Semitic language and lingua franca of the Arab world
(Redirected from Arabic language)

Arabic is a Central Semitic language that was first spoken in Iron Age northwestern Arabia and is now the lingua franca of the Arab world.

Quotes edit

  • In classical Arabic and in the other classical languages of Islam there are no pairs of terms corresponding to lay and ecclesiastical, spiritual and temporal, secular and religious, because these pairs of words express a Christian dichotomy which has no equivalent in the world of Islam.
  • Around the year 700 al-Malik ordered that public servants across the Umayyad world should use one language only: Arabic. The commonest tongues used by the non-Arabs who made up the vast majority of the caliphate’s population were Greek and Persian. Al-Malik made no provision against people speaking them as they pleased—but he decreed that they could no longer do so while working for him. At a stroke, the Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians who had found gainful employment as scribes, middle managers, and government bureaucrats were faced with a stark choice. Unless they knew or very quickly learned Arabic, they were out of a job. This simple administrative change was in fact a moment of juddering cultural importance in the history of the Islamic world—for it ensured that there would be an Islamic world in perpetuity, rather than a short-lived federation of former Roman and Persian territories ruled over by a thin monotheistic elite. As we saw in chapter one, the Roman Empire in its pomp had been bound together over millions of square miles in part because Latin was a common language of cultural discourse as well as base communication. Al-Malik now set Arabic on a similar path. By enforcing its use of a universal tongue across the caliphate, he transformed it into a global language of record and inquiry.
    • Dan Jones, Powers and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages (2021).
  • Arabic became a lingua franca every bit as potent as Latin and Greek. As a result it was as useful to scholars as it was to civil servants. During the Middle Ages Arab scholars compiled, translated, and preserved hundreds of thousands of texts from across the classical world, and the Arab-speaking Islamic world inherited the Greek and Latin world’s position as the west’s most advanced intellectual and scientific society. This would not have been possible without al-Malik’s decision in the 690s to impose the Arabic language on the Umayyad caliphate’s bureaucrats. Yet this was not all. Arabic was more than a tool of bureaucracy and study. Unlike Latin, for example, Arabic was the language in which God himself had spoken. The Qur’an had been revealed to Muhammad in Arabic; it was preserved in Arabic; the first Muslims were Arabs who were by definition Arabic speakers; and the call to prayer (adhan) that had rung out from mosques ever since it was sung from the Ka‘ba when Muhammad captured Mecca in 630 was made in lilting, musical Arabic. It was impossible to imagine Islam without the language of its first people, and once that language became mandatory for all who wished to interact with the state, the faith did not follow too far behind. From the early eighth century, Arabization was gradually followed by conversion across the Muslim-held territories—a shift that can still be seen, felt, and heard in almost every part of the old medieval caliphate in the twenty-first century.*
    • Dan Jones, Powers and Thrones: A New History of the Middle Ages (2021).
  • I only write fiction in Arabic because this language is a witch—an amazing, funny, crazy, generous, and forgiving witch. It has allowed me everything. It is the space of the most intimate freedom I have ever experienced in my life.

External links edit

  •   Encyclopedic article on Arabic on Wikipedia