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Thread: Arabic is the best-preserved model of the Semitic languages

  1. #41
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    Re: Arabic is the best-preserved model of the Semitic languages

    Quote Originally Posted by Youngfun View Post
    I could argue that Modern Standard Arabic is a sort of artificial language made intentionally more similar with Classical Arabic, and thus more similar with the ancient Proto-Semitic language.
    While the "natural" Arabics that people speak - Gulf Arabic, Lebanese Arabic, Egyptian Arabic, Algerian Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, etc. - have all diverged much more from Classical Arabic, and thus from Proto-Semitic language.
    You could, but even if we look at all other Semitic languages at the time Classical Arabic was frozen, it was still worlds apart from them in terms of archaic retentions, except for maybe Old South Arabian.

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    Re: Arabic is the best-preserved model of the Semitic languages

    Quote Originally Posted by Abu Rashid View Post
    I still do find it strange though that Biblical Hebrew & Modern Hebrew are considered part of the same language continuum, as are the oldest attestations of Aramaic with the neo-Aramaic languages, whilst Modern Arabic and Old North Arabian are not.
    That is just a matter of naming convention, not of substance.

  3. #43
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    Re: Arabic is the best-preserved model of the Semitic languages

    Quote Originally Posted by berndf View Post
    That is just a matter of naming convention, not of substance.
    I cannot compare to Arabic, yet convinced that Biblical Hebrew and Modern Hebrew are the same language with some different preferences in regard to vocabulary and grammar. Biblical-style Written texts are perhaps >95% intelligible by most educated people. Even sister Canaanite languages can be understood (in writing), not fully though, by Modern Hebrew speakers provided that punctuation (nikkud) or matres lectionis are added. I guess that the sounds are different enough to break the mutual understanding. Even listening to Modern Jewish Yemenite old guys speaking Hebrew - is a great challenge.

    Look at the first sentences of the Mesha Stele:

    אנכי מישע בן כמוש מלך מואב הדיבוני. אבי מלך על מואב שלשין שת ואנכי מלכתי אחר אבי ואעש הבמות זאת לכמוש בקרחה ... כי הושיעני מכל המלכין וכי הראני בכל שונאי עומרי מלך ישראל ויענו את מואב ימים רבים כי ינאף כמוש בארצו ויחליפה.


    Pick a Hebrew speaker in the street and he'll understand, with some doubt on the bold letters.
    Last edited by origumi; 31st December 2012 at 6:53 PM.

  4. #44
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    Re: Arabic is the best-preserved model of the Semitic languages

    I also understand Bavarian and in most cases I wouldn't differentiate between German and Bavarian. But when I am analyzing characteristics where the two differ (e.g. Bavarian doesn't have a simple past and the present perfect has absorbed all of its uses while Standard German differentiates between the two), I would of course regard German and Bavarian as different languages. If you call Biblical Hebrew and Modern Israeli Hebrew as two development states of one language or whether you call the one a predecessor language or the other (you could call modern Hebrew "Israeli", like you call Italian "Italian" and not "Modern Latin") is a factually and conceptually insignificant terminological convention; much like it is linguistically completely irrelevant, whether you talk of a Serb-Croatian language with a Serbian and a Croatian dialect of of a Serbian and a Croatian language. The difference between language and dialect is political and/or cultural and not linguistic.

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    Re: Arabic is the best-preserved model of the Semitic languages

    The situation here is different. Almost every component of good Biblical Hebrew is regarded as good Modern Hebrew, high-register though. In this sense, the attested Biblical language is a subset of the modern language. Many of the exceptions were most likely regarded as archaisms even in Biblical times. I guess it would be considered as "incorrect language" to imitate Bavarian while speaking German. It's absolutely "correct" and usually beautiful to take words, sentences, idioms, grammatical structures from the Bible when writing or speaking Hebrew to audience. The old language is very much alive for the Modern Hebrew speaker.

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    Re: Arabic is the best-preserved model of the Semitic languages

    Quote Originally Posted by origumi View Post
    The old language is very much alive for the Modern Hebrew speaker.
    Nevertheless they are different languages. In the Vatican, e.g. both Italian and Latin are "much alive"; that is no reason to call them the same language.
    Quote Originally Posted by origumi View Post
    It's absolutely "correct" and usually beautiful to take words, sentences, idioms, grammatical structures from the Bible when writing or speaking Hebrew to audience.
    We also use Latin quotes in modern European languages. That doesn't make them the same as Latin. And your comment underlines what I said: The difference between dialect and language is a cultural and political distinction.

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    Re: Arabic is the best-preserved model of the Semitic languages

    Is the point not so much that Modern Hebrew is a continuation of Ancient Hebrew (as Italian can be said to be a continuation of Latin) but rather that it is Ancient Hebrew* revived some two thousand years after it stopped being spoken? In other words is it not more like the Latin used in the Vatican, that is essentially the language used in Rome two thousand years ago but modified so as to be useful in the modern world, rather than Italian?

    *or some variety of Ancient Hebrew as it must have changed over the centuries in antiquity

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    Re: Arabic is the best-preserved model of the Semitic languages

    Anyway my point simply was that if we can accept Hebrew had 3 sibilants in a recorded stage of the language, then we can accept the same for Arabic. Undoubtedly all Semitic languages descend from a form which had 3 sibilants anyway, so the only point to really make is whether or not such a form was ever attested. For both Hebrew & Arabic, yes there are older forms of these languages which are attested with 3 separate sibilants. Whether we want to consider those forms of those languages as different languages or earlier stages of the same language is really a moot point.

    I think also it's worth noting that Arabic & Aramaic are almost like sub-families themselves anyway. There are enough varied "variaties" of both languages to warrant considering them to be sub-families IMHO. There's about as much variance between dialects/stages of Arabic as there is amongst Canaanite languages.

  9. #49
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    Re: Arabic is the best-preserved model of the Semitic languages

    Quote Originally Posted by Hulalessar View Post
    Is the point not so much that Modern Hebrew is a continuation of Ancient Hebrew (as Italian can be said to be a continuation of Latin) but rather that it is Ancient Hebrew* revived some two thousand years after it stopped being spoken? In other words is it not more like the Latin used in the Vatican, that is essentially the language used in Rome two thousand years ago but modified so as to be useful in the modern world, rather than Italian?

    *or some variety of Ancient Hebrew as it must have changed over the centuries in antiquity
    Indeed it has. I think one can even claim that Mishnaic Hebrew (early AD) is closer to modern Hebrew than to Biblical Hebrew.

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    Re: Arabic is the best-preserved model of the Semitic languages

    Quote Originally Posted by tFighterPilot View Post
    Indeed it has. I think one can even claim that Mishnaic Hebrew (early AD) is closer to modern Hebrew than to Biblical Hebrew.
    But then Modern Hebrew is not closer to Mishnaic Hebrew than it is to Biblical Hebrew. Also, some claim that the term Mishnaic Hebrew is misleading, this is a dialect that existed already in Biblical times, in parallel to the "official" Biblical Hebrew (Prof. Haim Rabin et al., see Wikipedia for עברית משנאית).

    We are far off-topic. Maybe the moderators would consider splitting the Hebrew discussion to a new thread.

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    Re: Arabic is the best-preserved model of the Semitic languages

    Quote Originally Posted by berndf View Post
    We also use Latin quotes in modern European languages. That doesn't make them the same as Latin. And your comment underlines what I said: The difference between dialect and language is a cultural and political distinction.
    In modern European languages you can only use some famous crystallized Latin words/expressions or even sayings, such as ergo, alter ego, de gustibus non est dispuntandum, etc.
    I don't know the situation in Modern Standard Arabic, but in Modern Chinese you can also take "words, sentences, idioms, grammatical structures" from Classical Chinese, when speaking/writing in high register. Not only fixed expressions, but also formulate new sentences as if you were speaking/writing Classical Chinese.
    Even something like "What's X? It's ..." could be phrased using Classical Chinese grammar.

    And... as a New Year joke I don't have any problem calling French language "French Latin", Spanish language "Spanish Latin", and Italian language "MSL" (Modern Standard Latin).
    Of course, in that case I would expect Frenchmen and Spaniards to use MSL in writing and in formal speeches.
    Last edited by Youngfun; 1st January 2013 at 2:41 PM.
    "Ĉokolado". Do you know how to say "chócoleit" in "Espanis"?

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    Re: Arabic is the best-preserved model of the Semitic languages

    Quote Originally Posted by Youngfun View Post
    I don't know the situation in Modern Standard Arabic,
    MSA is effectively the classical language. When people say Modern Standard Arabic, they often mean colloquial Arabic (confusing modern with colloquial). Arabic is probably quite different from all these languages in this respect, because the classical language is still in everyday use alongside the vernacular.

    Whilst most Europeans never speak, nor understand, Latin except the higher levels of clergy and some academics, all Arabs who attend school learn the classical language. Pretty much all mainstream media is also produced in the classical language and most religious activities are also conducted in it.

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    Re: Arabic is the best-preserved model of the Semitic languages

    Well... maybe MSA is closer to Classical Arabic than the colloquial Arabics, but I've heard it's still different from the Classical Arabic, for example of the Kuran.
    "Ĉokolado". Do you know how to say "chócoleit" in "Espanis"?

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    Re: Arabic is the best-preserved model of the Semitic languages

    Quote Originally Posted by Abu Rashid View Post
    MSA is effectively the classical language. When people say Modern Standard Arabic, they often mean colloquial Arabic (confusing modern with colloquial). Arabic is probably quite different from all these languages in this respect, because the classical language is still in everyday use alongside the vernacular.

    Whilst most Europeans never speak, nor understand, Latin except the higher levels of clergy and some academics, all Arabs who attend school learn the classical language. Pretty much all mainstream media is also produced in the classical language and most religious activities are also conducted in it.

    Is this true for all classes of society? I know anecdotal evidence doesn't mean much, but I've heard a story about a Bosnian speaking MSA/Classical Arabic to a taxi driver in an Arab country (I think it was Jordan), and the driver continuously answering "sadaqa Allahu 'l-Azim" (or whatever is the proper English transliteration); i.e. it implies that he didn't understand and thought that this Bosnian was simply quoting from the Qur'an.
    Last edited by DenisBiH; 1st January 2013 at 5:06 PM.

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    Re: Arabic is the best-preserved model of the Semitic languages

    Quote Originally Posted by DenisBiH View Post
    Is this true for all classes of society? I know anecdotal evidence doesn't mean much, but I've heard a story about a Bosnian speaking MSA/Classical Arabic to a taxi driver in an Arab country (I think it was Jordan), and the driver continuously answering "sadaqa Allahu 'l-Azim" (or whatever is the proper English transliteration); i.e. it implies that he didn't understand and thought that this Bosnian was simply quoting from the Qur'an.
    I believe it applies pretty much to all classes of society, even the uneducated, because of the wide use of Fuṣḥa Arabic.
    Then there's the problem of pronunciation and prosody which makes non-natives speaking Arabic (Fuṣḥa or colloquial) difficult to understand at times.


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    Re: Arabic is the best-preserved model of the Semitic languages

    Quote Originally Posted by Youngfun View Post
    Well... maybe MSA is closer to Classical Arabic than the colloquial Arabics, but I've heard it's still different from the Classical Arabic, for example of the Kuran.
    Arabs themselves do not even make a distinction, they consider both to be the same thing (fus-ha). Linguists cite stylistic differences, and of course there's new vocabulary, but that's a constant addition to any language. For instance books that teach Qur'anic Arabic and those that teach MSA are one and the same (They are simply "Arabic" books). Whilst there are separate books for teaching various dialects.
    Last edited by Abu Rashid; 1st January 2013 at 9:28 PM.

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    Re: Arabic is the best-preserved model of the Semitic languages

    Quote Originally Posted by DenisBiH View Post
    Is this true for all classes of society? I know anecdotal evidence doesn't mean much, but I've heard a story about a Bosnian speaking MSA/Classical Arabic to a taxi driver in an Arab country (I think it was Jordan), and the driver continuously answering "sadaqa Allahu 'l-Azim" (or whatever is the proper English transliteration); i.e. it implies that he didn't understand and thought that this Bosnian was simply quoting from the Qur'an.
    As I said, anyone who has attended school.

    Although this sounds like a bit of an "interesting story" one might concoct to prove a point that they weren't able to communicate well with the locals, or perhaps the taxi driver was having a joke on him because he sounded archaic?

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    Re: Arabic is the best-preserved model of the Semitic languages

    Quote Originally Posted by fdb View Post
    Or preserved under the influence of a South Arabian substratum.
    The truth is, there is no evidence one way or the other. Although Datheenah is located deep in South Arabia, it was already inhabited by Arabic-speaking tribes in the pre-Islamic era, as far as I can tell. Al-Hamdani seems to have counted its inhabitants among the fuSahaa, in his assessment of the "quality" of the Arabic in various parts of Yemen.
    http://webcache.googleusercontent.co...&hl=en&ct=clnk
    Last edited by Wadi Hanifa; 1st January 2013 at 11:40 PM.

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    Re: Arabic is the best-preserved model of the Semitic languages

    Quote Originally Posted by Wadi Hanifa View Post
    Al-Hamadani
    al-Hamdānī بسكون الميم

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    Re: Arabic is the best-preserved model of the Semitic languages

    Quote Originally Posted by fdb View Post
    al-Hamdānī بسكون الميم
    صدقت، شكراً.

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