Discussion in 'English Only' started by andersxman, Mar 1, 2006.

  1. andersxman Senior Member

    what are the countries in the middle-east?

    Arabian countries? Arabic? or Arab countries?

    I just saw "arabic countries" used in a different forum, but don't you usually say "arab countries", or is it just me?
  2. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    In AE, we typically say "Arab countries". Your other question can be answered by research outside of this is not a language question.

  3. andersxman Senior Member

    Oh, by "what" I didn't mean "which" are the countries (..) I was trying to ask which adjective to use, not a list of countries. I'll go with "arab" then.
  4. DavyBCN Senior Member

    UK - English
    As the "Middle East" is generally considered to cover Israel and Turkey the area cannot be equated with Arab/Arabic/Arabian. I agree that this is much more than a language question. Arabic is spoken in North Africa as well as some Middle East countries and "Arab" is as much a cultural or even political question.
  5. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    As an Arab, I feel quite strongly about this. Let me tell you how I use and like those around me to use the terms. :) These may or may not be dictionary definitions!

    Use "Arabic" only when referring to the language. "Arabic culture" and "Arabic countries" sound awful to my ears. I might be able to stomach "Arabic music" because I can see a reference to the language - but generally, use "Arabic" only in phrases like "Arabic syntax," "Arabic grammar," "Arabic literature," etc.

    In all other modern adjectival instances, use "Arab": "Arab culture," "Arab countries," "Arab politics," "Arab hospitality," "Arab history," "Arab relations with the West," etc.

    Please do not use "Arabian" unless you are talking about horses, knights, or 1001 nights!!
  6. ElaineG

    ElaineG Senior Member

    Brooklyn NY

    What about the peninsula? I thought that was called the Arabian Peninsula.

    Apart from that, thanks for the very helpful outline!
  7. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Hmmm...seems like a reprise of the fifteen threads in which native Spanish speakers set out to tell English speakers how to use the word "American".

    Out of curiosity, what sounds wrong to you about "Arabic country" in contrast with "Arab country"?

    You say that Arabic literature sounds ok to you, yet Arabic culture does not. What's the rule or reason behind these heartfelt preferences?

    As I stated earlier, AE prefers 'Arab countries', but what is so offensive about the alternate adjective?
  8. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    You are right, Elaine. It is indeed Arabian Peninsula; I forgot about that one.

    Thanks for pointing that out! :)
  9. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    As I stated earlier, "Arabic" - to me - reminds me of the language. Thus I use it only with nouns that refer to the language.

    If the link between language and literature is not obvious to you, I don't know what I can do to explain it.

    I see nothing in my post indicating that I find "Arabic countries" offensive. I said it sounds awful to my ears, because to me "Arabic" is a language, not an adjective describing that which is Arab. It's like saying "Sanskrit countries." To my knowledge, Sanskrit is only a language.

    I was not trying to tell anyone how to use any word. I clearly stated that these were my preferences.
  10. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Well, there's more than a bit of emotion involved in our linguistic preferences.
  11. river Senior Member

    U.S. English
    One hears and reads the word "Arabic" widely used where the Arabic language is important, perhaps its grammar, structure, sounds, etc. "Arabic" can be used to define anything characteristic of Arabia or Arab people. Perhaps it's best to save "Arabic" for questions about language.
  12. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Granted. :) I do not claim that my background does not make me biased to a degree.

    American is, first and foremost, a nationality. It must have been on that basis that Mencken said "American language," which to me is an obvious reference to the American dialect. (In other words, we say "American language" based on "American pastime" and similar phrases, and not the other way around.) Such is not the case with "Arabic," whose primary definition is that of the language.

    Of course there's a link; nevertheless, you cannot have literature without language, regardless of the interplay between language and culture. Such is not the case with "politics" and "hospitality," which can be expressed in ways that transcend language.

    That may be so, but to my ears the distinction is obvious. I grew up in an English-speaking environment (at school) in which everybody - Americans and non-Americans alike - used "Arabic" and "Arab" the ways I do. Also, you can do a Google search for the phrases I mention above, and then those same phrases with the opposite adjective; the results are consistently in line with the distinction I make. Unless all the people I grew up around spoke an odd variety of English and the Google results are purely coincidental - I think there's something to be said about using "Arabic" to refer only to the language, and "Arab" for pretty much everything else. :)
  13. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Congratulations for 1000 nice contributions River.

    Your second and third sentences seem to exist in different realms. Would you explain how they are connected please?
  14. river Senior Member

    U.S. English
    Do I get a prize?

    Yes, my third sentence is odd. I had one eye on Elroy's posts and, well, I wasn't sure what to think.
  15. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    I think we all agree that the most common use of "Arabic" is as a noun, which names a language. There is an adjectival form, which is usually, but not always, used to refer to the language.

    After that we have guglian confirmation of frequency, and personal preferences.

    To my ear, "Arab music" sounds harsh and odd, while "Arabic music" sounds normal. "Arabic" as an adjective seems to go as well as "Arab" to modify literature and culture, but it's no big deal one way or the other. I guess I'm accustomed to words like "Spanish" which are applied to a language, to cuisine, to literature, to painting and a host of other nouns.
    It's both a noun and an adjective. The same is true of French and English and Japanese and German. All have both noun forms for the language, and adjectival uses for nearly anything else. I don't mean to belabor this question, but I still don't "get" why the adjectival use of "Arabic" sounds so off.

    If we invoke that highly unreliable source, the good Dr. Gugle, for "Arab literature" and "Arabic literature", the latter is about
    six times more common. "Arabic sport" yields seven times as many citations as "Arab sport". "Arab culture" has nearly 600,000 citations, versus about 200,000 for the "Arabic" variety. Arabic cuisine has twice the citations of it's Arab counterpart.

    If there is a usage pattern here, it's elusive.
  16. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    To my ear "arabic" would be the adjective pretty much only for the language. Arabic art, music or design sounds strange to me. I think in that I agree with Elroy. On the other hand "arab" to me is linked to Arabs. As such I would find it strange to call Israel, say, an Arab country but equally we could call Morocco one, eventhough it is not in Arabia. As an adjective not to describe the language (arabic) nor directly the people (arab) I'd go for Arabian for music or art (sorry Elroy)!! This is all just off the cuff though, and probably filled with misconceptions and misunderstandings on my part - just saying my initial reaction.
  17. river Senior Member

    U.S. English
  18. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    Interesting source, River. The database is small, but it offers a few good generalities:

    Citations include:
    Arabic culture,
    traditional Arabic dances,
    modern Arabic literature,

    Arabic numerals

  19. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    So the general consensus seems to confirm my gut feeling - with the exception that "Arabic" seems to be accepted to refer to the culture as well. I still don't like it, but I'm relieved to see that my preferences are not completely arbitrary. :)
  20. Josh_ Senior Member

    the phrontistery
    U.S., English
    This is definitely a difficult idea to explain. I can feel the differences, but have a hard time putting them into words.

    To me Arab seems like by and/or for the Arabs or concerning or of concern to Arabs. There is a slight connotation of possession here.
    Arab politics – politics that concerns Arabs, that Arabs deal in.
    Arab music – music composed by (and/or meant for) Arabs. To me “Arab music” sounds strange to my ear. Except situations like that which I described above I would always say Arabic music (since it relates to the culture anyway).
    Arab culture – the culture of/concerning the Arabs; the culture that they live.
    Arab art – art by Arabs or for Arabs.
    Arabic seems like a general adjective used to describe anything with an Arabic aspect (for lack of a better wording) to it; anything relating to Arabia/Arabs, but not necessarily concerning Arabs -- e.g. like others have said -- culture, language.
    Arabic politics – the style of politics that is Arabic, but maybe used by some other entity. For example: if America adopted a style of politics used in Lebanon then they would be using Arabic politics.
    Arabic music – music that is distinctly Arabic in flavor but maybe doesn’t concern the Arabs. There is a band called Offspring who has a piece of music with a distinctly Arabic style. I would not say they wrote Arab music, I would say that they wrote Arabic music; music in an Arabic style.
    Arabic culture – culture that has an Arabic style.
    Arabic art – art that has an Arabic style to it.
    Of course, the line is fine concerning these two adjectives. Arabian, on the other hand, is pretty simple to deal with (in my mind).

    Arabian has connotations of exoticism attached to it. I would only use it when describing something with an exotic flavor to it, such as relating to the 1001 Arabian Nights or harems and the like, and in already set phrases such as Arabian Peninsula, Arabian horse, and the like.

    I discussed this in another thread:

    What is more appealing?:

    An Arab princess/knight?
    An Arabic princess/knight?
    An Arabian princess/knight?

    I hope that what I have been saying makes sense. I'm still wrestling with how to put down in words what I am thinking.

    This problem of the difference of these three adjectives occurs only in English. In Arabic there is only one adjective -- which somehow managed to break into three adjectives in English.

    Commenting on Elroy’s post (#5) I think that an Arab who is extremely well acquainted with English, like Elroy is, would have concern regarding these adjectives. Many of the native Arabic speakers whom I have come in contact with have used the terms interchangeably, because, like I mentioned, there is only one adjective in Arabic and they don't feel the differences like native English speakers do. I have even noticed it on these forums.
  21. Jhorer Brishti Senior Member

    United States/Bangladesh English/Bengali
    I think Josh has explained it very well. Arabic music sounds normal to me while Arabic culture does not jive well at all to my ears.Arab music sounds odd as well(The adjective modifying music not the music itself!). The term Arabic does seem to be confined to refer to the language in most if not all aspects..
  22. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    OED definitions:

    Arab - Of or pertaining to Arabia or the Arabs.

    Arabian - Belonging to Arabia.

    Arabic - Of or pertaining to Arabia or its language.

    I thought at first, "Well that's no help," but on reflection, I could make those definitions match Josh's very clear explanation.
  23. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Chicago, IL
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I like the distinction Josh makes ("Arab culture" if referring to the culture of the Arabs vs. "Arabic culture" if referring to a culture similar to/evocative of the Arab culture). I guess that calls for a little clarification: in my first post, I assumed the question was about things that are Arab, not things that are suggestive of "Arab-ness."
  24. Cristina Moreno Senior Member

    Hello everybody:)

    What is the difference between these three words when used as adjectives? And when do we use each one? (again, only when they are adjectives)

    For example why do we say "the Arab world" but "an Arabian/Arabic country"? (I'm not sure if "Arabic" is grammatically correct here, but I have heard it said in such a sentence)

    Any ideas?
  25. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    I'll have a go at this for you, Christina.

    Arab: means associated with the Arabs today. The Arab world, as you suggest, means the countries where the Arabs live and the Arabs living there. We talk also of an Arab horse, an Arab tent, the Arab way of life.

    Arabic: is the language.

    Arabian: is the adjective indicating traditional to the Arabs. The Arabian desert. The Arabian Nights.

    I'm sure there's more to it and that others will expand or disagree, but this makes a start for you.
  26. Cristina Moreno Senior Member

    Thanks a lot Thomas! :)
    So is saying "an Arabic world" just slang? (in other words it isn't grammatically correct)
    One more thing... which adjective do we use with "country"? Is it "Arabian" or "Arab"?
  27. Pedro y La Torre Senior Member

    Hauts-de-Seine, France
    English (Ireland)
    Arabic world does not sound correct.
  28. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    Here's a previous thread (found by putting Arab Arabic Arabian into Dictionary Look-up).

    Mod. note: Link disabled. The two threads have been merged. Thanks, Loob.
  29. Cristina Moreno Senior Member

    Thanks a lot my friend; it's "the Arab world".
    How about "an Arabian country" and "an Arab country": which sounds correct?
  30. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    All these points are excellently covered in the thread to which Loob gave us a link, Cristina. Elroy's posts there are particularly interesting. You write a little as though you haven't read them.
  31. Cristina Moreno Senior Member

    You're right Thomas, I haven't! :eek:
    Unfortunately I forgot to search the dictionary before posting :eek:
    Sorry everybody!
  32. englishmania

    englishmania Senior Member

    European Portuguese
    Hello, everyone.

    Which of these would be correct?

    Arab food
    Arabic food
    Arabian food

    =eaten in Tunisia

    I've checked some dictionaries but I'm still not sure.

    Mod note: thread started by englishmania merged with an earlier one
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 21, 2011
  33. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    If the food is unique to Tunisia, I would say "Tunisian food". If it is common to all Arabian cultures I would say "Arabian food". "Arabic" is the language. "Arab" might be possible, too, but it would sound a little odd to me.
  34. Miss Julie

    Miss Julie Senior Member

    Chicago metro area
    I'm just going with my gut instinct, but Arabian food sounds most correct to me. :eek:
  35. Myridon

    Myridon Senior Member

    English - US
    Arabian says to me that something comes from the Arabian peninsula not from Arabic speakers anywhere. Tunisia is in Africa even though the official language is Arabic.
    We need the answer to JamesM's question before continuing.
  36. englishmania

    englishmania Senior Member

    European Portuguese
    I believe the student was referring to Arab(?) food in general, not Tunisian food. He wrote Arabic food and I wanted to check if that's correct but dictionaries are not very clear. They all say Arabic, Arabian and Arab are adjectives.
  37. sandpiperlily

    sandpiperlily Senior Member

    I've never heard food referred to as Arab, Arabic, nor Arabian.

    In the US, we call it middle eastern food (which might include Israeli foods and perhaps North African foods in addition to the traditional foods of Arab regions).
  38. Miss Julie

    Miss Julie Senior Member

    Chicago metro area
    Actually it would be Middle Eastern...
  39. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    I think it depends on whether it is unique to Arab culture and not shared in non-Arab cultures that are also in the Middle East. Since we don't know what food we're discussing we're at a loss.

    I would definitely call hummus Middle Eastern food, like sandpaperlily. I also wouldn't consider it uniquely Arabian. Middle Eastern is definitely more common in the U.S. as a catchall for anything associated with the Middle East.
  40. Myridon

    Myridon Senior Member

    English - US
    Middle Eastern cuisine to me is more Greek, Lebanese, Israeli, etc. North of Arabia. It overlaps with Mediterranean cuisine which could include North African (perhaps not Arabia? I don't know anything about what they eat in the Arabian peninsula).
    According to the Wikipedia article, Tunisia has some unique aspects to their cuisine which can be differentiated even from their North African neighbors.
    Food is always a complicated subject.
  41. roadtosuccess Member

    Can we use all these words to mean the same thing. Let's say, Arab/Aabic/Arabian countries.
    Or an another example, Arabic women/men/ Arabian women/men / Arab women/men.
    I suspect that each of these expressions might have slight differences in meaning.
    Can someone clarify this?

    Mod note: thread started by roadtosuccess merged with an earlier thread
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 21, 2011
  42. Tazzler Senior Member

    American English
    For me, "Arabian" is restricted to things of the peninsula, "Arabic" to the language, and "Arab" to the Arab world as a whole. Dictionary definitions may differ. We've had some threads on this, I think.
  43. roadtosuccess Member

    Thank you for your quick reply~

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