Arabic: Where did فصحى (fuSHa) come from?

Aydintashar

Senior Member
Iran, Turkish
Are there any Arabs, who really speak فصحة as their native tongue? We know that, it is the language of Quran. Quran declares that it was written in a language understandable for the general folk. It follows that the eloquent (standard) Arabic language existed as the native tongue of certain folks in the peninsula at least as early as the 7th century. But, such native folks could not have any application for a language of such complexity in grammar and such lexical capacity.
We really face a difficult question. All standard languages have evolved out of native dialects in the course of centuries, due to cultural activities. In case of Arabic, however, we encounter a "truly" standard language at a very early date, without being able to trace the cultural path, which led to its formation.
Everybody knows that this is a complicated question, but I think we should really look at the matter, in the first step, by making sure whether there are still people who really speak in the standard Arabic language, which is truly their native tongue, and is not acquired from television!
 
  • Wadi Hanifa

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    If I've understood you correctly, you are basically doubtful that anyone ever spoke a Fus7a-type language historically and the reason for your doubts is that you feel that Classical Arabic is too complex grammatically and lexically to have ever possibly been anyone's native language.

    I believe your assumption about Classical Arabic's "complexity" is wrong to begin with. Let's start with grammar, which we can further subdivide into morphology and syntax:

    1) Morphology: the morphological system of Classical Arabic remains substantially intact in modern, spoken Arabic dialects today. In fact, the morphology of my grandparents' native dialect is arguably richer than that of MSA. So, we can't say that Classical Arabic morphology is too complex to be anyone's native language.

    2) Syntax: although many modern-day Arabic-speakers are mystified by the case/mood system of Classical Arabic and don't even bother to try to learn it, objectively speaking, it is not a terribly difficult system. Many modern-day languages with tens of millions of speakers employ similar systems. Heck, even English has some vestiges of a case system ("I" v. "me," "us" v. "we," etc.). Now add to this that ancient Semitic tongues such as Akkadian did employ similar systems, it makes sense for ancient Arabic to have possessed one as well. So, in conclusion, there is nothing extraordinary about Classical Arabic syntax either (as much as Arabs like to think otherwise).

    As for lexicon, if you were to study the traditional dialects of Najd, Hejaz and Yemen you will find them no less rich in vocabulary than Classical Arabic (though you should also bear in mind that the CA lexicon does draw on various regional dialects, which accounts to some extent for its vastness).

    So, as you can see from the above, there is nothing about CA grammar or lexicon that would prevent it from being anyone's native tongue (or a composite of several native tongues).

    You posed another question about whether CA is still spoken as a native language today. Obviously, like all languages from 1400 years ago, Arabic has evolved into something different from what it was 1400 years ago, so, no, nobody speaks the 7th century stage of Arabic as his or her native tongue. I fail to see how this is relevant to the question of whether FuS7a-type dialects ever existed in the past.
     
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    Tracer

    Senior Member
    American English
    This is a tricky question. It is also a “dangerous” question because inevitably, toes are going to be stepped on.


    Let me explain myself.


    Any discussion of “origins” with regard to Arabic language and Arab culture and history is a very sensitive subject because there are 2 camps, so to speak, on these subjects.



    One camp views the traditional “narrative” (of whatever subject you’re talking about) as rock solid factual, without any variation allowed. Period.

    The other camp, usually populated by “foreigners” or specifically “westerners”, takes a more critical view of the “traditional” narrative, asks embarrassing questions and often comes to diametrically opposed conclusions than those held by the “traditionalists”.

    The juxtaposition of “Classical” Arabic vis a vis the Dialects is one such subject.

    The traditional view is that originally, there was a “Classical” language spoken by the “original” Arabs (who knows how long ago). And……that the modern-day dialects are ultimately derived from this Ur-language and that these dialects are a sort of “debased” form of the pure FusHa, the language of Imru’ Al Qais, Ta'abbata Sharran, al-Nabighah and so on, and even before that.

    This view, though interesting and romantic, is pure fiction and goes against every known contemporary linguistic principle, historical, theoretical and factual.

    What really happened is this:

    There was ALWAYS a Dialect and a FusHa.

    No one ever spoke “classical” Arabic as an “everyday” language, in the same way that no one ever spoke “classical” Latin even in the most ancient of Roman times.
    Both FusHa and classical Latin were used for “formal” occasions and when writing was developed, these formal “varieties” became the medium of expression for the written word. But for everyday use, a “simplified” variety of the language was used.

    When the Romans “conquered the world”, I assure you they were not speaking “classical” Latin as they overran region after region. In the same way, when the Arabs began their conquests, they were not using fusHa to communicate with each other – no way.

    In fact, I will go further than that. I am convinced that “classical” Arabic (and “classical” Latin) came FROM the spoken languages, not the other way around. Both “classical” forms were in a sense contrived, invented, constructed, as an ideal language…..one that everyone “aspired” to speak, but which no one could ever really reach.

    To believe that thousands of years ago some Bedu was speaking FusHa in his everyday conversations means that Arabic was first a written, formal language and only later did it become a spoken language. In other words, it was written before it was spoken.

    If you want to believe that, go right ahead. But I can’t. All languages were first spoken and only later….much later…… did they become formalized and written. Even Arabic.
     

    Xence

    Senior Member
    Algeria (Arabic - French)
    Tracer said:
    I am convinced that “classical” Arabic (and “classical” Latin) came FROM the spoken languages, not the other way around. Both “classical” forms were in a sense contrived, invented, constructed, as an ideal language…
    That's what I beleive, too.


    Tracer said:
    To believe that thousands of years ago some Bedu was speaking FusHa in his everyday conversations means that Arabic was first a written, formal language and only later did it become a spoken language.
    Good point also here.
     

    Wadi Hanifa

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    One camp views the traditional “narrative” (of whatever subject you’re talking about) as rock solid factual, without any variation allowed. Period.

    The other camp, usually populated by “foreigners” or specifically “westerners”, takes a more critical view of the “traditional” narrative, asks embarrassing questions and often comes to diametrically opposed conclusions than those held by the “traditionalists”.
    This description is simply a caricature. There are many shades of opinion on these issues and, in any case, there are many (probably a majority) of "Western" scholars today who accept some version or variation on what you call the "traditional" narrative.

    The juxtaposition of “Classical” Arabic vis a vis the Dialects is one such subject.

    The traditional view is that originally, there was a “Classical” language spoken by the “original” Arabs (who knows how long ago). And……that the modern-day dialects are ultimately derived from this Ur-language and that these dialects are a sort of “debased” form of the pure FusHa, the language of Imru’ Al Qais, Ta'abbata Sharran, al-Nabighah and so on, and even before that.

    This view, though interesting and romantic, is pure fiction and goes against every known contemporary linguistic principle, historical, theoretical and factual.
    Which principles are these? I'm very interested in knowing what they are.

    What really happened is this:

    There was ALWAYS a Dialect and a FusHa.
    The Classical Arabic scholars already knew and acknowledged that the Arabs spoke many dialects. There is nothing new or controversial about that.

    No one ever spoke “classical” Arabic as an “everyday” language,
    That is true in some sense, but not in the sense that you're arguing for.

    in the same way that no one ever spoke “classical” Latin even in the most ancient of Roman times.
    Both FusHa and classical Latin were used for “formal” occasions and when writing was developed, these formal “varieties” became the medium of expression for the written word. But for everyday use, a “simplified” variety of the language was used.
    And where did this "formal variety" come from? What caused it to emerge? What was the point of the "simplified" variety?

    (Of course, implicit in your narrative is the assumption that the distance between these "everyday varieties" and the "formal variety" is analogous to the difference between today's dialects and MSA. But there is no evidence that this was the case. In fact, there isn't even a good reason to believe that this was the case)

    In fact, I will go further than that. I am convinced that “classical” Arabic (and “classical” Latin) came FROM the spoken languages, not the other way around. Both “classical” forms were in a sense contrived, invented, constructed, as an ideal language…..one that everyone “aspired” to speak, but which no one could ever really reach.
    Again, this has an element of truth to it (at least the "ideal" part, probably not the "invented" part*), but you vastly overstate the case. The differences between the "classical" form and the everyday form (at least in the heartland of Arabia) appear to have been quite minor and in no way comparable to the difference between today's dialects and MSA, for example. In other words, the idea that modern dialects descend from CA, though not strictly accurate, is not that far off the mark either. Think of a modern-day Khaliji soap opera: no one in the Khalij speaks quite the same way as the actors in the soap opera, but actors' speech is nonetheless based on how everyday people speak and cannot be deemed to be a separate language simply because certain localisms and phonological features are eschewed or that the actors pick and choose their words and vocabularies from several closely-related dialects.

    To believe that thousands of years ago some Bedu was speaking FusHa in his everyday conversations means that Arabic was first a written, formal language and only later did it become a spoken language. In other words, it was written before it was spoken.
    No it doesn't mean that at all. This statement simply assumes that Classical Arabic began as a written language, but you haven't given any reason to start from this assumption to begin with. Besides, this statement contradicts your earlier statement that the "formal variety" (as you called it) predated the development of Arabic writing.

    To put it briefly, yes there were dialects in those times, but they were for the most part simply variations or varieties of FuS7a (notice that in my earlier post I referred to them as FuS7a-type dialects). FuS7a simply refers to the common features of these dialects plus certain prestige usages and expressions. So, yes, I think there were indeed many Bedu who spoke something very similar to FuS7a, and it is quite clear and obvious that the current dialects descend from these FuS7a-type dialects. All you need to do is read a 19th century bedouin poem and compare it to a pre-Islamic or early-Islamic poem to see this. In a strict sense, I suppose, we can say that none of these ancient dialects was identical to Classical Arabic, but given the nature of the differences here that would just be pedantic.

    * The one element of today's FuS7a that I would agree is contrived would be the phonology, but we know this from the testimonies of the Classical scholars themselves, not from mere guesswork.
     

    Tracer

    Senior Member
    American English
    To: Wadi Hanifa Thank you kindly for your very informative comment to my post.

    It is true I tend to exaggerate and to “vastly overstate” my case, but I do this more to make or clarify or exemplify a point rather than to convince. (By the way, I do this everywhere, not just on this Forum).

    To fully address the issues and to answer you completely, I’d have to write at least one PhD dissertation and I can’t do that. I’ll simply cede to most of your arguments and only comment briefly on some, always keeping in mind that whatever statements are made cannot be “proved” in the sense that no written records exist for most of the points raised here. It is all pure conjecture and “educated” guesses.

    In fact, I sort of feel like his eminence Taha Hussein who, as you are aware, questioned the very authenticity of pre-Islamic poetry and even of the Hadith (but that’s another issue).

    1. You asked about the origin and the cause for the emergence of the fusHa. In my view, the “origin” was the spoken dialects extant in Arabia. That’s where it came from.

    That is to say, a “lingua franca” was needed among the various tribes, both for communication and for solidifying the “oral traditions” handed down from generation to generation.

    The “dialects” were felt to be insufficiently “stable” for these purposes. A formalized, unchanging “variety” of Arabic was needed and so it developed little by little until at some point, it was “formalized” into the fusHa.

    I think this is a perfectly plausible explanation as to why and how the fusHa developed. Many languages, perhaps most, have had similar developments.

    In fact, the fusHa pretty much serves similar purposes in modern times. It’s used in the written and media forms of communication and as a lingua franca throughout the Arabic speaking world. (But no one speaks it at home).

    2. You asked “what was the point of the “simplified” variety?” Well, that’s assuming the “simplified” variety developed from a “foundational” variety. My view is it didn’t. A “simplified” variety was always in use – in fact, a "simplified" Arabic was the original Arabic.

    I will admit that there must have been an original language somewhere, sometime, from which all the dialects eventually emerged, but that original dialect or “speech form” or whatever you want to call it wasn’t the fusHa. The fusHa came much later.

    That’s where we differ. That’s the crux of the matter. Unless I’m reading you wrong, you believe that the fusHa predated the dialects whether they were “fusHa like” or not.

    I say it was the other way around.

    Some of your statements actually prove my point. You say, for example:

    “…yes there were dialects in those times, but they were for the most part simply variations or varieties of FuS7a…”

    Well, yes, I agree. But that’s because the fusHa was constructed from several prominent dialects already spoken in Arabia and therefore, almost by default, they were close to the fusHa. But…..that doesn’t mean that the dialects CAME from the fusHa….it proves just the opposite. The fusHa came from or was constructed from the dialects.

    So one should really state: “The fusHa was a variation (or combination) of many dialects” and not “the dialects were variations of the fusHa.”


    (By the way, “simplified” is a bad term. In my opinion, the dialects are vastly more difficult to “get right” and to learn than is MSA. It is MSA that’s “simplified”, not the other way around).


    That’s all I have time for.
     

    Aydintashar

    Senior Member
    Iran, Turkish
    1) Morphology: the morphological system of Classical Arabic remains substantially intact in modern, spoken Arabic dialects today. In fact, the morphology of my grandparents' native dialect is arguably richer than that of MSA. So, we can't say that Classical Arabic morphology is too complex to be anyone's native language.
    It is difficult to accept your argument. In fact, we notice considerably large variations in morphology, and differences are sometimes large enough to justify considering some of the dialects as independent languages. But, this is natural for any language, and is not critical for our discussion.

    2) Syntax: although many modern-day Arabic-speakers are mystified by the case/mood system of Classical Arabic and don't even bother to try to learn it, objectively speaking, it is not a terribly difficult system. Many modern-day languages with tens of millions of speakers employ similar systems. Heck, even English has some vestiges of a case system ("I" v. "me," "us" v. "we," etc.). Now add to this that ancient Semitic tongues such as Akkadian did employ similar systems, it makes sense for ancient Arabic to have possessed one as well. So, in conclusion, there is nothing extraordinary about Classical Arabic syntax either (as much as Arabs like to think otherwise).
    Again difficult to accept your argument. None of the ancient Semitic (and even non-Semitic) languages seem to be as complex as classical Arabic as far as syntax is concerned. Syntax is not merely case and mood.

    You posed another question about whether CA is still spoken as a native language today. Obviously, like all languages from 1400 years ago, Arabic has evolved into something different from what it was 1400 years ago, so, no, nobody speaks the 7th century stage of Arabic as his or her native tongue. I fail to see how this is relevant to the question of whether FuS7a-type dialects ever existed in the past.
    If there are people speaking FuSHa at home, as native language, most probably they inherited it from their forefathers, rather than learning it at school, or from the mass media. This would strongly support the idea that rhetorical Arabic was a native language in the past, rather than being invented by high society as lingua franca.
    This is in sharp contrast to classical Latin. It is obvious that, classical Latin was intended to satisfy the linguistic needs of high society in the Roman Empire. I am very much in favour of the theory that classical Latin was an invented language. Latin languages are not descendants of classical Latin. They are more similar to each other than they are to classical Latin. The opposite would have been true, if they had descended from classical Latin. Thus, classical Latin was invented on the basis of vulgar Latin dialects by men of letters supported by the authorities of the Roman Empire.
    In case of Araboc, we cannot depict any such empire, who would have possibly campaigned the invention of a literary language, all the more so since there is no appreciable written records from pre-Islamic times, and the alphabet was obviously undeveloped. Therefore, classical Arabic must have existed as oral tradition, prior to being written. This is where we encounter the critical question: While the standard dialect evolves from local dialects for all languages, Arabic seems to demonstrate the reverse scenario.
     

    suma

    Senior Member
    USA
    English, USA
    Tracer, you make some provacative assurtions (tho you're certainly not the first to do so.)
    But if you would, please state your credentials and level of scholarship in Arabic and/or linguistics.
     

    Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    Tracer,

    Tracer said:
    In fact, I will go further than that. I am convinced that “classical” Arabic (and “classical” Latin) came FROM the spoken languages, not the other way around. Both “classical” forms were in a sense contrived, invented, constructed, as an ideal language…..one that everyone “aspired” to speak, but which no one could ever really reach.
    For this to be even remotely plausible, then those Arabs who 'contrived' Fus7a from the spoken dialects must've been the greatest linguists to have ever existed. Many of the archaic Semitic features that are found in fus7a are not found in the spoken dialects (although bits of it may be found in various different dialects, not in the one dialect). So for it to have been contrived from the spoken dialects, the contrivers must've re-constructed many of the proto-Semitic features that exist in Fus7a, but don't exist in the spoken dialects.

    I don't think anyone doubts that spoken dialects may have had some influence on the standardisation of fus7a, but to say it's contrived from them is just completely illogical.
     

    linguist786

    Senior Member
    English, Gujarati & Urdu
    I was always under the impression that "once upon a time", fus7a was spoken by the Arabs in the Arabian peninsula (with some variation, but not as hugely as we have today), but as Islam spread further and further (like many parts of Africa for example) then the language had such an influence on them that they adopted it as their own language, but the local languages at the time will have influenced the Arabic - which caused a sort of evolution of that particular dialect.
     

    Tracer

    Senior Member
    American English
    To: Abu Rashid (et al) -

    I am aware that 250 million native Arabic speakers will disagree with my statements on the “origins” of CA. Just like I am aware that each of those speakers will tell me in no uncertain terms that HIS dialect is the “closest” to the FusHa. In both cases, I will simply shake my head in despair and walk away.

    Let me just say the following here:

    1. I consider myself a reasonable and rational person. It is impossible for me to believe that when Arabic finally evolved and emerged as a distinct language from some Semitic ancestor in remote antiquity, that that language was the FusHa and everybody was speaking it on a daily basis and that the “dialects” eventually evolved from that original Arabic. That is what everyone wants me to believe and that’s what I consider not just illogical, but irrational.

    2. Further, if this were the case….if FusHa were indeed the “first” Arabic….why bother with the dialects? What was the purpose of breaking up the language into distinct varieties instead of just keeping the FusHa?

    The only logical explanation would be that the FusHa no longer served a vital function of some kind……and……if this was the case, if the FusHa was becoming useless, it would have disappeared long before the first Moallaqa was “posted” in some remote Hijazi market square.

    Obviously, the FusHa didn’t disappear. On the contrary, its importance kept increasing.

    Therefore, one can only conclude that the FusHa came much later in the historical development of Arabic that did the dialects. It served a purpose no longer being provided by the dialects.

    3. Indeed, it was the DIALECTS that were becoming “useless”, useless in the sense that they could not longer provide an unchanging linguistic tool to preserve the oral traditions of the tribes from one generation to the next, useless in that communication between tribes was becoming increasingly problematic as the dialects began to really diverge, useless in the sense that communication between the “settled” and “desert” peoples was also becoming difficult.

    Therefore, a FusHa, a pan-Arab linguistic tool, or lingua franca or KOINE (a linguistic term) became absolutely necessary not only to preserve the living memory of the Arabs, but to actually survive.

    To me, this development is as clear as if I had been there myself to witness these momentous events.

    4. Obviously, this structuring of the FusHa didn’t happen over a weekend when all the tribes gathered in some camp to hash all this out. It developed over generations and probably was done, at least at the beginning, somewhat unconsciously. Precisely when and how this occurred and when exactly the FusHa emerged as fully developed, we’ll never know. Probably a generation or two before the emergence of the Jahiliyya poets.

    5. I’ll trust you when you say that the FusHa has retained some archaic Semitic features not found in the dialects, therefore implying that the FusHa was older than the dialects. But even if true, this can not only be explained away, it proves once again that my thesis is correct.

    Let’s take the Jahiliyya period as our benchmark, just for convenience’s sake. Clearly, the dialects used during that period were probably very different from today’s dialects, probably hugely different. It is a little less clear, but still quite probable, that these antique dialects themselves retained some of these “archaic Semitic features”.

    Therefore, as the FusHa was being developed (from the dialects), these archaic features were hoisted onto the FusHa (for a variety of reasons, such as prestige). After all, the purpose of the FusHa was to preserve. Each major dialect most likely wanted its features to be preserved and considered authentic in the long run and these archaic features thus became an integral part of the unchanging FusHa.

    The dialects, of course, went their separate ways “developing” into the modern dialects and they long ago lost these archaic Semitic features which were still preserved in the FusHa.

    That is to say, these archaic Semitic features found in the FusHa but not in the modern dialects, were a reflection of the living dialectical usage in Arabia at that time. They were not a reflection of the FusHa's close proximity to the ancient Semitic ancestor.

    Again, all this is so clear and logical to me.

    Even the history of Arabic literature proves me correct. Look at what happened to al-Mutanabbi. In his youth, he was sent to live in the desert with the Bedouins for several years precisely because these tribes retained some of those archaic Semitic features we’ve been talking about. In his time, the desert dialects still had not lost their “archaic” character. He was sent into the tribes not because the tribal speech had developed: he was sent there precisely because they had not developed.

    Bottom line: the original Arabic was not the FusHa. It was also not a “dialect” (dialect of what?). It was a newly emerged oral language from which the dialects eventually emerged and, for historical reasons as I’ve outlined above, from which the FusHa emerged most logically out of the extant divergent dialects of the spoken language.

    The FusHa emerged as the answer to a critical and existential need of the Arab desert nation. Without it, the modern Middle East would be vastly different than what we have today, probably unrecognizable. There would have been no Jahiliyya, no Arab Conquests and no Mutanabbi.

    The Arabs didn't have to be the “greatest linguists to have ever existed” in order to develop and establish a FusHa, as Abu Rashid stated. They simply had to survive.
     

    Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    linguist said:
    I was always under the impression that "once upon a time", fus7a was spoken by the Arabs in the Arabian peninsula (with some variation, but not as hugely as we have today)
    My theory is this. At any given time in the history of a language, there are always people who are more eloquent than others. Each and every individual speaker exists on a scale of eloquence of the language. As the word fus7a means eloquent, then it would make sense that it was merely the most eloquent form of the language. Sure there were regional variations in the pre-Islamic Arabic world (ie. the peninsula) but I think the tended to 'gravitate' around what we know as fus7a, and to use it as a standard on which to converge. Whether or not people actually spoke fus7a purely in their everyday speech is not certain. But I think some people at least 'approached' speaking fus7a.

    linguist said:
    but as Islam spread further and further (like many parts of Africa for example) then the language had such an influence on them that they adopted it as their own language, but the local languages at the time will have influenced the Arabic - which caused a sort of evolution of that particular dialect.
    I think this definitely accounts for the disparity between the modern peninsula dialects, and the dialects in the Arabicised lands. For instance ash-Shaam used to be an Aramaic & Hebrew speaking area, and we find that the dialects of ash-Shaam make many of the same simplifications to the language that were made in Aramaic & Hebrew long ago.

    Tracer said:
    To: Abu Rashid (et al) -

    I am aware that 250 million native Arabic speakers will disagree with my statements on the “origins” of CA. Just like I am aware that each of those speakers will tell me in no uncertain terms that HIS dialect is the “closest” to the FusHa. In both cases, I will simply shake my head in despair and walk away

    You've invented all of these arguments yourself. Nobody here has even argued any of the things you claim to be refuting.

    How about sticking with what's been discussed? Surely it makes more sense than inventing arguments you predict will be made?
     
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    Aydintashar

    Senior Member
    Iran, Turkish
    Tracer,

    For this to be even remotely plausible, then those Arabs who 'contrived' Fus7a from the spoken dialects must've been the greatest linguists to have ever existed.

    They were, and there is nothing strange about it. All the languages have been ultimately invented by archaic people. There are a lot of native languages, which have not been written yet, but which also have a high degree of complexity in grammar.
    But, what concerns our discussion, is the fact that lingua franca are usually invented by men of letters backed by political authorities to satisfy the cultural and linguistic needs of an empire (e.g. Classical Latin), or borrowed readily from developed societies to satisfy the same needs (e.g. spreading of Greek in the ancient world, or use of French in the English Court). In both cases, we should be able to trace a period of political and cultural flourishment, which paves the way for development of the eloquent language. And in both cases, the raw material is provided by the native dialects.
    In case of Arabic, I fail to trace this period of political and cultural flourishment prior to onset of Islam, while the degree of eloquency of FusHa at the onset of Islam seems to be several orders of magnitude higher than any conceivable language at that time.

    To account for the existence of classical Arabic at the onset of Islam, we need something at least similar to the ancient Mesopotamian civilisation, in which the language could have possibly developed. Such a civilisation would have left plenty of written records. This situation leads us to presume a "lost civilisation", completely destroyed by an unknown catastrophe, having left behind nothing, save for a few Bedouins, who continued the language tradition in an oral manner.
    Though the theory may sound a little romantic, but may carry elements of truth.
     

    Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    Aydintashar said:
    They were, and there is nothing strange about it.
    Actually I don't think this is the case. Re-constructing Fus7a out of spoken Arabic dialects would've been impossible. This is not merely a matter complexity, it's a matter of the right complexity.

    Imagine for instance if you had a pure sound file in wave format, and you compress it with mp3. You lose a lot of the information that's in the original sound file, to get a smaller size, and it is not overly noticeable when listening to it. However, to go from this compressed version of the file back to the original is almost impossible. Once that information is lost, it's pretty much unrecoverable.

    Now I could "pad" the mp3 file to make it same size as the wave file, but the original complexity would not be what makes it up. That is lost.

    Fus7a contains proto-Semitic features, that do not exist in spoken dialects, which simply could not have been extracted or contrived from them.

    Does that mean the spoken dialects came from Fus7a as Tracer's strawman argument would have it? No. But they probably have always existed side by side.
     

    Wadi Hanifa

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    It is difficult to accept your argument. In fact, we notice considerably large variations in morphology, and differences are sometimes large enough to justify considering some of the dialects as independent languages. But, this is natural for any language, and is not critical for our discussion.
    The idea that Arabic has split into separate languages does not depend solely on differences in morphology. The morphology of Arabid dialects today is not identical with that of FuS7a, but the root-pattern system upon which these morphologies are based remains substantially the same and there is no significant difference in "complexity" between them. In fact, one can argue that there is even more complexity in the modern Arabic dialects (e.g. many modern dialects have added prefixes to imperfect verbs to signify progressiveness like the Egyptian/Levantine "b-" prefix). Unless you can prove to us that FuS7a morphology is more complex than the morphology of all of the modern dialects, then this remains nothing but an unfounded assertion.


    Again difficult to accept your argument. None of the ancient Semitic (and even non-Semitic) languages seem to be as complex as classical Arabic as far as syntax is concerned. Syntax is not merely case and mood.
    So I take it you agree that the "i3raab" system which the classical Muslim grammarians focused so much attention on, is not by itself uniquely complex or impossible for ordinary people to master natively?

    Most learners of CA/MSA will tell you that the syntax is probably the easiest part of learning Arabic. Once you get past the case/mood markings, the syntax of FuS7a is generally considered to be relatively straightforward and many people find modern dialect syntax to be more difficult. Again, the onus is on you to show that there is something uniquely complex or impossible about FuS7a syntax or even that it is any more complex than a modern bedouin dialect.

    If there are people speaking FuSHa at home, as native language, most probably they inherited it from their forefathers, rather than learning it at school, or from the mass media. This would strongly support the idea that rhetorical Arabic was a native language in the past, rather than being invented by high society as lingua franca.
    It would be impossible for any language to remain at the same stage of development for 1400 years. However, if you were to comparatively study the modern dialects, with a serious focus on traditional dialects inside of Arabia itself, you will find plenty of traces of FuS7a features, meaning that these features, although rare or even extinct in spoken Arabic today, were once part of people's speech.

    This is in sharp contrast to classical Latin. It is obvious that, classical Latin was intended to satisfy the linguistic needs of high society in the Roman Empire. I am very much in favour of the theory that classical Latin was an invented language. Latin languages are not descendants of classical Latin. They are more similar to each other than they are to classical Latin. The opposite would have been true, if they had descended from classical Latin. Thus, classical Latin was invented on the basis of vulgar Latin dialects by men of letters supported by the authorities of the Roman Empire.
    In case of Araboc, we cannot depict any such empire, who would have possibly campaigned the invention of a literary language, all the more so since there is no appreciable written records from pre-Islamic times, and the alphabet was obviously undeveloped. Therefore, classical Arabic must have existed as oral tradition, prior to being written. This is where we encounter the critical question: While the standard dialect evolves from local dialects for all languages, Arabic seems to demonstrate the reverse scenario.
    The problem here is that you assume that FuS7a is a "standard dialect" or even a "lingua franca." But there's no evidence that FuS7a was either of those in pre-Islamic times. If there was any standardization, it occurred after Islam in literate societies. This gave us what I will call Classical Arabic, the ancestor of MSA. I will go into this in more detail in my response to Tracer.
     

    Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    Wadi Hanifa said:
    The problem here is that you assume that FuS7a is a "standard dialect" or even a "lingua franca."
    What else could it possibly have existed for, if not as a Lingua Franca? What other purpose would a standard version of the language, which retains so many archaic features that all dialects lost, be maintained for?
     

    Milad__7

    Senior Member
    arabic
    It's very tempting - and this has always been the case with westerns - to try downgrade anything relates to Arabs, don't get me wrong here but we cannot always dis-attach our actions from our beliefs... for Arabs; questioning their language is kinda meaningless craziness. now you put up your point and still receive rational responses... I wonder what responses would you receive if you put smth similar in a Persian forum... Nevertheless and regardless of your true intentions, Arabic is absolutely the most prefect and precise language ever... even its sister Hebrew hasn't got a chance... how did that manage to happened; no one can really tell... but we sure know about the post Islam era; Makka was the centre of the small Arabic world by then, It's Arabic language - plus the very near surrounding tribes - was the agreed on Fos7a... the prophet Mohammad himself was sent as a child to a nearby bedu tribe to get the purest Arabic tong, he was sent - by default - as many others and this was the case at that time... now the reason why not take that in Makka is that bedu language was pure and as you may know Makka was a place for trade and Hajj and mixing, not the best place for teaching your son the Fos7a... this implies that Fos7a was spoken in that region, as you go further from Makka, Fos7a becmes "less" fos7a, now which was the first Fos7a or others - here we have to differentiate between 2 things; the language that Fos7a descanted from and the languages that descented from Fos7a... Fos7a is a result of historical transformation of old Semitic language - or so - . by the time of Jahiliya Arabic reached its best case in Makka and its surrounding, all other Arabians knew that Quraish tong has the strongest language they can hear (we don't expect all ppl to have same advanced Arabic as well, this is against nature! as Quraish was the central tribe in the central religious capital Makka). The big-bang of the Arabic language was the arrival of Islam, Quran came in Quraish's tong, Quran in grammar and expressions is undefeatable, all other dialects became less important and has been always looked at as erroneous. you may not feel it, you apparently not native, even some Arabs don't feel that, but dialects are really awful and if you try writing anything in dialect it will look very low although some Arabs like insisting on the beauty of their dialects, something the trained ear can only reject... they simply full of errors and misleading expressions, they are the result of many many moons of foreign conquer and mixing with Turkish, Europeans... yet, the old non Fos7a dialects were nearer to Fos7a than modern dialects due to obvious reasons... but, sure Arabic Fos7a was spoken by Quraish tribe and its surrounding for long time before and after Islam, and saying anything else will be considered against a historical fact... thanks god the Arabic legacy was very well written down,though many westerns like to question even a very Arabic thing such as Fos7a... but hey ! that's the beauty of it, we have a wonderful thing that everyone envy us for. Alfos7a !
     
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    My knowledge in Fo97a is limited because I grew up in America to Coptic parents, who never saw a need for me nor my brothers to learn it. My knowledge of it is based on what I have heard from TV, however As far as the case system is concerned, I can say that I believe it was an original feature of the Classical Arabic Tongue, because it shows up in Ugaritic, which is one of the languages that preceded Arabic. In addition it's system on verb derivation is extremely similar to Arabic, even in the areas of conjugation.

    My theory would be, since written arabic, through laziness usually didn't include vowelling, so as the conquered peoples were learning arabic, it was easier to leave out nunnation, and vowelled parts in verb conjugations unless it vastly differentiated something from another (ex Enta Vs Enti Vs Ento) which there is only a difference in vowelling. This would explain the loss of case, as far as the word "logha, loghatu, loghati, and loghata" all being written the same way "لغة" with the exception of the vowelling which showed the case.

    The lack of formal education, and the need to adapt to a common and simplified medium of speech would explain this phenomena, which also happened in Rome and Byzantium.

    For maghrebian "n-" conjugations, it would be easy to say that it began out of simplification...
    example.. Ta3raf and ta3rafo both are 2nd person, but differ in number. The same would go for Ya3raf and Ya3rafo. I would assume that the change from A3raf to na3raf would be easily explained by relating the "o" at the end as an indication of number. and was applied to the first person.
     
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    Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    i_guess_i_am_a_genius said:
    however As far as the case system is concerned, I can say that I believe it was an original feature of the Classical Arabic Tongue, because it shows up in Ugaritic, which is one of the languages that preceded Arabic.
    By preceded I hope you mean written records, because Ugaritic most certainly did not precede Arabic as a language, especially given that Arabic is more archaic in it's features than Ugaritic.

    My theory would be, since written arabic, through laziness usually didn't include vowelling
    I don't think it's through laziness, Semitic languages were just never, or very rarely, written with any vowels. Arabic was in fact the language, that when it began to be written, changed this dramatically.
     

    Aydintashar

    Senior Member
    Iran, Turkish
    The problem here is that you assume that FuS7a is a "standard dialect" or even a "lingua franca." But there's no evidence that FuS7a was either of those in pre-Islamic times. If there was any standardization, it occurred after Islam in literate societies. This gave us what I will call Classical Arabic, the ancestor of MSA. I will go into this in more detail in my response to Tracer.

    I take permission to strongly dis-agree with your assertion. Quran is a unique text demonstrating almost all the grammatical features of FusHa. And it must have been understandable for the folk at the time of The Prophet. The post-Islamic standardization activities you are referring to, were only limited to inventing ortographical rules, which were urgently needed to help non-Arabic muslims avoid mis-spelling the holy verses. No grammatical features were neither introduced into FusHa, nor standardized at post-Islamic periods. The post-Islamic grammar books so abundantly available were simply intended to discovering the inherent grammatical features of FusHa and writing them down.
    On the other hand, there are clear references in Quran, which convince us that the society was quite conscious about the difference between the Quranic text and native dialects:

    قُرآنًا عَرَبِيًّا غَيْرَ ذِي عِوَجٍ لَّعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ(28:39)
    وَهَذَا لِسَانٌ عَرَبِيٌّ مُّبِينٌ (103:16)

    Specially important is the context the 2nd verse is linked to:

    We know indeed that they say, "It is a man that teaches him." The tongue of him they wickedly point to is notably foreign, while this is Arabic, pure and clear (16:103).

    As you can see, here the emphasis lies on "pure and clear" Arabic, which had the ability to function as a lingua franca. We have therefore, no other option, but to accept the co-existence of FusHa alongside the native dialects at least as early as the beginning of the 7th century.
    Now, such a language definitely descended from something and would have needed several thousand years to evolve to such a qualified level in a "generic" way, and several hundred years under the influence of an Empire interested in a lingua franca. Since no such empire has been detected, we are forced to believe that the proto-FusHa had existed thousands of years before the onset of Islam in an inexplicably oral way.
    Add to this the fact that a language of such complexity would have been almost useless for any tribe living a simple life at the desert circumstances. Take for example, the rules for expressing numbers in rhetorical Arabic. They are so complex that, a non-Arab will really never develop a full command of them and use them in a fluent way, and even all Arabs are apt to make mistakes from time to time. Any language with a simple number category is equally capable of using numbers in all kinds of texts from everyday life to professional mathematics. So, what was the function of such a complex system at pre-Islamic period?
    Again, I am approaching my Theory of Lost Civilisation!
     

    Wadi Hanifa

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    Evidently, WordReference thinks I type too much so I'm forced to split this post in two:

    It is all pure conjecture and “educated” guesses.
    There is enough evidence available so that our conclusions can be much stronger than mere conjecture or educated guesses. We have the vast literature of Arabic linguistic and grammatical observations from the classical era, much of it the result of field study (i.e. travelling to where the Arabs lived and studying their speech), we have the Quran, we have pre-Islamic and early Islamic poetry, we have inscriptions from the pre-Islamic and early Islamic eras, we have papyri from the early Islamic era, etc. We are also fortunate to be able to observe the twilight of Arabic's existence in its native enviornment in the Peninsula in circumstances very similar to what was present in the 7th century, and can thus test many of our theories about 7th century Arabic against the situation in Arabia in the early 20th century (pre-oil). So, there is in fact a lot more to go by than you think.

    In fact, I sort of feel like his eminence Taha Hussein who, as you are aware, questioned the very authenticity of pre-Islamic poetry and even of the Hadith (but that’s another issue).
    I don't want to go off on tangents here, but suffice it to say that the state of the art has moved on considerably since 1926 and thus most of Taha Hussein's theories in that book are now obsolete.

    1. You asked about the origin and the cause for the emergence of the fusHa. In my view, the “origin” was the spoken dialects extant in Arabia. That’s where it came from.
    So far so good ...

    That is to say, a “lingua franca” was needed among the various tribes, both for communication and for solidifying the “oral traditions” handed down from generation to generation.
    There is no evidence that such a lingua franca existed among the Arabs at that time or even that such a lingua franca was needed. Plus, if you look at the modern Arabian dialects (particularly in what is now Saudi Arabia and the GCC states, i.e. the area most associated with Al-FuS7a), the diversity of dialects was as great as, if not greater than, the diversity that is reported for 7th century Arabia. Yet, despite all this variation, the 19th century Arabs did not have a lingua franca nor did they have a need for one (nor could Classical Arabic serve this function as almost everyone outside of Mecca and Medina was illiterate). In fact, if you think a little bit about how life was like in our country back then, you'll understand that teaching people a second language on a widescale (to be used as a lingua franca or otherwise) would have been almost impossible anyway.

    Most dialects in modern Arabia, despite all of the diversity, belonged to the same linguistic type. Traditionally, the grammar in Riyadh was substantially the same as the grammar in Al-Tayef. There were of course differences in grammar, but they were quite minor and did not impede communication. Most of the differences were in phonology first and lexicon second, and that is where most impediments to mutual intelligibility lay.

    Now, when people composed poetry, the language in the poetry was not the same as that of everyday life. But that's not necessarily because the poetry belonged to a different dialect (though that occurred in some cases) or a different language -- the poetry is simply composed in a different register. The dialectal differences are not necessarily ignored; rather, each person will adapt the poem to his own dialect because the dialectal differences are typically not of the type that would affect the metre, rhyme and meaning of the poem. So, a poem composed in Qatar would spread far and wide and be known all the way in Taif or Mecca, but would sound differently when read aloud, depending on dialect.

    When a person from Riyadh meets a person from Hayel or from Al-Taif, they won't simply abandon their dialects and start speaking some separate "lingua franca," and they won't simply switch to the poetic register. What they'll do is iron out the differences and adapt their speech to each other just enough so that they can understand each other (which, in fact, is not a whole lot and mainly involves adapting the vocabulary ... certainly not enough to need a lingua franca). Of course, it helped that people were familiar with many words from many regions even if they did not use those words themselves. Some words did not even belong to a particular dialect per se but rather belonged to the linguistic heritage of the country. This is because oral poetry served the function that literature served in literate societies. Think of English: English-speakers use only a small fraction of the vocabulary that the language makes available to them, but they are always free to draw upon the language's vast vocabulary in their writing and they are exposed to far more words than they actually use in everyday speech.

    The situation with FuS7a in the 7th century was largely the same. Most dialects in 7th century Arabia (apart from outlying dialects like those in upper Yemen) were sufficiently similar that people could communicate by making a few adjustments or adaptations to their speech (which people still do today), without the need for using a whole new third language (a lingua franca). When a poem is composed, or a speech is to be given for a solemn occasion, the poet or orator switches to the poetic register, which can contain prestigious features, words or expressions from other dialects but still does not reach the level of a new language or even a new dialect. The dialectal features were such that many simply do not appear on the written page, their presence or absence often did not affect metre or rhyme. So, a poem by Imrul Al-Qays can "scan" onto multiple dialects (e.g. a dialect that says "yaf3alu" or a taltalah dialect that says "yif3alu," etc.).

    Now, I'll respond to some specific points you made:

    The “dialects” were felt to be insufficiently “stable” for these purposes. A formalized, unchanging “variety” of Arabic was needed and so it developed little by little until at some point, it was “formalized” into the fusHa.
    I'm sorry, I couldn't really get what you're trying to say here. Was this before or after Islam?

    In fact, the fusHa pretty much serves similar purposes in modern times. It’s used in the written and media forms of communication and as a lingua franca throughout the Arabic speaking world. (But no one speaks it at home).
    Assuming I understood you correctly, you're imposing a paradigm you're familiar with (the modern situation of Arabic in literate, urban societies) on 7th century Arabia. You can't just assume that there must have been something like MSA in 7th century Arabia just because that's all you are familiar with, nor can you assume that FuS7a in the 7th century served the same function as MSA does in the 21st.

    2. You asked “what was the point of the “simplified” variety?” Well, that’s assuming the “simplified” variety developed from a “foundational” variety. My view is it didn’t. A “simplified” variety was always in use – in fact, a "simplified" Arabic was the original Arabic.
    So, they synthesized a "complex" Arabic from original "simple" Arabics? That would not only have been pointless (it certainly wouldn't have helped communication!); it would have probably been impossible (how would it occur to people to simply create a more complex version of their language out of thin air? Where would they get those new complex features from?).

    Or are you saying that they created FuS7a to preserve an earlier stage of the language and prevent their dialects from moving away from that archaic form? This doesn't help your theory because it does no more than push FuS7a back a little in time.
     

    Wadi Hanifa

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    I will admit that there must have been an original language somewhere, sometime, from which all the dialects eventually emerged, but that original dialect or “speech form” or whatever you want to call it wasn’t the fusHa. The fusHa came much later.

    That’s where we differ. That’s the crux of the matter. Unless I’m reading you wrong, you believe that the fusHa predated the dialects whether they were “fusHa like” or not.

    I say it was the other way around.
    What I'm saying is that FuS7a is a snapshot of the state of Arabic in the 7th/8th centuries. Obviously, there were previous stages of Arabic (with their own dialects) from which FuS7a evolved.

    I think there is a problem of nomenclature here (and this is in response to you as well Aydintashar). FuS7a can be used in different ways by different people, but the most common among Arabs is that FuS7a encompasses all of the dialects of 7th/8th century Arabia, or at least in the regions that were considered linguistically prestigeous (Najd, Hejaz, Bahrayn, the non-Himyartic parts of Yemen ... all excluding the urban areas). As I explained earlier, all these dialects, despite their differences, belonged to the same linguistic type. Most of the differences were of the type that did not appear on the written page (due to the nature of Arabic orthography) or were differences in vocabulary (nearly all such vocabulary was accepted as FuS7a and incorporated into Classical Arabic). Most of our current dialects (except for some special cases) are descendents of these dialects, which are all covered by the rubric of FuS7a. Before Islam, there was no other language. It is NOT true what you said that "there was ALWAYS a dialect and FuS7a." The dialects WERE FuS7a.

    I know this is rather wordy so I'll cut to the chase: there were definitely people whose native language was the language that you read in the Quran or of the Muallaqat. It may have been pronounced a bit differently from how we do it today, and the everyday speech may have been at a different register from these literary texts, but it is the same language. Thus, when people say that the dialects came from FuS7a, they are essentially correct.

    Classical Arabic, as I use it, is the written standard that was later adopted in the Islamic period. It is simply a codification of FuS7a. It may not be identical to any one dialect, but it is very close to many of them. Close enough that it does not radically impact what you call the "traditional" narrative. Anyway, even the grammarians of Classical Arabic themselves accepted many dialectal features even if they were not much used.

    “…yes there were dialects in those times, but they were for the most part simply variations or varieties of FuS7a…”

    Well, yes, I agree. But that’s because the fusHa was constructed from several prominent dialects already spoken in Arabia and therefore, almost by default, they were close to the fusHa. But…..that doesn’t mean that the dialects CAME from the fusHa[/B]
    Okay, this is a matter of nomenclature or terminology. What you call FuS7a, I call Classical Arabic. As I explained earlier, what you say is technically true, but it does not significantly change the view that dialects descend from FuS7a. It's like someone coming 1,000 years from now and saying "nobody every spoke the language of the New York Times or Citizen Kane as a native language!" Well, yeah, on a very technical and literal level that may be true, but it's really just pedantry. It's certainly not the sort of earth-shattering iconoclasm you seem to think it is (unless I misunderstood?).
     
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    Wadi Hanifa

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    Therefore, one can only conclude that the FusHa came much later in the historical development of Arabic that did the dialects. It served a purpose no longer being provided by the dialects.

    3. Indeed, it was the DIALECTS that were becoming “useless”, useless in the sense that they could not longer provide an unchanging linguistic tool to preserve the oral traditions of the tribes from one generation to the next, useless in that communication between tribes was becoming increasingly problematic as the dialects began to really diverge, useless in the sense that communication between the “settled” and “desert” peoples was also becoming difficult.

    Therefore, a FusHa, a pan-Arab linguistic tool, or lingua franca or KOINE (a linguistic term) became absolutely necessary not only to preserve the living memory of the Arabs, but to actually survive.

    To me, this development is as clear as if I had been there myself to witness these momentous events.

    4. Obviously, this structuring of the FusHa didn’t happen over a weekend when all the tribes gathered in some camp to hash all this out. It developed over generations and probably was done, at least at the beginning, somewhat unconsciously. Precisely when and how this occurred and when exactly the FusHa emerged as fully developed, we’ll never know. Probably a generation or two before the emergence of the Jahiliyya poets.
    If anyone was trying to do this in Arabia before Islam, then FuS7a would have lasted much longer in Arabia than it did. What would have prevented the Arabs from continuing to preserve FuS7a in Arabia to this very day (if it was so "necessary" for their survival as you say)?? But history tells us that Arabic inside Arabia simply continued to evolve on its merry way like every other language, and the poetry and oral tradition simply evolved with it, and FuS7a seems to have simply disappeared. This is because there was no separate "standard language" or "lingua franca" called FuS7a that people were trying to preserve alongside their dialects. Their dialects WERE FuS7a. This FuS7a continued to evolve until we got the modern dialects inside Arabia (again my discussion is limited to Arabia itself).

    What studying the Arabian dialects of pre-oil Arabia tells us is that the way of life in Arabia, along with its poetic and oral tradition, are what stabilized Arabic, not some separately-existing "lingua franca." So, most dialects continued to evolve together inside Arabia and remain within the same linguistic type. As the dialects evolved, so did the poetry, so we went from the Muallaqat to the Nabati poetry we have now. There was never a need nor an attempt to freeze Arabic at any one stage of its development. This only happened outside of Arabia after Islam.
     

    Wadi Hanifa

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    But, what concerns our discussion, is the fact that lingua franca are usually invented by men of letters backed by political authorities to satisfy the cultural and linguistic needs of an empire (e.g. Classical Latin), or borrowed readily from developed societies to satisfy the same needs (e.g. spreading of Greek in the ancient world, or use of French in the English Court).
    Right off the bat, you've started with an unfounded assumption, that FuS7a was some sort of lingua franca, cleanly separated from the existing language. Actually, you're whole theory is a string of unfounded assumptions and logical leaps.


    In both cases, we should be able to trace a period of political and cultural flourishment, which paves the way for development of the eloquent language. And in both cases, the raw material is provided by the native dialects.
    In case of Arabic, I fail to trace this period of political and cultural flourishment prior to onset of Islam, while the degree of eloquency of FusHa at the onset of Islam seems to be several orders of magnitude higher than any conceivable language at that time.

    To account for the existence of classical Arabic at the onset of Islam, we need something at least similar to the ancient Mesopotamian civilisation, in which the language could have possibly developed. Such a civilisation would have left plenty of written records.
    Later you say:

    Add to this the fact that a language of such complexity would have been almost useless for any tribe living a simple life at the desert circumstances.
    Here you've made two assumptions. First, that FuS7a is simply "too eloquent" for mere mortals. Second, that eloquence has some sort of relationship with "civilization" or that the less sophisticated a nation is, the less eloquent its language will be.

    Eloquence between languages is subjective, so I'll leave it aside for now. Your second assumption is simply incorrect and goes against all evidence. I think this assumption (and indeed your entire theory) is rooted in a certain prejudice and lack of understanding of how Bedouin society works and what function language plays in such a society. Fortunately, we still have Bedouins today and we still have access to a decent-sized sample of their linguistic tradition, so we have don't have to rely on mere guesswork. It is precisely in such materially impoverished societies as the Arabian deserts that such a high value is placed on oration, rhetoric and eloquence. These are non-literate societies where writing is almost unknown outside of a few cities. There are no books, no philosophers, no mathematicisns, no painters, no architects, no playwrights, etc. The main avenue for artistic expressions is language. That's why even in modern times the bedouin and bedouin-based dialects have remained more complex grammatically and richer in vocabulary and possess a much older and stronger poetic tradition. Powerful, memorable and eloquent language was useful as a repository of the peoples' values, history, traditions and knowledge because these people could not simply write things down (it would have been highly impractical for them to do so if you think about it). They needed something that people would remember for a long time. The effect of this oral tradition that everyone takes part in on a daily basis (not just an elite or an educated class) is that the a conservative influence is constantly exerted on people's speech. That and the physical and social isolation from other languages help make their dialects more conservative (and hence "more complex"), though it does not stop them from evolving and changing over the centuries.

    If you look at Arabic dialects today (and I suspect this is true in other languages too), the more urbanized a population is and the more sophisticated its lifestyle, the more features are dropped from its language (i.e. the less complex its dialect) and the less "eloquent" its speakers become. Not only are bedouin and rural dialects more complex grammatically and lexically than the dialects of big cities like Jeddah or Makkah, but people who grew up in villages in Saudi Arabia always seem to know exactly the right thing to say in every situation and the right way to say it in ways that urban people like me can never achieve. But a person like me may be better at expressing abstract ideas and concepts (which is not as pretty or eloquent). The function of language in an urban society is simply different. Even non-bedouins (people from cities and towns) sounded more "eloquent" 100 years ago than they do today.

    The situation of course was similar in the past. That is why noble families sent their children to the desert (a practice which survived to modern times): to be immersed in the culture of the desert, which included "good" Arabic. In a Hadith attributed to Muhammad, it is claimed that he owed his eloquence to being from Quraysh yet being reared among the Bani Saad tribe. Al-Mutanabbi (as Tracer mentioned) spent years in the deserts of Iraq to learn "eloquence" from the bedouins. When the Classical grammarians decided to codify Arabic grammar, their criteria was essentially "the more bedouin the better," and they deliberately avoided linguistic data from Arabian cities such as Mecca, Yamamah (today's Riyadh), Medina, Hajr, Qatif, etc. even though some of these cities were in the heart of Arabia far from any non-Arab influence.

    This situation leads us to presume a "lost civilisation", completely destroyed by an unknown catastrophe, having left behind nothing, save for a few Bedouins, who continued the language tradition in an oral manner.
    Though the theory may sound a little romantic, but may carry elements of truth.
    I was actually expecting "handed down by God" or "brought by Aliens!" :D
     
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    Wadi Hanifa

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    I take permission to strongly dis-agree with your assertion. Quran is a unique text demonstrating almost all the grammatical features of FusHa. And it must have been understandable for the folk at the time of The Prophet.
    Of course it was. It was in their native language.

    The post-Islamic standardization activities you are referring to, were only limited to inventing ortographical rules, which were urgently needed to help non-Arabic muslims avoid mis-spelling the holy verses. No grammatical features were neither introduced into FusHa, nor standardized at post-Islamic periods. The post-Islamic grammar books so abundantly available were simply intended to discovering the inherent grammatical features of FusHa and writing them down.
    I don't disagree with this. But why do we, in MSA, use ذهب instead of راح, for example? Why do we retain all the glottal stops? This is standardization. No grammatical rules were introduced, but there were grammatical rules that differed between dialects (e.g. ما التميمية v ما الحجازية) and the grammarians made conscious choices as to what should be used from now on. That is standardization. But I agree that the resulting language was very similar to how people spoke in the Prophet's time.

    On the other hand, there are clear references in Quran, which convince us that the society was quite conscious about the difference between the Quranic text and native dialects:

    قُرآنًا عَرَبِيًّا غَيْرَ ذِي عِوَجٍ لَّعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ(28:39)
    وَهَذَا لِسَانٌ عَرَبِيٌّ مُّبِينٌ (103:16)

    Specially important is the context the 2nd verse is linked to:

    We know indeed that they say, "It is a man that teaches him." The tongue of him they wickedly point to is notably foreign, while this is Arabic, pure and clear (16:103).

    As you can see, here the emphasis lies on "pure and clear" Arabic, which had the ability to function as a lingua franca.
    You are reading too much into this verse. There's nothing in there about a lingua franca or about dialects. The verse is in response to an accusation that the Prophet was learning his new religion from a foreign Jew or Christian and so it is contrasting the alleged foreigner's language with the pure Arabic of the Quran. The most it can serve to do is to distinguish between "good" or "pure" Arabic and "not so good" Arabic. A language can be spoken well or spoken poorly -- that doesn't make the "good" version a "lingua franca." Like I said above, the Quran was in the native language of the Prophet. It may have been in a higher register and it may have used prestige words and expressions to elevate the language over everyday speech, but that does not mean it was composed in a lingua franca.
     

    Tracer

    Senior Member
    American English
    To: Wadi Hanifa

    Thank you so much for your detailed analyses of my postings on this very interesting subject. I actually read them several times, not because I couldn’t understand them, but because they were so instructive. I’ve learned a lot from them and from your other postings. It must have taken you a while to write. It’s obviously a subject close to your heart.

    I actually agree with most of what you say, not because I’ve made an in-depth study of the subject and have come to the same conclusions, but because I yield to your superior knowledge. As simple as that.

    And, I agree that a lot of the misunderstandings here are caused by a lack of a common terminology and nomenclature, but as an amateur, I do the best I can.

    By the way, in case you’re unfamiliar with it, a scholarly, definitive and quite famous study on this subject has been made by C.A. Ferguson. Fortunately, it is online (for free !) but you’ll need a telescope or microscope to read it (at least I did). It can be found at:

    http://www.jstor.org/stable/410601

    If I’m reading him right, he says that in pre-Islamic Arabia, there were actually 3 (!) varieties of Arabic: the 3arabiyya, the dialects and a “koine”.

    Anyway, you might want to take a look at it in case you already haven’t.

    Thanks again for your efforts.
     

    Cilquiestsuens

    Senior Member
    French
    Was just following this interesting discussion and I wanted to post the correct link to the complete article mentioned above. Quite interesting by the way. That's here.
     

    Aydintashar

    Senior Member
    Iran, Turkish
    Eloquence between languages is subjective, so I'll leave it aside for now.
    In relation to the question of "language and dialect", there are, of course, two approaches. According to one, it is only subjective, and that, any dialect could easily be considered a language, and a language rendered to a dialect. It only depends on the political situation. A dialect is a language if supported by the institutions. In other words, "any dialect with an army and navy is a language", a saying apparently due to Max Weinreich.
    According to the other approach, which I favour, there are distinct linguistic criteria, which determine whether a language is a language, or merely a dialect. There is a huge number of facts, confirming this approach. You have the Hochdeutsch, and you have plenty of dialects in Germany. You have also plenty of German dialects outside Germany, as for example in France, Switzerland, Austria etc. Some of these countries are independent countries owning army and navy (in addition to the air force!), but tend to use Hochdeutsch in official correspondence and in academic literature. This can only be due to the linguistic factor.
    The same is true of Arabic and its dialects. All countries with a native Arabic dialect, which may somehow be considered "Arabic", resort to FusHa in journalistic activity, official correspondence, and academic literature.
    It is worthwhile asking: what are those linguistic features that make a language a language rather than a mere dialect? Well, it is an extended question, but I may express my brief opinion on it. A language is the centre of gravity of all its dialects. It is like the sun, around which the planets rotate. The centre of rotation is clearly located in the sun, not in any of the planets. You cannot say that it is subjective. The grammatical features and lexical content of all dialects converge on the "standard" language, which is why, it is understood by all, whereas a dialect is understood by only a minority. Notice that, I do not completely rule out the role of the political factor. But, I just insist that, authorities and institutions cannot and will not assign the status of a standard language to a dialect for a long time. It will fall out. They will almost always discover the right language to identify as "standard".
    It is true that languages may exist, which, despite being very efficient and eloquent, are not selected by any influencial force as a "standard" language. But, watch out, its dialects are even less discovered and more ignored.

    It is precisely in such materially impoverished societies as the Arabian deserts that such a high value is placed on oration, rhetoric and eloquence. These are non-literate societies where writing is almost unknown outside of a few cities. There are no books, no philosophers, no mathematicisns, no painters, no architects, no playwrights, etc. The main avenue for artistic expressions is language. That's why even in modern times the bedouin and bedouin-based dialects have remained more complex grammatically and richer in vocabulary and possess a much older and stronger poetic tradition.
    Part of your argument is correct. Languages are better retained in rural and isolalated areas. But, you are over-exaggerating. The Bedouin had only the language as its artistic interface with the world. But, this language should correspond to society's historical facts and current mode of living. If we consider Quran as the native language of at least some Arabs in the Peninsula at the time of The Prophet, it follows that they had very complex grammar and very extensive vocabulary, which could by no means correspond to their lifestyle.

    For example, a brief review of the concept of "time" in Quran:
    زمن
    وقت
    دهر
    عصر
    عهد
    حین
    لحظة
    أجل
    ساعة

    This is in addition to words indirectly linked to "time" or verbs expressing the passing of time, or the concept of eternity etc.:

    خالد
    موعد
    مرّة
    دام
    طال
    مرَّ
    إستأخر
    إستقدم
    سبق
    لبث
    امهل

    The list is much longer. But, the question is, why did the Bedouins needs all this vocabulary? Most powerful, contemporary languages have, at best, only one native word for "time", and a lot of loanwords. This is the curious point in case of Arabic, if you don't mind.
     

    Serafín33

    Senior Member
    By the way, in case you’re unfamiliar with it, a scholarly, definitive and quite famous study on this subject has been made by C.A. Ferguson. Fortunately, it is online (for free !)
    It's not free, being hosted at the JSTOR database. Universities and colleges in North America generally have access to it through a proxy on campus, so that may be why you can access it for free.
    Part of your argument is correct. Languages are better retained in rural and isolated areas.
    Nope, but they usually retain features lost in urban dialects. For example, in Spanish, certain rural dialects of Spain and the Andean countries are the only ones that retain the distinction between /ʎ/ and /ʝ/ (still distinguished in orthography as "ll" and "y"), but at the same time present many innovative developments of their own, where urban language turns out more conservative. What may rather happen is that to urban speakers the presence these older features call their attention more, which makes them feel as if rural speech were "more conservative" overall.
    But, you are over-exaggerating. The Bedouin had only the language as its artistic interface with the world.
    ...? Wouldn't they retain it because it's their everyday language?
    But, this language should correspond to society's historical facts and current mode of living. If we consider Quran as the native language of at least some Arabs in the Peninsula at the time of The Prophet, it follows that they had very complex grammar and very extensive vocabulary, which could by no means correspond to their lifestyle.
    Calling a grammar complex and a vocabulary extensive is something completely subjective. How is it possible to assess the complexity of grammar? At least in linguistics the general assumption is that all non-pidgin languages have equally complex grammar. How does one assess the "extension" of a language's vocabulary? Dictionaries? They generally can only represent a portion of the real corpus of words used currently and used up to a point in the past.
     
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    Aydintashar

    Senior Member
    Iran, Turkish

    Calling a grammar complex and a vocabulary extensive is something completely subjective. How is it possible to assess the complexity of grammar? At least in linguistics the general assumption is that all non-pidgin languages have equally complex grammar. How does one assess the "extension" of a language's vocabulary? Dictionaries? They generally can only represent a portion of the real corpus of words used currently and used up to a point in the past.


    I am unfortunately against this pseudo-linguistic assumption, that all languages are equally efficient, and that their grammars are equally complex. It has been asserted by some linguists, who were either unaware of great differences in the world languages, or wished to underevaluate some languages to the benefit of their own languages. This point is well attested by those, who attempted some translations, specially in the scientific field. My own experience has bitterly taught to me, that languages are not equal, this is only a slogan. There is no racism and no egoism in this. It can be discussed, but I think it will fit an independent thread.
     

    Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    Neqitan said:
    Calling a grammar complex and a vocabulary extensive is something completely subjective. How is it possible to assess the complexity of grammar? At least in linguistics the general assumption is that all non-pidgin languages have equally complex grammar.
    This just doesn't make sense at all. Why would all languages have equally complex grammar? Sounds more like political correctness 101, than linguistics 101.

    The simple fact is that the grammar of fus7a is much more complex than most, if not all, spoken colloquial dialects.

    Just as an example, in fus7a, the word for "not" (laysa) is conjugated for gender, person & number. This means that one has to master at least 8 different permutations of the word, just to use it. When we compare this with most, if not all, colloquial dialects, there is merely 1 form of the word. The exact same situation exists for the word "still" (ma zaala), and many other words that are used almost everywhere in the language. To say this is not a far greater amount of complexity would be merely denying facts.
     

    outo_otus

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Just because a certain dialects has lost some features of a previous state of a language does not make it more or less 'complex'.

    Fus7a grammar is no more or less 'complex' that any of the dialects, although dialects may have lost certain features, new ones have been gained.

    When speaking of 'dialects' one is usually referring to informal registers speech which make use of many complex linguistic processes - language is not just grammar or morphology which you seem to be talking about. Yes most modern Arabic dialects have lost the case markings and certain verb forms, but colloquial speech is equally as hard to master.

    An example I've heard a lot is that Chinese 'has no grammar' or 'has a very easy grammar'; from what you've said Chinese would seem to be a very 'simple' language, as verbs and nouns do not change form at all. However in reality, in order to construct a complete and correct sentence you have to understand the complex and strict syntax of Chinese which Arabic of most European languages do not possess.

    Languages may not have equally developed MORPHOLOGY (i.e. how the word changes depending on its function) but every language is equally as complex in ways which may not be obvious to you.
     

    clevermizo

    Senior Member
    English (USA), Spanish
    Moderator's Note:


    This thread is about the origin of Fuṣħa. It is not about how to judge whether or not one language or what variety of language is more eloquent, efficient, complex, simple, etc than another - not unless such definitions are pertinent to establishing the origin of Fuṣħa.

    If you wish to debate "language complexity" I would ask that you add your comments to a thread such as this one.

    Regards,

    clevermizo.


     

    Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    otus otus said:
    An example I've heard a lot is that Chinese 'has no grammar' or 'has a very easy grammar'; from what you've said Chinese would seem to be a very 'simple' language, as verbs and nouns do not change form at all. However in reality, in order to construct a complete and correct sentence you have to understand the complex and strict syntax of Chinese which Arabic of most European languages do not possess.
    As mentioned this thread is not about complexity of languages, it's about the origin of fus7a, and complexity of Arabic dialects compared to fus7a is merely relevant to that, since the claim was made that fus7a was a product of the colloquial dialects. You're mixing apples and oranges with this one, please try to stay on topic.
     

    Mahaodeh

    Senior Member
    Arabic, PA and IA.
    The Bedouin had only the language as its artistic interface with the world. But, this language should correspond to society's historical facts and current mode of living. If we consider Quran as the native language of at least some Arabs in the Peninsula at the time of The Prophet, it follows that they had very complex grammar and very extensive vocabulary, which could by no means correspond to their lifestyle.
    Let me see if I understand correctly: you are saying that if they have a simple lifestyle (in terms of technology, which is the most obvious here), it means that they MUST have everything simple: they can not have a complex language, they can not have a complex social life, they can not have eloquent literature ....etc.

    Are you implying that a simple lifestyle = a simple mind? Why can't they have a vast vocabulary despite the simple lifestyle? Why do you think that the grammar is "too complex" for them? Why can't it be the other way round: they have a simple lifestyle, hence, they can focus more time, energy and thought into language - even if it was not written.
     

    Aydintashar

    Senior Member
    Iran, Turkish
    Let me see if I understand correctly: you are saying that if they have a simple lifestyle (in terms of technology, which is the most obvious here), it means that they MUST have everything simple: they can not have a complex language, they can not have a complex social life, they can not have eloquent literature ....etc.

    Are you implying that a simple lifestyle = a simple mind?
    The first part is correct: simple life=simple language. But, you are overdriving this obvious fact into something else (simple life=simple mind), and assigning it to me, whereas I have made no such claims. Language is the mind's tool for thinking and expressing, but it is not identical to language.
    The mind of a person living in a primitive society has the same capacity as that of a person living in a developed society to grasp a complex language and use it as a tool for philosophical and scientific thinking.
    An analysis of all the simple societies leads to the conclusion that language evolution has a strong relationship to the lifestyle. The language of primitive societies is rich in everyday concepts, animal names, elementary tools for production, etc., each according to its environment. But, theylack any words suitable for expressing philosophical concepts, scientific criteria etc. It is only very natural.
    The scientific concepts in European languages are mostly either Greek or Latin. There are very few native English words for example, expressing scientific concepts. In the Moslem world, there are dozens of languages, including my mother tongue, which are not able to enter the realm of science, philosophy, law etc., except by depending on Arabic at least by a measure of 80%. It follows that, these languages were only as developed as the lifestyle could allow, until the onset of Islam which brought Arabic. It doesn't follow that the minds were simple. The fact that they can express complex ideas by using loanwords from Arabic obviously indicates that they have the same mental capacity as anybody else. So, there is no reason to be surprised by my assertion.
    Now, since FusHa of 1400 years ago does not correspond to the Bedouin lifestyle, there is a missing link in its history of evolution, in my opinion.
     

    Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    Wadi Hanifa,

    Wadi Hanifa said:
    I don't disagree with this. But why do we, in MSA, use ذهب instead of راح, for example?
    Can you think of an example in a hadith or ayah where راح is used instead of ذهب?

    Same question could be asked of all the other words which one finds different in fus7a compared to colloquial.

    Also I'd like to hear your explanation of why there is no colloquial dialect that preserves all of the archaic Semitic features that fus7a has retained, yet which the dialects all lost. The case system, the dual number, and the simplifcations I mentioned above like laysa->mish/mu, ma zaala->lissa etc.

    My assumption is that these simplifcations existed alongside fus7a, which leads us to the conclusion that fus7a was a lingua franca, or at least a much better preserved version of the language that was set aside from normal use, so that it's features did not get worn down as easily as did the colloquial dialects.
     

    Aydintashar

    Senior Member
    Iran, Turkish
    This just doesn't make sense at all. Why would all languages have equally complex grammar?
    No, they don't have to. Language consists of rules and meanings, in other words lexical material, and grammatical rules. The degree of evolution of different languages in each of these areas is not the same. Even in grammar, the degree of evolution of different languages in morphology and syntax is not the same. Comparative analysis of languages results in the fact that, when a language is not sufficiently efficient in one of these areas, it utilises its capabilities in other areas to compensate for the shortage. In many languages a lot of functions fall on the shoulders of morphology, which are carried out by syntactical tools in other languages. Examples are numerous. For examples, one language may have a diminutive suffix, which may be missing in another language, but it will use a syntactical method to compensate for it. In Turkish, there is a sympathetic suffix (kadıncığaz), which may be translated into English as the poor woman.
    There is almost no morphological functionality, that cannot be compensated for by syntax. But, there is a difference. Certain languages concentrate a lot on morphology, and resort to syntax only when the function really fails in the morphological area. I think, this is one (but not all) of the basic criteria of rhetoricity. In FusHa, either contemporary or of the past, we have a high degree of morphological intensification combined with unprecedented lexical richness, which as I have stressed several times, did not correspond to the lifestyle, and which lies at the root of the topic of this thread: where did FusHa come from?
     

    ayed

    Senior Member
    Arabic(Saudi)
    Abu Rashid
    Can you think of an example in a hadith or ayah where راح is used instead of ذهب?
    حدثني يحيى عن مالك عن سمي مولى أبي بكر بن عبد الرحمن عن أبي صالح السمان عن أبي هريرة أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال من اغتسل يوم الجمعة غسل الجنابة ثم راح في الساعة الأولى فكأنما قرب بدنة ومن راح في الساعة الثانية فكأنما قرب بقرة ومن راح في الساعة الثالثة فكأنما قرب كبشا أقرن ومن راح في الساعة الرابعة فكأنما قرب دجاجة ومن راح في الساعة الخامسة فكأنما قرب بيضة فإذا خرج الإمام حضرت الملائكة يستمعون الذكر
     

    Wadi Hanifa

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    I'll be back later when I have more time to answer Aydntashar's points, but I just wanted to quickly respond to this point from Abu Rashid:

    Wadi Hanifa,

    Can you think of an example in a hadith or ayah where راح is used instead of ذهب?
    I don't have the hadith corpus or the Quraan memorised, but we do know from Clasccial lexicons that the Arabs used راح as a synonym for ذهب. The fact that ذهب was preferred in Classical Arabic is probably because that is the dialect used in the Quraan, but that does not negate the fact that choices/preferences were made, regardless of the criteria or motivation behind such choices.

    Same question could be asked of all the other words which one finds different in fus7a compared to colloquial.
    With a little research, you'll find that many (if not most) of such "colloquial" words are acceptable in Classical Arabic, while many (if not most) of such "FuS7a" words have reflexes in one or more modern dialects.

    Also I'd like to hear your explanation of why there is no colloquial dialect that preserves all of the archaic Semitic features that fus7a has retained, yet which the dialects all lost.
    Because languages evolve over the course of the centuries and as they evolve certain features are lost and new features appear.

    The case system, the dual number, and the simplifcations I mentioned above like laysa->mish/mu, ma zaala->lissa etc.

    - there are reflexes of "laysa" today in southwestern Arabia, and there was also a reflex of "laysa" in Bahrain until a couple of generations ago.-
    - We have evidence from Nabati poetry that verbal duals existed in Arabia until around the 13th century.
    - Reflexes of "maa zaala" exist in Arabia and North Africa, and reflexes of a CA synonym of "maa zaala" (namely, "maa bari7a") exists in Arabia today.
    - We have evidence of traces of the case system in the use of "Aba" instead of "Abu" in place names, family names and even vernacular sayings (من شاهدك يا با الحصين قال ذنبي) and the bedouins seemed to have retained this usage of "Aba" after the particle "yaa" in certain contexts. We also have evidence of the adverbial "-an" in bedouin dialects (e.g. abdan أبْداً, لزْماً). Though I admit these are not entirely conclusive.

    These are just examples restricted to the features that you mentioned. The point I'm trying to make here is that you'll find traces and reflexes of many such features in one dialect or another, which shows that they were once part of people's speech.

    My assumption is that these simplifcations existed alongside fus7a, which leads us to the conclusion that fus7a was a lingua franca, or at least a much better preserved version of the language that was set aside from normal use, so that it's features did not get worn down as easily as did the colloquial dialects.
    You're falling into the same trap many others have fallen into on this thread: projecting a paradigm that you are familiar with from the present onto a situation in the past. In other words, because these FuS7a features are absent from current dialects, you find it hard to believe that they were present in 7th century dialects. Because FuS7a is a standard language (or a lingua franca) today, you feel it must have been so in the 7th century as well.

    The only reason FuS7a has not "worn out" like the dialects is that it was set down in writing at an early date.
     

    Aydintashar

    Senior Member
    Iran, Turkish
    The only reason FuS7a has not "worn out" like the dialects is that it was set down in writing at an early date.
    Well, I think the opposite is true. FusHa was written down much earlier, because it deserved to be written. It produced literary works, and was already a means of communication for all natives before the dialects could possibly reach such a status.
     

    Mahaodeh

    Senior Member
    Arabic, PA and IA.
    The first part is correct: simple life=simple language.
    But why?

    But, you are overdriving this obvious fact into something else (simple life=simple mind), and assigning it to me, whereas I have made no such claims. Language is the mind's tool for thinking and expressing, but it is not identical to language. The mind of a person living in a primitive society has the same capacity as that of a person living in a developed society to grasp a complex language and use it as a tool for philosophical and scientific thinking..
    OK, then let me rephrase: are you trying to say that language reflects the development of thought (as opposed to mind)?

    Keep in mind that they lived a simple life, not a primitive one. They were not stone age hunter gatherers living in the edge of the known world or on a secluded island in the middle of nowhere - they were actually living in the heart of the (then) modern world. They had direct contacts with the major civilizations of their time and one of the routs of ancient silk road passed through Mecca and Medina. Simple life, yes; primitive life, not by a long-shot.

    An analysis of all the simple societies leads to the conclusion that language evolution has a strong relationship to the lifestyle.
    What are "all the simple societies" that you are you referring to (an example would be useful)? And why do you assume that the Arabs are comparable to them?

    Now, since FusHa of 1400 years ago does not correspond to the Bedouin lifestyle, there is a missing link in its history of evolution, in my opinion.
    Why and how does it not correspond to the bedouin lifestyle?

    ---------

    I have no problem with your main premise if I find it logical, I'm not clinging on to a romantic idea that I want to protect; it's just that I fail to see the logic in saying that Classical Arabic was too complex for the Arabs.

    If we look at it from another angle, and assume that what you say is true and that Arabic is too sophisticated to have been their native tong; then don't you think that it is also too sophisticated for them to develop as a "higher level language" for the elite or for formal use? As for developing it to be a lingua franka, that is even more illogical, it seems to me that a simpler one would have been more logical, don't you think?
     

    Interprete

    Senior Member
    French, France
    Hello,

    I am no expert but I just wanted to say a couple of things:
    -From what I've read (and if my memory serves me well, no guarantee), Sumerian/Akkadian has a lot of similarities with Arabic (and other semitic languages anyway) and was insanely complex, which is one of the reasons why it fell out of favour at some point in time.
    Having said that, Sumerian/Akkadian were highly artificial languages and were not spoken by the masses.

    -I do agree with Aydintashar in that is is very strange that bedouins living in the desert would need AND use 40 words to describe the concept of time, with shades of meaning that would escape even the most learned in today's most educated societies.

    -Another thing that never ceases to amaze me is the specificity and precision of many roots. In most languages, roots carry simple basic meanings (to go, to eat, to live, although English may not be the best example!) which are then refined into more specific ideas through derivations.
    Yet in Arabic you find:
    ثار to be blown and dispersed into the air (said of dust, locusts, etc)
    جأب to draw profits from one's asset / to sell red earth (!)
    جأث to carry a heavy load and walking with difficulty under its weight
    جبه to hit someone on the forehead
    And this could go on and on, I just randomly opened my dictionary and flipped through about 10 pages of it or less...

    So, why would they have made up ROOTS (not even derivatives, ROOTS) for such really specific stuff, instead of using sentences just like in most other languages? Doesn't it look weird (I'm itching to say, artificial)?
     

    clevermizo

    Senior Member
    English (USA), Spanish
    -Another thing that never ceases to amaze me is the specificity and precision of many roots. In most languages, roots carry simple basic meanings (to go, to eat, to live, although English may not be the best example!) which are then refined into more specific ideas through derivations.
    Yet in Arabic you find:
    ثار to be blown and dispersed into the air (said of dust, locusts, etc)
    جأب to draw profits from one's asset / to sell red earth (!)
    جأث to carry a heavy load and walking with difficulty under its weight
    جبه to hit someone on the forehead
    And this could go on and on, I just randomly opened my dictionary and flipped through about 10 pages of it or less...

    So, why would they have made up ROOTS (not even derivatives, ROOTS) for such really specific stuff, instead of using sentences just like in most other languages? Doesn't it look weird (I'm itching to say, artificial)?

    I don't really see this as being exemplary of anything. I know you said English may not be the best example, but then you've already countered your own argument by having a counterexample! English has all kinds of specific words, some more common, some less common. So do other languages. It would be hard to know the circumstance behind the origin of a lot of those words you cite, as that's anthropological data we probably don't have from certain time periods.

    ahull - a ship with sails furled and helm lashed to the lee-side
    arras - a tapestry that covers a wall
    to birl - to make a log spin by walking on it
    buhl - the inlaying of precious material onto furniture
    to taw - to prepare skins by soaking, salting, stretching and paring


    All you've shown is that languages have weird words. I don't know how common جأب or جأث are. None of those English words I listed are common. But if you want a common word, I mean in Spanish asomarse means you lean your head out of something like a door or a window and look around. That these very specific weird words manifest themselves as simple roots is not surprising, given that Arabic has a root-and-pattern style of morphology rather than a tack-a-bunch-of-endings-to-the-end-of-a-word-morphology.

    I see no reason whatsoever to think that Fuṣħa couldn't be someone's native language. Whether it was or it wasn't I'm not knowledgeable enough to say, but I'm fairly convinced by Wadi Hanifa's arguments above in this thread. You don't have to know every root in the book to be a native speaker of Fuṣħa if you were a native speaker of Fuṣħa anymore than I don't know the verb "birl" in English and I'm a native speaker of English. English isn't anymore artificial and than any other standard language. The language of writing is always a little bit more artificial than the language of speech, but I still speak the same language as the New York Times, as was brought up before.
     
    Last edited:

    Interprete

    Senior Member
    French, France
    Thanks for the list!
    I'm not convinced though:

    -first because you're using English for most of your examples - it may be due to my lack of knowledge, but I can't seem to identify roots and their derivatives in English unless we're talking about a latin borrowing (like liberty, liberation, liberalize, libertarian, which all refer back to the idea of freedom from the root liber- or like progress, regress, transgress, digress which all refer to an abstract 'motion' forward/backward/beyond etc.)

    -second, because Arras and Buhl are actually proper names, birl is a mix of two other words, ahull comes from hull and hence is already a derivative, and only taw could be a good example if, as I'm saying, English was really based on a root/derivations system as heavily as latin or semitic languages, which does not seem to be the case at all.

    Now if you take examples from languages with a more comparable root system, such as Spanish for example, well you can see for example that the seemingly specific asomarse is already a derivative (from somo).

    What I am saying here would be completely nullified if we could find a good number of naked roots in Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese or any language with such a system, and which would have a highly specific meaning (and I'm not saying technical, because this is different - the examples I gave in Arabic are very specific but not technical at all except maybe ja'aba).
    The problem is, I cannot find any! And you haven't either so far, though this may change :)

    PS: I'm not trying to 'prove' anything, I'm just kind of thinking aloud so please do not see any 'challenges' in whatever I wrote.
     

    Abu Rashid

    Senior Member
    Australian English
    Interprete said:
    Sumerian/Akkadian has a lot of similarities with Arabic (and other semitic languages anyway)
    Sumerian & Akkadian are two completely separate languages. Yes they did affect one another a lot, but they're very different languages. Akkadian was Semitic, Sumerian was not.

    Interprete said:
    Having said that, Sumerian/Akkadian were highly artificial languages and were not spoken by the masses.
    They were both originally languages of the masses. Each was adopted as a lingua franca, by non-native speakers, just as Aramaic was, and also as Arabic later was.
     
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