The ability to comprehend the Arabic language and converse in it is considered by some to be one of many defining traits of the Arab people. Yes, this means--even if you've never lived in any Arab country, have no Arab heritage, and don't have a taste for the sound of an oud--but you hold fluency in the Arabic language, you may be considered an Arab. Double points if you are a Troper. [[OneOfUs Welcome]]!

With 220 million speakers, Arabic is one of the most spoken languages in the world. It is the official or a co-official language in 22 countries. It further holds prestige among the world's 1.6 billion Muslims, who revere it as the language of the holy text of Islam, the Koran. Linguistically speaking, it belongs to the Semitic subgroup of the Afro-Asiatic languages; Hebrew and Aramaic are also Semitic languages, while other non-Semitic Afro-Asiatic languages include Amharic[[note]]The official language of Ethiopia.[[/note]] Berber,[[note]]Spoken by pre-Arab North Africans, also called Tamazight[[/note]] and Ancient Egyptian.[[note]]whose daughter language Coptic survives as the liturgical language of the Egyptian Coptic Church[[/note]] Historically, Arabic was even more widespread than it is now, reaching into parts of Europe; Maltese, the language of Malta in the Mediterranean, is descended from the Arabic that was spoken there.

Generally speaking, English speakers will have a harder time of it learning Arabic than, say, French, but the same holds true in the opposite direction. Arabic contains a lot of unfamiliar phonemes[[note]]Especially the infamous '''ayn''[[/note]] and grammaticizes features English (and other Indo-European) speakers aren't usually used to paying attention to.

!Here-abic, There-abic...

Although usually considered a single language for political and cultural reasons, under typical linguistic analysis, "Arabic" is in fact not exactly a single language; depending on how you see it, it could also be seen as a language family consisting of many different languages, in a situation mirroring Latin and its Romance language derivatives. The annoying part, however, is that although the Arabic dialects are quite different from each other and from the standard, they are not nearly as heavily derived as the Romance languages, and many remain mutually intelligible (e.g.: Egyptians and Lebanese, especially ones from the cities, can usually understand each other quite well as long as they don't go into street slang--and of course, you could say the same about a New Yorker and a Glaswegian). The Arabic typically learned by foreigners is specifically Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), generally very similar to the Arabic of the Koran but with modifications to accommodate things like loanwords and technical terminology. However, while MSA is used in formal writing, politics, and diplomacy, no one speaks it as a native language, even if "Arabic" is the general native language of their country. After 1500 years of language change, spoken varieties of Arabic are now different languages entirely from the language of the Koran or MSA.

Arabic is usually grouped into these varieties:

* '''Classical''' or '''Koranic Arabic''' is (three guesses) the language of the Koran. It is also used in most documents and writings of the Islamic Golden Age; much like Latin in medieval Europe, it was the standard "codified" language of writing for most of the Middle East and North Africa until the Ottomans began to spread Turkish in its place. This stage of the language is very important for historians, as several groundbreaking scientific and mathematical documents are written in Classical Arabic, and there are some Ancient Greek works known only from their Arabic translations.
* '''Modern Standard Arabic''' (MSA) is derived from but closely modeled on Classical Arabic, with accommodations made for the modern world, but also with a small number of changes common to most vernacular varieties incorporated (e.g.: when listing items, MSA will use "A, B, and C" like the vernacular, rather than "A and B and C" like Classical Arabic). MSA is used mostly in politics, diplomacy, and formal writing, such as newspapers or academic publications. Popular entertainment like comics or TV shows, on the other hand, is typically done in the local spoken Arabic. However, children's media is often dubbed in MSA as well for educational purposes.
* '''Egyptian Arabic''', as its name suggests, is spoken in Egypt. Egypt is a hugely populous country, with more than 1 in 3 Arabic speakers being Egyptian (80 million out of 220 million Arabic speakers). Due to the exportation of Egyptian media to the rest of the Arabic speaking world, this is one of the most widely understood spoken varieties; until [[Franchise/DisneyFairies Secret of the Wings]], almost all Arabic dubs of Disney movies (safe for few direct-to-video movies) were dubbed into Egyptian Arabic (Secret of the Wings was dubbed into MSA, and all the following films (inclunding ''WesternAnimation/{{Brave}}'', ''Disney/{{WreckItRalph}}'' and even ''Disney/{{Frozen}}'') were and will be as well). For this reason, besides MSA, Egyptian Arabic is the most widely studied variety by foreign learners.[[note]]Fun fact: Arabic has the largest number of speakers of any Semitic language. If all varieties were taken as their own language, Egyptian would still have more than any other Semitic language.[[/note]]
** In Upper Egypt (which is actually the South), '''Sa'idi''' Arabic is spoken. This more conservative variety approaches Sudanese Arabic in many respects. However, Sa'idi Arabic carries little prestige in Egypt, and many young people shift away from it towards the Cairene Egyptian Arabic when they begin their professional lives.
* '''Sudanese Arabic''' is obviously the dialect of Sudan, both North and South. Apart from its marked Nubian influence, Sudanese Arabic is also notable for its conservative phonology; many sounds from Classical Arabic lost in all other varieties are retained only in Sudanese. That said, Sudanese Arabic has a marked similarity to Egyptian Arabic, particularly Sa`idi, in aspects other than phonology; this should come as no surprise, given that Sudan has been under some kind of Egyptian influence or other for a very long time, and when Sudan won its independence a not-insignificant chunk of the population wanted to join Egypt. Suffice it to say, virtually all Sudanese can understand Egyptian very easily, and Egyptians only need a little bit of adjustment to be able to understand Sudanese (although they will rarely be able to replicate it). Sudan is also notably home to one of the few Arabic creoles, called Nubi. This was the result of non-Arabic-speaking Africans being recruited into the Egyptian forces in Sudan, who were commanded and drilled in Arabic.
* '''Levantine Arabic''' is spoken in the Levant: Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, and Palestine. As the Levant was and is home to many other Semitic languages besides Arabic, many loanwords from those languages have entered it. Unusual in the fact that, while the variety varies considerably among rural populations, most cities throughout the entire region from Damascus to Beirut to Amman speak virtually the same. This urban Levantine dialect, especially the form spoken in Beirut, is famously sing-songy and is often considered a bit {{camp}} by other Arabs.
* '''Maghrebi Arabic''' is the variety spoken in western North Africa, i.e. the Maghreb, which is generally considered to include Morocco (and Western Sahara), Mauritania, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. The French domination of the region for several decades has led to French influence on this dialect being particularly strong. The French (and Italian, in Libya's case) influence is one of the several features of this variety that makes it famously incomprehensible to other Arabic speakers through the use of a very large number of French loanwords. As most of the region was inhabited by Berber speakers, Berber influence on the dialect is also quite marked, which shows up in loanwords but also the phonotactics (Berber allows more consonant clusters in more places than Standard Arabic, leading to Maghrebi Arabic "dropping" a lot of vowels and being "faster" than Eastern dialects. When Maghrebi speakers intentionally slow down their speech and add vowels they normally don't or only barely pronounce, the language barrier between them and Easterners lessens considerably). In the modern-day Maghreb, there is a strong movement for Berber revival nowadays, albeit mostly as a cultural preservation matter rather than an attempt to make it the primary language of administration and daily life.
* '''Saudi Arabic''' is the variety spoken in Saudi Arabia, which takes up most of the Arabian Peninsula. While Saudi Arabia is the original home of the language, Saudi Arabic is not the most conservative variety by a long shot. The vast expanses of desert and thence-coming isolation of various inhabited parts of the country has caused considerable dialectal differences within Saudi Arabic itself, such that "Saudi Arabic" is of questionable linguistic value; the most widely spoken dialects of Saudi Arabic are Hejazi (in the Red Sea coastal region of Hejaz west of and including the Hejaz Mountains) and Najdi (in the central Najd plateau). Settlement on the Saudi Gulf coast is relatively recent (being oil-driven) and that region has no clear dialect (the few people who lived there before the oil industry spoke Gulf Arabic and still do, but they have been overwhelmed by relative newcomers from Hejaz and Najd as well as other places, including not a few Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese, Egyptians, and Iraqis).
* '''Gulf Arabic''' is spoken around the rim of the Persian Gulf, and thus includes the coastal regions of Kuwait, Iraq, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Iran[[note]]Arabic speakers are a small (and marginalized) minority in Iran; most of the country speaks Persian, an Indo-European language[[/note]] and Oman.
* '''Mesopotamian Arabic''' is spoken in most of Iraq and parts of Syria, while spilling into parts of Turkey as well. Like Levantine Arabic, Mesopotamian Arabic has received much influence from older Semitic languages like Aramaic and Akkadian, the latter of which was the language of ancient Babylonia. Mesopotamian is divided into two major dialect groups, Gelet and Qeltu, which are named after the words for "I said." Interestingly, the moribund Cypriot Arabic, spoken on the European island of Cyprus, resembles most closely this variety, rather than the expected (given Cyprus' geography) Levantine or Egyptian.

!The Basic Root

One defining feature of the Semitic family of languages, and therefore also Arabic, is the consonant root system. Each root of usually 3 consonants has a specific meaning; vowels and non-root consonants are added to produce inflectional or extrapolated forms of the root. For example, the root ''k-t-b'' means "write"; '''''k'''a'''t'''a'''b'''a'' means "he wrote"; ''na'''kt'''u'''b'''u'' means "we write" or "we will write." This root system is why vowels can usually be safely eliminated in Arabic and other Semitic languages; virtually all known abjads (writing systems that transcribe consonants but not vowels) were developed to write Semitic languages--and most of those that weren't were developed for other Afro-Asiatic tongues (e.g. Ancient Egyptian writing, which worked as an abjad with logographic elements--a bit like how Japanese script is as a syllabary with logographic elements, really).

When explaining how the root system works one will usually use the triliteral root commonly transliterated as "F 3 L" (ف ع ل). Without any affixes these letters in this order (and remember: Arabic is written from right to left) as a noun mean "action" or "verb". As a verb they mean "to do"[[note]]They actually mean "he/it did" since Arabic doesn't have infinitives and this conjugation is the most basic.[[/note]]. Adding and changing vowels and affixes can change the nature of the word such as (the root is bolded):\\

* فِعْلٌ ('''f'''i'''3'''-'''l'''un): "action" or "doing" (The vowelization for this noun form varies unpredictably for other roots)
* تَفْعِيْلٌ (ta'''f'''-'''3'''ee'''l'''un): "the act of making another do something/ to do intensely"
* تَفاعُلٌ (ta'''f'''aa'''3'''u'''l'''un): "the act of doing something with somebody" or "to interact"

Outfitting different roots with the same noun form (also called وزن ''wazn'', or "measure") will yield similar changes in meaning. For example, "عون" ''`awn'' means "help" and "تعاون" ''ta`āwun'' means "cooperation". There are many more measures and every noun form follows (more-or-less) the same pattern of conjugation for the verb form.

!Arabic Script

Writing in Arabic is more similar to writing with the Roman alphabet than an English speaker might think at first. Outside of Arabic, the Arabic writing system is referred to as an ''abjad'' (أبجد) and functions very similarly to the Roman alphabet. Each phoneme has it's own letter and no letters have more than one phone (excluding ''alif''). What really gets beginners is the way letters are ''connected''.

The Arabic alphabet consists of 29 letters (or 28, [[BrokenBase as Arab grammarians are divided as to whether not ''hamza'' should be considered it's own letter or some kind of auxiliary symbol for an ''alif'']]). The Arabic alphabet is somewhat peculiar, however, because the letters are always "connected" in one way or another; as the Arabic alphabet is ultimately derived from a cursive form of the Aramaic alphabet (the non-cursive form of which is ancestral to the modern Hebrew alphabet), this should come as no surprise. The really strange thing, though, is that although all Arabic letters can connect to the letter before them, there are two classes of letters depending on their relation to letters after them:

* It '''cannot''' connect to the letter after it:
** أ, د, ذ, ر, ز, and و
* It '''can''' connect to the letter after it:
** ب, ت, ث, ج, ح, خ, س, ش, ص, ض, ط, ظ, ع, غ, ف, ق, ل, م, ن, ه, and ي

Upon learning which letters cannot connect and which can all you need to learn is how each letter is written depending on its position in a word and then plug them in as is appropriate. For the sake of brevity in this section that will not be shown on this page.

There a number of pairs of certain Arabic letters, such as س and ص and ت and ط, the only difference between them is one is an "emphatic" version of the sound (i.e. pronounced a little harder). Language purists will insist that these sounds are completely different. In practice, spoken at full speed even native Arabs will barely notice the difference, if at all.

Short vowels (and a symbol specifically to not have a vowel) are marked with diacritics. A small tick above a letter is a ''fat-ha'' (فتحة) and it indicates a short "eh" sound as in the word "bed". A small tick below a letter is a ''kasra'' (كسرة) and it indicates a short "ih" sound as in the word "sit". A small symbol that looks like a "و" that sits above a letter is a ''dhamma'' (ضمة) and indicates a small "u" sound as in the word "put". Dipthongs are created when placing a ''fat-ha'' before a "و" or a "ي" making an "oh" and "ey" sound, respectively.

'''In Everyday Writing'''

The kind of Arabic used in the Qur'an is known today as Classical Arabic and bears extreme resemblance to--and may even be considered identical to--the Formal Arabic of today. Only in religious texts or the Qur'an itself will one find diacritics being written. They are merely implied in text written for mundane things like a newspaper or a letter to a friend. This poses a problem for people who have learned how to read diacritics but don't have much vocabulary down, as the pronunciation will have to be inferred by the context of the word. That said, even mundane, mostly-diacritic-less texts may have some diacritics in places where even an experienced reader would be confused (e.g. where either of two otherwise identically-spelled words would make sense in context).

An interesting point that's being discovered as people start to write down dialects (for things like the Internet) is that if you use etymological spellings ('' la'' English and French) rather than phonetic ones, even dialect ends up looking remarkably like Standard.

'''Calligraphy'''

It is common to adorn covers of the Qur'an, household pictures, curtains, and anything else you would most definitely find when visiting the home of an Arab family with complex renderings of stock phrases such as "The Noble Qur'an", "In the name of God, Most Glorious, Most Merciful". Sometimes they are so complex they just look like [[AwesomeYetImpractical a bunch of illegible squiggly lines and dots]]. [[RuleOfCool It looks awesome, though]].

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