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!