Examining the Future of the Arabic Language

Examining the Future of the Arabic Language

  • 13 February 2013

Nowadays, people adopt two conflicting attitudes regarding the fate of the Arabic language. The first group believes that the Arabic language is absolutely preserved just as the Holy Koran itself is preserved. They also believe that Arabic has unique features among all other languages; it is the vehicle that carries a long heritage stretching without interruption over 17 centuries; it is the language of communication in practice and out of necessity in the Arab world, from the Atlantic ocean to the Arabian Gulf; it is the foremost pillar for the Arab Nation, and the essence of its identity; and it is the main tool for self-realization among other nations.

The second group adopts an entirely different opinion. This group sees the Arabic language as decaying and that it will vanish within a few decades. The holders of this opinion expect Arabic to be confined to Islamic observance circles. What is noteworthy is that the Holy Koran promised preservation for the “Holy Verses” only. As for Arabic’s role as the language of heritage, this is another issue embraced by limited circles of individuals who are specialized in the Arabic language. Moreover, its influence on Arab identity is a changing and debatable issue, and this influence is regressing now in light of factional trends and the overwhelming use of colloquial dialects in TV satellite channels.

If we view the Arabic language in its current status, its presence in the media and its practice in the Arab world, we find that Arabic is used in varying levels and patterns, like a Tower of Babel, where many contradicting patterns intersect:
– Classical Arabic used in the Holy Koran, classical poetry and certain historical dramas, is considered as a pattern of the sacred and of heritage.
– Formal Arabic, which is used with some modification in news bulletins and documentaries, is considered as a pattern of Arabic expansion in the sphere of satellite TV channels.
– Incorrectly formal Arabic, which is a written form of Arabic (cannot be considered formal except when read or uttered) such as the translation of non-Arabic speaking programs and films, is viewed as a vehicle for depicting the Arabic written form.
– Semi-formal Arabic, developed by certain reporters for TV satellite channels trying to create vocabulary close to the level of the language used in news bulletins, is viewed as a pattern of occupational incentive and feasibility for the reporter.
– Middle Arabic, which is the spoken Arabic of educated people, and is a mixture of learned formal Arabic and acquired colloquial Arabic, and is viewed as a means for saving time and effort.
– Varying National Colloquial Dialects of Arabic, which are the oral forms of communication among the public and acquired instinctively and through use in extended Arabic TV drama series, are considered as a pattern of de-facto usage or regionalistic tendencies.
– Spoken Arabic Dialects, or the written disorganized forms such as written Arabic using Latin letters in advertising jargon, are considered as a means to serve a narrow interest or to attract the other party, and this reflects the absence of a language policy.
– Hybrid Dialects, mixing with English or French, as a means for pretension and imitation.
– Hybrid Dialects, mixing with Urdu, as a de-facto usage imposed by a pressing need for communication.

The fate of the Arabic language amid these varying and conflicting patterns and usage depends on the fragmenting of a set of values found in contradictory relations:
– The relation of Arabic with the sacred texts.
– The relation of Arabic with heritage.
– The relation of Arabic with identity.
– The relation of Arabic with education, economy, duality, science and globalization.
Ultimately its fate depends on cultural and economic debate around these issues.

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Wednesday 13 February 2013

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Wednesday 13 February 2013

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