Where is Arabic heading?

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Yasna
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Where is Arabic heading?

Postby Yasna » 2013-07-02, 20:36

Is Arabic's current diglossic situation going to continue indefinitely? Or alternatively, will dialects like Egyptian and Levantine eventually be raised to the status of written languages? Or might a "Middle Arabic" emerge, "based on the written standard, but stripped of much unnecessary complexity and including the most common dialectal features"*? Some other scenario? Share your thoughts.


*http://www.economist.com/blogs/johnson/2013/06/arabic
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Re: Where is Arabic heading?

Postby Meera » 2013-07-03, 2:31

To be honest I don't see the dialect situation getting better any time in the near future :( I could see dialects becoming more important.
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Re: Where is Arabic heading?

Postby mōdgethanc » 2013-07-03, 23:08

No language can maintain a diglossia that wide forever. Chinese, Japanese, the Romance languages and Greek are all proof of that.

At the moment the situation seems more or less stable because of the prestige of Classical Arabic (mostly due to religion, I think, but also culture and Pan-Arabism), but there is a minority viewpoint that writing in dialects should be encouraged and I see some limited contexts where they're accepted, like billboards. I think the most likely outcome will be (in the far future) like Latin where the spoken varieties displace the classical language and become recognized as languages of their own. It's possible that there could be a new written language that's a compromise between dialects, like the history of German, but I don't think this is likely because of the sheer size and diversity of the Arab world.

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Re: Where is Arabic heading?

Postby Meera » 2013-07-04, 0:42

mōdgethanc wrote:No language can maintain a diglossia that wide forever. Chinese, Japanese, the Romance languages and Greek are all proof of that.

At the moment the situation seems more or less stable because of the prestige of Classical Arabic (mostly due to religion, I think, but also culture and Pan-Arabism), but there is a minority viewpoint that writing in dialects should be encouraged and I see some limited contexts where they're accepted, like billboards. I think the most likely outcome will be (in the far future) like Latin where the spoken varieties displace the classical language and become recognized as languages of their own. It's possible that there could be a new written language that's a compromise between dialects, like the history of German, but I don't think this is likely because of the sheer size and diversity of the Arab world.


Yeah this is what I was thinking, MSA will become like latin and they will consider the actual dialects diffirent languages, with them all either writting in the Arabic script or the romanization they use online I don't know. I dont think it will unite because the dialects our all ready far apart and unlike Japan and China the Arab worl isn't one country.
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Re: Where is Arabic heading?

Postby mōdgethanc » 2013-07-04, 3:59

Yeah this is what I was thinking, MSA will become like latin and they will consider the actual dialects diffirent languages, with them all either writting in the Arabic script or the romanization they use online I don't know.
I think the Arabic alphabet, for cultural reasons and also linguistic ones. Romanized Arabic doesn't work well without using either a lot of diacritics or weird conventions like numbers for consonant sounds. And before anyone says it I know Maltese did it, but Maltese had also already lost most of the sounds that are distinctive to Arabic.
I dont think it will unite because the dialects our all ready far apart and unlike Japan and China the Arab worl isn't one country.
I was thinking of China, where they simply replaced Classical Chinese with the most widespread dialect (Mandarin) around the turn of the 20th century. But there isn't really an Arabic dialect that could do that, except maybe Egyptian, and then other countries might resent that theirs wasn't chosen. If the Arab world were a single country, then this Middle Arabic idea might work too. But Germany wasn't a single country when Hochdeutsch was standardized.

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Re: Where is Arabic heading?

Postby YngNghymru » 2013-07-05, 0:59

I think diglossia is pretty solid, to be honest with you. The other examples you've given are not particularly useful ones because their situation doesn't line up at all with Arabic's. Japanese and Greek were languages in one country with one highly prestigious spoken variety spread through education and so on and probably reasonable mutual comprehensibility between existing dialects, where top-down policy could favour one spoken form over all others. Chinese had major ideological reasons behind the imposition of Mandarin and again had a top-down administration that could forcibly impose the language on the whole population. Latin is arguably closer, but the growing prominence of the vernacular languages over Latin came again with a whole enormous package of ideological shifts to do with religious reform and incipient nationalism.

The Arab world, on the other hand, has a basically pretty hegemonic nationalism which far from threatening diglossia actually legitimates it. Not only that, other powerful ideologies in the Arab world - Islamism and pan-Islamism as well as religiously influenced conservatism - likewise back diglossia. Although future ideological shifts obviously can't be ruled out, at the moment I think the existence of quite highly differentiated registers looks pretty solid.

That said, what is happening and what I imagine will continue to happen is a threefold process of a) the slow growth of dialects towards one another, thanks to increased exposure to different dialects and the influence of Egyptian and to some extent Shami, b) the slow growth of dialects towards MSA, with education and exposure to mass media and so on meaning increased adoption of MSA features in dialects, and c) possibly the movement of MSA towards colloquials to some extent; this is happening in spontaneously produced MSA quite a lot, and may possibly with time result in these errors becoming standardised and acceptable (I'm thinking of things like the regularisation of defective nouns, the absence of written case marking, etc) through the usual organic process of language change.
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Re: Where is Arabic heading?

Postby Meera » 2013-07-05, 3:05

mōdgethanc wrote:
Yeah this is what I was thinking, MSA will become like latin and they will consider the actual dialects diffirent languages, with them all either writting in the Arabic script or the romanization they use online I don't know.
I think the Arabic alphabet, for cultural reasons and also linguistic ones. Romanized Arabic doesn't work well without using either a lot of diacritics or weird conventions like numbers for consonant sounds. And before anyone says it I know Maltese did it, but Maltese had also already lost most of the sounds that are distinctive to Arabic.


Yeah but a lot of Arabs write latin on the internet and in texts. I don't think all countries would lose the script, but maybe in countries liek Morroco since it already diffirs so much from other Arabic dialects. However they would need the script t read the Quran so I doubt it latin script would become standard, but it could be possible.
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Re: Where is Arabic heading?

Postby mōdgethanc » 2013-07-05, 3:34

When I say MSA will eventually be replaced by written dialects, I do mean eventually, as in hundreds of years from now. Diglossia does seem stable in the Arab world thanks to religion and ethnic nationalism, which I agreed with earlier, but the Arab world is changing fast. It only took a few hundred years for Europe to go from devoutly Christian to now mostly irreligious, and there are nationalist movements in some Arab countries. Maybe five hundred years from now Iraqis will insist on being called Iraqis who speak Iraqi instead of Arabs who speak Arabic.
Yeah but a lot of Arabs write latin on the internet and in texts. I don't think all countries would lose the script, but maybe in countries liek Morroco since it already diffirs so much from other Arabic dialects. However they would need the script t read the Quran so I doubt it latin script would become standard, but it could be possible.
They do but I think it's like Hindi in that they only use it out of convenience. Because it's so easy to type Chinese and Japanese using an IME, native speakers hardly ever need to resort to using romanization. I also don't think Latin script is a better fit for Moroccan Arabic than the Arabic alphabet is. Even Berber script would be better.

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Re: Where is Arabic heading?

Postby Zireael » 2013-07-06, 9:09

Yeah but a lot of Arabs write latin on the internet and in texts. I don't think all countries would lose the script, but maybe in countries liek Morroco since it already diffirs so much from other Arabic dialects. However they would need the script t read the Quran so I doubt it latin script would become standard, but it could be possible.


I've noticed my Tunisian friend uses Latin script only, even when I write to her in Arabic script.

They do but I think it's like Hindi in that they only use it out of convenience. Because it's so easy to type Chinese and Japanese using an IME, native speakers hardly ever need to resort to using romanization. I also don't think Latin script is a better fit for Moroccan Arabic than the Arabic alphabet is. Even Berber script would be better.


My Arabic-speaking friends tell me that it's because many sites have problems with inputting or outputting Arabic script.
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Re: Where is Arabic heading?

Postby Evokee » 2015-05-31, 15:19

I've done it for too short to have my one opinion, but people tell me dialects are winning ground.

Hopefully MSA will die out pretty soon. :)

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Re: Where is Arabic heading?

Postby הענט » 2015-05-31, 16:44

Evokee wrote:I've done it for too short to have my one opinion, but people tell me dialects are winning ground.

Hopefully MSA will die out pretty soon. :)


Why? MSA is cool. :D

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Re: Where is Arabic heading?

Postby n8an » 2015-06-28, 14:54

The big issue is that some countries have always had issues with MSA (Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia). Lebanon had a huge civil war about whether it's an Arab country or not, and still French and English are FAR more important than Arabic there...except for the Lebanese dialect, which is the most important language there. Morocco has fought long and hard with MSA, and in the most recent reforms, Berber was recognised as a co-official language. So many people can't speak MSA in the Middle East, that even if they can understand it, they won't be able to correctly speak it. Nor do they really want to.

Another equally big issue is the fact that English is gaining so much ground in the Middle East. In the traditionally religious Arab areas like the Gulf, kids these days speak better English than Arabic by far...even better than their local dialects sometimes. Some Bahraini, Emirati and Kuwaiti kids are so good at English that they prefer writing in English by a billion percent. The parents are fine with this most of the time because university education and certainly work is mostly in English in the Gulf. The same goes for Lebanon and Egypt, whilst morocco and Algeria are close too but with English and French together (and Berber languages too).

I really don't think MSA has a big future as a spoken language, because it doesn't really have a past or present either. It will stick around as an official language for a while but pan-Arabism's failure and people's interests in their pre-Arabic history plus focus on English-led future is eroding the need for MSA.

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Re: Where is Arabic heading?

Postby morinkhuur » 2015-12-03, 11:17

n8an wrote:Lebanon had a huge civil war about whether it's an Arab country or not, and still French and English are FAR more important than Arabic there...except for the Lebanese dialect, which is the most important language there.


The real issue in the Lebanese civil wars were power struggles between rivalling ethnoreligious groups. Some Lebanese Christians and secularists reject an Arab identity for Lebanon but that is only because they want to distinguish and disassociate themselves from Muslim Arabs and it is not the actual source of the conflict. I really doubt that French or English are more important than Arabic for anyone in Lebanon other than well-educated Christians, MSA is still the language of writing and people watch and understand MSA news all over the Arab World.

n8an wrote:Morocco has fought long and hard with MSA, and in the most recent reforms, Berber was recognised as a co-official language.

I wouldn't really say that Morocco has struggled with MSA, but it's true that high illiteracy in Morocco is probably in part due to writing being mostly MSA which is too different from the local dialect to acquire easily. The recognition of Berber as official on the other hand probably doesn't have much to do with this. It's mostly a symbolic gesture since there is more than one Berber language in Morocco anyways and most Berber speakers do not know how to read the Neo-Tifinagh script that was instated as official. There is no way Berber could ever replace MSA in Morocco, much less the local dialect.

n8an wrote:I really don't think MSA has a big future as a spoken language, because it doesn't really have a past or present either.

This is true, it is almost never spoken in daily conversation, but with religious movements coming to the forefront in politics and overregional media in MSA, I am sure it will remain important for quite a while in official, political and religious contexts where people will also continue to use it in its spoken form. One area where I could possibly see it being phased out in the near future is as a medium for literature. There already is a lot of vernacular literature around and I expect that trend will continue because people will have a more difficult time connecting to stories written in the formal MSA style.

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Re: Where is Arabic heading?

Postby Surtalnar » 2015-12-22, 23:55

Here in Germany, Arabic is nowadays more popular than French or Spanish. And the teaching is in MSA. I do not think that Arabic will die out, only if human die out. :lol:

Also, on aworldwide perspective, Arabic's future looks good. In North Africa it replaces French and Tamazight more and more. Its future looks much better than French's.

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Re: Where is Arabic heading?

Postby Meera » 2016-01-28, 2:45

Surtalnar wrote:Here in Germany, Arabic is nowadays more popular than French or Spanish. And the teaching is in MSA. I do not think that Arabic will die out, only if human die out. :lol:

Also, on aworldwide perspective, Arabic's future looks good. In North Africa it replaces French and Tamazight more and more. Its future looks much better than French's.


You have a point, but we are talking about MSA not the Arabic dialects. In North Africa if Arabic replaces French it will most likely be the Maghrebi dialect that takes over not MSA. When you talk to Egyptians in MSA after one or two sentences they switch to their dialect. I think the dialects will not die out but I think MSA might. However I will add Arabs tend to have a lot of respect for MSA and consider it the best form of Arabic. The belive it is "real" Arabic and that the dialects are "slang."
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Re: Where is Arabic heading?

Postby Surtalnar » 2016-02-11, 12:47

Meera wrote:You have a point, but we are talking about MSA not the Arabic dialects. In North Africa if Arabic replaces French it will most likely be the Maghrebi dialect that takes over not MSA. When you talk to Egyptians in MSA after one or two sentences they switch to their dialect. I think the dialects will not die out but I think MSA might. However I will add Arabs tend to have a lot of respect for MSA and consider it the best form of Arabic. The belive it is "real" Arabic and that the dialects are "slang."

If we look 50 or 100 years ago, most Arab countries were colonized. The colonial language (French, English) were the authoritative languages in these countries. Also the population was comparatively low - e.g. Egypt had in 1960 28 mio. people, now it has 90 mio. people. So nowadays we have a massive increase of Arabic speakers and also a more Arabized population.

But, yes, I agree with you in the point that in oral speech dialects are the prevalent form of speech. But we have to look into the question how dialects develop. Then we see, they develop mostly if there is only a few contact between the speakers from different areas. So 100 years ago it was nearly impossible for an Iraqi Arab to see a Mauritanian Arab. Now the world is globalized. Through internet, mass media and flights the contact between the Arabic area has increased, and with it those Arabic people have to find an intermediate way to speak - so there is a trend that dialects could drift to MSA.

Also the writing language is still Standard Arabic. All books they read, all websites, all government texts and software they use in Arabic is in Standard Arabic. There is no dialect - so with increasing globalization Arabs are more and more used to Standard Arabic. The biggest problem with the Arabic language is that many Arabs read books in English or French, use software and websites in English or French. But in the last years more and more medial content got available in Arabic (if you look 10 years ago there was nearly no content in Arabic in the internet), so the use of Arabic increased. And if more Arabs use MSA in medias instead of French/English, they become more used to the standard form of Arabic.

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Re: Where is Arabic heading?

Postby Meera » 2016-02-11, 17:09

Yes the dialects will increase, however with the example of North Africa, the dialect will take over not MSA and people who learn MSA can't understand the Maghreb dialects at all (neither can most other Arabs). The Arabic dialects are very very different from MSA, MSA is like latin to them and MSA will probably become more increasingly like how latin was to the romance languages, which the dialects will start to be considered their own languages (they already should be considered that). The only Arabs I know with an extremely good command of MSA re in the Gulf region and people who are highly highly educated, if you spoke in MSA to a person in Beirut or Cairo on the street they'd most likely answer you in their dialect. People who study Arabic often don't know the dialect situation when first going into it. I think in a hundred or more years down the road MSA will be a dead language and that will have only importance for certain texts.
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Re: Where is Arabic heading?

Postby Surtalnar » 2016-02-12, 1:16

I do not agree with you that dialect use is increasing. Through globalization, internet and media there is a return to Standard Arabic.

The situation within the Neo-Latin languages was different. The Arab conquest of North Africa is now 1300 years ago. There is no governmental or popular power in the Arab world that want to split up and dialectalize their language. In the Romance part of Europe this was different - people wanted to abandon Latin and speak the languages evolved from it. The Qur'an is the strong power which hold those countries together.

I think in a hundred or more years down the road MSA will be a dead language and that will have only importance for certain texts.

That ship has sailed. E.g. in Tunisia, Arabic got nearly completely replaced by French, now there is a comeback to Arabic. 50 years ago, most people spoke Tunisian Arabic, but all people wrote in French.. Now most people still speak Tunisian Arabic, but more and more is written in Modern Standard Arabic, which also reflects back to the oral language.

Let's take a look at Germany, France or many other European countries. 100 years ago there where hundreds of dialects in Germany, most were not mutually intellegible. So, if you go some villages further you would not understand the language, because it is different. Now dialects are completely killed here. There are some small accental differences, but if you listen to those a while you will understand them. That's because of globalization and increased migration. I am sure the same will happen in Arabic countries, maybe not so extensive as in Europe, but I am sure it will happen.


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