Arabic and Chinese

Discussion in 'Etymology, History of languages, and Linguistics (EHL)' started by Anatoli, Aug 28, 2009.

  1. Anatoli Senior Member

    Melbourne, Australia
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    There are Muslim communities in China. Interesting that Hui people (about 10 mln), a Chinese ethnic group using a modified Arabic script to write Chinese. That was one of the arguments used by some who said Chinese can be written without complex characters, the other example are Dungans who used Cyrillic to write Chinese words (they live in Kyrghyzstan, Kazakhstan and Russia). The basic vocabulary of Hui is similar to Mandarin but they borrowed many Arabic words and like all Muslims learned Quran in Arabic. The term Hui (回 Huí) has many meanings in China and is currently referring to any Muslim, not just to this ethnic minority. Islam is called both 伊斯兰 (Yīsīlán - phonetic loanword) and 回教 (Huíjiào), the second term meaning literally the religion of Hui.

    Of course, there are Uyghurs in Xinjiang (Western China) (also about 10 mln), Turkic people. They are Muslims and use a modified Arabic to write in their language. Their language is close to and comprehensible with Kazakh and Kyrghyz.

    If interested, here's an example of Chinese/Arabic mixture, note that Chinese and Arabic phonology are extremely different, that's why pronunciation of Arabic loanwords was too different from the original:

    It's hardly anything to do with the Japanese words similar to Arabic. As for standard Chinese (Mandarin) it remained very immune to any strong foreign influence, largely due to its writing system, phonology and methods to transliterate or borrow foreign words.

    China has started broadcasting CCTV (state television) in standard Arabic and many Arabic countries (22, I think) and there is an increased interest in Arabic too in China. The other way around is true as well - Confucius institutes are growing like mushrooms in Africa and the Middle East, I hear.
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2009
  2. Faylasoof Senior Member

    Plato's Republic
    English (UK) & Urdu (Luckhnow), Hindi
    Hello Anatoli,

    Yes, this is what I gathered and alluded to above. No influence on Sino-Japanese languages.

    I was aware of the Chinese-Arabic script as it was one of the styles I learnt in my Persio-Arabic-Urdu calligraphy class “yonks” ago. Rather unsurprisingly, we call it <xatt-e-chiinii
    خطِ چینی>.
    The most famous Hiu was the 15th century Chinese admiral Zheng He (real name حاجی محمود شمس or حجّي as Wiki calls him). However, I didn’t know that this was used routinely by the Hui people to write Chinese, modified though it is.

    Haven’t forgotten them either. Besides, Chinese Turkestan has been in the news lately. But I was wondering more about the “real” (Han) Chinese Muslims who might have had a chance to influence the standard Chinese language with Arabic. As you say this didn’t happen.

    .. and as far as the Japanese language goes, there really wasn’t any contact with Arab / Muslim traders. Japan was a closed country to all foreigners except the Jesuits.

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