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The Arabic Language

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A website for K-12 educators featuring innovative resource on the culture, geography, history and religions of the Middle East, including essays, classroom activities, downloadable multimedia content and interactive Google Earth tours.


Readings

This section contains full-text readings from a variety of sources. Many of these texts have never been offered online before. They represent a range of scholarly views and interests, and are intended to offer a more in-depth view of selected topics covered in this module. Please be aware that these texts may not be reproduced in any way without the express permission of the original copyright holder, as indicated at the head of each reading.

The readings listed in grey are currently unavailable, as we work toward renewing copyright permission from the publishers.

  • Introduction to Sacred Language Ordinary People
    Niloofar Haeri

    This is the introduction to a book dealing with the use of "Classical Arabic" and "Dialectal Arabic" and the registers in between in Egypt. Written by an anthropologist, the book examines the role that language plays in culture, politics, religions and the general organization of Egyptian society. However, it also serves as excellent background for understanding these issues with respect to all Arab societies. The author explores the notion of a sacred language in Islam, both in Arab countries and in the broader Islamic world. She then discusses the relationship between Classical Arabic and Egyptian Arabic and attempts to "modernize" the language, with comparative references to other languages. She then historicizes attitudes toward these issues in Egypt. Finally, the author presents an outline of the rest of the book. Though this last section is intended to present the organization of the book, it is also quite useful in introducing some of the most important issues in Arab cultural and social identity, given the centrality of language to those issues.

  • Nationalism and the Arabic Language: A Historical Overview
    Yasir Suleiman

    In this essay Yasir Suleiman offers a brief historical survey of the ideology of Arab Nationalism in relation to the question of language, beginning with the response to the "Turkification" processes initiated in Arabic speaking countries by the Ottomans and ending with the challenge posed by pan-Islamist tendencies at work today. The essay is an excellent introduction the role played by language in in Arab politics and social identity.

  • Excerpt from "Nawda" (in Arabic)
    Abdelhaq Lebied

    Excerpt from Nawda from the Ethnicity and Identity unit for use in the comprehension excercises below.

  • Comprehension Excercies on Nawda
    Rachid Aadnani

    Comprehension excercises on the the above Excerpt from "Nawda".

  • Comprehension Excercies on Nawda
    Rachid Aadnani

    Comprehension excercises on the the above Excerpt from "Nawda".

  • Arabic in the Pre-Islamic Period
    Kees Versteegh

    This chapter deals with the linguistic situation in the Arabian Penninsula before the time of the Prophet. For the most part, the Arabs were a pre-literate society, though not entirely. Poetry was extremely important and there was little standardization of the language, even within this small area.

  • The Development of Classical Arabic
    Kees Versteegh

    This chapter deals with the standardization of Arabic and the evolution of Arab society into a literate society where the written word had preeminence. Discussed in this chapter are the development of an orthographic system, the standardization grammar, and importance of sacred text and pre-Islamic sources in the process. Also discussed is the official status of the language.

  • The Emergence of Modern Standard Arabic
    Kees Versteegh

    Modern Standard Arabic is based in the classical, but it has developed in a manner that allows Arabs today to communicate across dialects. This chapter traces the development of the language from the 19th century to the present.

  • Dialects of Arabic
    Kees Versteegh

    This chapter discusses the status of the Arabic dialects in the world today.

  • Arabic Tradition
    Mona Baker

    This article discusses the role of translation in Arab society throughout history. It is often argued that the Greco-Roman heritage of Western civilization was preserved and developed during the medieval era through the filter of Arabic, which is one of the topics discussed in this passage. Also discussed is the manner in which translation has contributed to the development of the Arabic intellectual and artistic tradition, as well as the Arabic language, itself. The role of non-Arab populations in this process is also highlighted in this article. The section ends with brief biographies of three of the most historically important translators of the Arabic tradition.




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