Tag Archives: arab

The Intricacies and Joys of Arabic

I ima­gine that most people with a passing interest in lin­guist­ics read Maciej CegÅ‚owski’s short essay in praise of the Arab­ic lan­guage when it was ‘redis­covered’ by pop­u­lar social net­works a few months ago.

As one who has stud­ied Arab­ic (albeit MSA and only for nine months or so), the essay brought back fond memor­ies of strug­gling to com­pre­hend the strange-yet-won­der­ful intric­a­cies of the Arab­ic lan­guage. Here are just a few the ways that Arab­ic “twists healthy minds”, accord­ing to CegÅ‚owski:

  • The Root/Pattern Sys­tem: Nearly all Arab­ic words con­sist of a three-con­son­ant root slot­ted into a pat­tern of vow­els and help­er con­son­ants.
  • Broken Plur­als: Most of the time to make a plur­al you have to change the struc­ture of the word quite dra­mat­ic­ally.
  • The Writ­ing Sys­tem: The Arab­ic writ­ing sys­tem is exot­ic look­ing but easy to learn, which is a rare com­bin­a­tion.
  • Dual: Arab­ic has a gram­mat­ic­al dual — a spe­cial form for talk­ing about two of some­thing.
  • The Fem­in­ine Plur­al: Form­al Arab­ic dis­tin­guishes between groups com­posed entirely of women and groups that con­tain one or more men.
  • Crazy Agree­ment Rules: e.g. [Maciej’s] abso­lute favor­ite is that all non-human plur­als are gram­mat­ic­ally fem­in­ine sin­gu­lar
  • Funky Num­bers: Ù© Ù¨ Ù§ Ù¦ Ù¥ Ù¤ Ù£ Ù¢ Ù¡ – The names of the num­bers come with truly ter­ri­fy­ing agree­ment rules, like “if the num­ber is great­er than three but less than elev­en, it must take the oppos­ite gender of the noun that it mod­i­fies”.
  • Diglos­sia: This is where it really helps to love lan­guage study.

Another Example of Middle-East Ignorance

Dunkin’ Donuts removes ‘ter­ror scarf’ ad – The US chain Dunkin’ Donuts has pulled an advert fol­low­ing com­plaints that the scarf worn by a celebrity chef offered sym­bol­ic sup­port for Islam­ic extrem­ism.

She was wear­ing a black-and-white checked scarf around her neck that resembled a tra­di­tion­al Arab kef­fi­yeh.

This fash­ion choice incensed at least one prom­in­ent con­ser­vat­ive blog­ger, who said it evoked extrem­ist videos.

The blog­ger called the gar­ment “a reg­u­lar adorn­ment of Muslim ter­ror­ists appear­ing in behead­ing and host­age-tak­ing videos”.

People really do need to get more edu­cated on these issues. Do the major­ity of people not real­ise that there is a dif­fer­ence between Arabs and Muslims – let alone Muslims and extrem­ists?

As a white middle class­er who has recently decided to learn Arab­ic, I get a lot of odd, angry stares when I (attempt to) talk to the loc­al Arab immig­rants. How­ever, I just ignore these ignor­ant people… just like Dunkin’ Donuts should have.

Edit: Here is the blog post from said “prom­in­ent con­ser­vat­ive blog­ger”. Watch out, it’s scary over there!