The Lord’s Prayer in Arabic:
Arabic (300s- ) is the main language of North Africa, the Middle East and, according to the Prophet Muhammad, of Paradise. It is the language of the Koran. In 1974 it became one of the official languages of the United Nations. It is the largest language in Africa, the fourth largest in the world (after English, Mandarin Chinese and Hindi/Urdu).
- Speakers: 526 million (295m native)
- Countries: official in 27 – only English and French can claim more
- Script: Arabic (28 letters, runs right to left, vowels generally left out)
- Language family: Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family
Arabic is a close cousin of Hebrew, Phoenician, Amharic (Ethiopia), Akkadian (Babylonia), Punic (Carthage) and Aramaic (what Jesus spoke) and a distant cousin of Tuareg (Berber), Ancient Egyptian, Somali, Hausa, Oromo, etc.
Arabic spread from Arabia to North Africa and the Fertile Crescent from the 600s onwards by means of the Arab Empire. At first it was the language of religion and rule, then of the towns, then of most people.
Arabic was spoken in Spain from the 700s to the 1500s and in Sicily from at least the 900s to the 1100s. Maltese comes from Sicilian Arabic. So do the English words admiral, giraffe and mattress.
Written Arabic is called Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) or, in Arabic, the Most Eloquent Arabic. It is what you learn at school and see in books and newspapers. It is loosely based on the Classical Arabic of the Koran. Osama bin Laden used it in his speeches. You hear it sometimes on Al Jazeera. It is the most formal, educated level of Arabic. The Arabic you hear on the street is often considerably different.
The main dialects of spoken Arabic are almost separate languages. Some of the spoken Arabic west of Egypt, for example, is not understood in the Persian Gulf. Most people, though, know more than one form of Arabic and can code-switch as needed. The best understood spoken dialect is that of Egypt because of all the film, television and music it produces.
In the Persian Gulf people use pidgin Arabic with foreign workers.
Neighbouring languages have tons of words from Arabic, languages like Spanish, Portuguese, Persian, Kurdish, Turkish, Somali, Swahili and Hausa.
English has about 2,000 root words from Arabic, mainly by way of French, Italian, Spanish and Latin. Among them:
- 1200s: admiral, candy, syrup, sugar, mattress, elixir, scarlet, chess, cotton, lute, saffron
- 1300s: caliph, alchemy, Aldebaran, Algol, zenith, nadir, orange, azure, checkmate, rook (chess), amber, alkali, borax
- 1400s: lemon, spinach, jar (container), carat, crimson
- 1500s: mosque, emir, vizier, sultan, artichoke, apricot, arsenal, magazine, alcohol, algebra, Rigel, Betelgeuse, calibre, caliper, giraffe, assassin, gauze, lacquer, monsoon, sheikh, talc, tariff, Gibraltar
- 1600s: Muslim, minaret, Koran, coffee, alcove, sofa, algorithm, Vega, genie, zero, harem, sherbet, gazelle, guitar, lime (fruit), sequin, Sahara, Abyssinia, madrasah
- 1700s: fake, ghoul, carmine, cheque, tambourine, adobe, Allah
- 1800s: Islam, tangerine, so long, safari, alfalfa, tuna, wadi, burka, hijab
- 1900s: intifada