Understanding between uneducated people

Discussion in 'العربية (Arabic)' started by Ruskoyazichniy, Mar 17, 2009.

  1. Ruskoyazichniy Member

    Dear members of the forum, I know that the subject of difference between Standard Written Arabic and dialects has been discussed at length on various threads, however, I came across this article which I found very interesting:

    <link removed by moderator>

    In this article one of the discussion members claims that 3amiya is not a luhja but a lugha separate from al Lughatu-l3arabiyati.

    He says that an accent is limited to pronounciation but if grammar and vacabularly differs much than it must be a different language. Spanish and Portugies and possibly Russian and Ukranian come to mind as languages understood by the other group but separate languages none the less.

    Depending on people you talk to from the arab world, some may say that they fully understand each other, while others maintain that they have difficultie.

    To set the record straight and clarify it for myself, I would like to ask the following question: If you get an uneducated beduin woman from yemen, and uneducated christian Syrian from Haleb and put them together, neither one having much exposure to the others dialect, nor having knowledge of Fusha, would they be able to converse with eachother freely, or would that in the end be like two different languages with some similar words and structure but not close enough to have a complex dialogue in.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 18, 2009
  2. Mahaodeh Senior Member

    London, UK
    Arabic, PA and IA.
    Do you want the short answer or the long one?

    The short answer is yes; they can understand each other fairly well. If one of the parties was Morrocan or Algerian then the answer would have been different.

    The reason I say Yes so confidently is that I have personally experienced something similar in Yemen several years ago (except that the Yemeni was rural not beduin and the other woman was Palestinian not Syrian).


    You must note that the Yemeni beduin woman probably has a dialect closer to a Syrian beduin woman than a Yemeni settled woman and vice versa!
  3. Ruskoyazichniy Member

    Thanks Mahaodeh,

    The reason I asked, is that depending on who you talk to give different answer. For example my friend, an Iraqi who came to a western country in his early teens, doesnt seem to have any problems speaking in his dialects to his friends, he can read arabic and seems to understand Arabic TV programs, but when we were walking behind some people from Saudi Arabia who were speaking in their dialects, he couldnt understand much.

    Also the lebanese person in the link I attached originally which was later removed, argues that Lebanese is a language and not an accent, with its own grammar, vacab and pronounciation.

    I guess the views are dependent on the political outlook of people, and how strongly people want to be considered Arabs. The dialects spoken in the western africa are not understood as well as lebanese by people from the east, but I guess majority of them still want to be considered Arab and therefore confusion arises.

    I personally not sure myself, but arent other semitic languages very similar to arabic? like Hebrew and Aramaic. The phrase As salam 3leikom has equivalent in Hebrew as Shalom 3leich and in Aramaic as Shlam 3leichon or something like that, the difference between these frases and arabic equivalent does not exceed by much differences in different arabic dialects. So using this reasoning one could argue that dialects spoken are infact different semitic languages.
  4. clevermizo Senior Member

    San Diego, CA
    English (USA), Spanish
    This is the ages-old problem of dialect-vs.-language which has more to do with politics and culture than actual linguistics. Since many people of Arabic speaking countries often have shared culture, religion, political alliances, etc., it is culturally perceived to be the same language, despite how much diversity there is or is not. There are speakers of Romance languages whose languages are so close as to be considered dialects of the same language, however because of culture and politics are considered different languages.

    So basically, given that this is a cultural, and not a linguistic, question, Arabic is one language with a lot of internal diversity. However, some, like your Lebanese friend, are more opposed to the shared culture and would like to promote their dialect as a separate language. This is political and not all share this view.

    Anyway, if the answer to your question is different depending on whom you talk to and what their views are, then obviously this is not a question that can be answered by linguistic science, in which, in my opinion, there are never strict borders between any languages.
  5. Mahaodeh Senior Member

    London, UK
    Arabic, PA and IA.
    I agree with Clevermizo; it's a cultural/political thing more than a linguistic one although I don't agree with equating the situation to Hebrew (the difference is greater) but it I understand that it may be compared to Spanish and Italian; they are perceived as two distinct languages but are fairly mutually comprehensible.
  6. MarcB Senior Member

    US English
    I agree with some of the other comments. Arabic can be as different as the Romance or Slavic languages. They all share some mutual intelligibility and some lack there of.The eastern ones share more comprehension with each other and the western ones do also although less than the eastern ones.Another factor is exposure to another dialect such as tv, movies and music. Egyptian and Levantine are the most widely used in media.As one goes from east to west or from west to east there is a dialect continuum which transends country borders. As Mahaodeh said bedouin and rural people have closer dialects even if we compare north west Africa to the east. Settled dialects are the most different. Settled dialects have greater differences in grammar and pronunciation.
    However comprehension increases if one speaks more slowly and delibrately. Also since all educated people speak fus7a they can use fus7a or a mixture of dialect and fus7a.Since earliest times all of the dialects use either arabi or arabiya to describe their language not local names as the different Europeans do. This includes Arabic spoken in non-Arabic countries.So despite political concerns which over or under emphasize the similarities or differences they are the same language but with numerous regionalisms and some big stuctual differences.
    Politically some wish to emphasis the similarities and others the differences.Nearly all bedouins pronounce qaf as g in go. Settled people use qaf, gaf, hamza and jim for the same letter. Most Bedouin pronounce interdentals as a version of th and dh.Many settled people use t,D and s.
    So you can see how the language differes most in the speech of settled people, less amongst rural and bedouins. I include settled Bedouins in the Bedouin category.
  7. Shlama_98 Member

    Syriac Aramaic/Iraq
    I doubt an Iraqi would have a hard time understanding Gulf, Levant, or Egyptian Arab speakers as I myself who speak this dialect fluently along with many others that I know don't have this problem.

    I can however understand if communicating is an issue sometimes (Not a big issue might I add), the problem here is that the Iraqi dialect has some foreign words that other Arabic dialects don't use, on the same token I'm pretty sure other Arab countries have their words and phrases where Iraqi Arabs won't understand, but I can safely say that TV exposure to some of these countries help the Arab speakers understand one another.

    I disagree with your friend, mainly because if you can communicate between the two different dialects, then it's a different dialect, not a language.

    Having said that, a good argument can be put up for those who speak the Moroccan/Algerian dialects, I don't understand how someone can call these dialects Arabic when an Arabic speaker does not understand them, it's like speaking to a Maltese person, which is a whole separate language.

    The difference is these languages cannot be understood by Arabs, yes you can pick up a few words as they are all very similar, but understanding is a whole different level.

    I personally speak Assyrian (One of the modern Aramaic dialects) and Arabic (Iraqi version), but I also know the classical versions of Arabic and Syriac and I can tell you that once you go to the classical languages, you see a lot more similarities (But still different), however when you compare them as modern languages, it's a whole different ball game.
  8. MarX Banned

    Indonesian, Indonesia
    That's interesting. Wadi Hanifa said that s/he had a hard time understanding Yemeni.
  9. Mahaodeh Senior Member

    London, UK
    Arabic, PA and IA.
    I have to admit that unless they slow down, it's not easy to get the words; as an example, if I would listen to two Yemenis speaking to each other I would have a hard time catching up. But I disagree with Wadi, you can still understand a Yemeni if you tried speaking to one - at least I do. True, I might miss the meaning of some words but I can communicate fairly well. The trick is to first try to catch the accent (every dialect has a specific accent), once you do that, an Iraqi can easly understand at least 70% of what a Morrocan says, maybe more.

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