AWARE Articles

History of the Arabic language

09 Dec 2010


History of the Arabic Language


Arabic language is the mother tongue of about 160 million people around the globe. It is the language of the Arab world, comprising North African countries, the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle-East. Arabic is also spoken by large numbers of Muslims around the world. For it is the liturgical language of 600 million Muslims around the world.  Since its earliest appearance as an international language in the seventh century CE, it has been characterized as having two versions viz (1) standard classical Arabic, which is revered as the language of the Holy Qur'an, culture and education. (2) Colloquial Arabic, which serves as the mother tongue of most speakers and is the natural means of communication throughout society.


At the peak of the Arab conquests after the death of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the Arabic language was introduced together with Islam to a large part of the Levant and Near Eastern countries. Arabic language played a very big role as a language of literature and administration. However, Arabic language is different in many respects from other Western languages.


Arabic and non-Arabs: The contact between Arabic speakers and inhabitants of the conquered territories was a catalyst of restructuring of the Arabic language, which led to an opposition between standard classical Arabic and different dialects. In spite of the existence of some differences between classical and colloquial Arabic, there are still some sociolinguistic similarities and relationships between both in the contemporary Arabophone world.


Arabic in the middle ages: During the middle ages (8th – 13th centuries), Arabic speaking people were the bearers of the torch of civilization. Arabic was then the medium of communicating science and philosophy of Greece and other ancient civilizations. These civilizations were recovered, supplemented or transmitted in such a way that paved the way for the European Renaissance. 


The Importance of Arabic: The geopolitical importance of the Arab World is evident to everyone, especially nowadays. That is due to its oil wealth as well as its strategically important position between Eastern and Western hemispheres. It is thus a prominent source of international concern. Arabic is the language of the Qur'an and Sunnah (acts, sayings and approvals of Prophet Muhammad.) It is one of the official languages at the United Nations. So it cannot be ignored.

Is Arabic difficult? Unfortunately, the answer is "yes." Native speakers of English find learning Arabic a more daunting and taxiing task than learning Latin languages such as Spanish, German or French. However, it is certainly not impossible to learn; many Westerners have found it easy to learn as well as a challenging and rewarding experience. It is also a fun, especially if the approach is tailored towards quick progress in communication skills.


What kind of Arabic will you learn? It is very important for a prospected Arabic student to understand that there are two types of Arabic – classical and colloquial. The latter is spoken at home, on streets and in public casual gatherings but not written. The former is spoken in schools, colleges, universities, on radio and television, and is written in newspapers and books. This is the language that is recommended to Western potential students who may need to use it for literary purposes.


The Arabic Alphabet: Arabic has both vowels and consonants. However, the vowels are not actual letters. They are rather symbols that you can place on top of or below consonants to create certain sounds. As for consonants, Arabic has 28 different letters that form its alphabet. The Arabic alphabet consists also of diphthongs, which are, in essence, monosyllabic sounds that begin with one vowel and then slide into another. Arabic language has only two diphthong sounds used to distinguish between the "yaa"   (?) and the (?) "waaw".





Hasasan T. Bwambale

AWARE Education Manager




1-      Al-Sa'hib Fie Al-Lugha by Ahmed Sager

2-      Arabic Grammar Made Easy by Bilal Philips

3-      The Arabic Alphabet by Nocholas Awde

4-      The Connectors in Modern Arabic by Nariman Naili.

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