmalion and Professor
Higgins…..)
Dialect or colloquial Arabic is never written ,except for comic effect.
Arabic at Exeter
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You will become familiar with
Classical Arabic
Modern Written Arabic
Standard Spoken Arabic
One or more dialects
The Year Abroad is spent in one of several
dialect areas,e.g. Syria,Egypt,Yemen
All you need to know about Arabic
before you start
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Arabic is a Semitic language,i.e. of the family of Hebrew and Aramaic but
not of the same familiy as Farsi,Turkish or Kurdish
The main feature of Semitic languages is the 3-letter root system: i.e. s-l-m
means “peace” in Arabic (salaam) and sh-l-m means “peace” in
Hebrew(shalom)
Arabic’s main feature is the root-and-pattern system where a pattern is
imposed on the basic root: thus sa/ll/ama means : “to say “Peace” to
someone”
Patterns have a predictable meaning:the pattern /aa-/i means “the person
doing the action”.And so..if k/t/b has to do with “writing”, k/aa/ti/b must
mean: “author,writer,scribe,clerk manuensis,writer,notary,scrivener” etc.
This also shows that Arabic is very economical in its vocabulary
You will find that your Arabic vocabulary will grow very rapidly once you
understand the root-and-pattern system
The grammar of Arabic is based on logic ,economy and consistency
All of the above applies to both spoken and written Arabic
So….why does everyone think that
Arabic is uniquely difficult?
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Arabic is entirely surrounded by myths
You must clear your mind of these before
starting
What are these myths?
Myths about Arabic
The script is impossibly difficult,like hieroglyphics.
Nonsense: it is a cursive alphabet of 28 letters,written right to left,which for many is
easier than left to right as it involves pushing the pen ,not pullling it.
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Arabic has too many exotic sounds,impossible for foreigners.
Garbage: there are only 2 or 3 which are not found in English and these can be learned
through imitation.
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Arabic has a terribly rich vocabulary,400 words for the camel,200 for the lion etc.
Rubbish: that is true only of ancient poetry.English vocabulary is in many ways much
richer.(Remember “writer,scribe etc.” in Slide 9
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Arabic grammar is fiendishly complicated.
Piffle: its verb system is far easier than English.Just two tenses – past and non-past.
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You will now learn how to count in Arabic and how to write Arabic.
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