How Has the Arabic Language Evolved
The Arabic language is one of the oldest in the world, dating back thousands of years. It is the official language of citizens in many Middle East and North African countries. Arabic has gone through constant changes for almost three millennia, resulting in a rich and varied language. The last 150 years have truly shaped the Arabic evolution.
Cultures and other languages have heavily influenced how the Arabic language has evolved today. Urbanization, demographic changes, and migration from the countryside have also increased interactions between people, spreading the language. More than 400 million people currently speak Arabic worldwide. Media and Western civilization have also led to dramatic changes in Arabic.
How Has the Arabic Language Evolved?
Here’s a breakdown of how Arabic has evolved in the different centuries:
6th Century: Old Arabic or Pre-Islamic Arabic
Old Arabic, which is the earliest form of Arabic, existed in the 6th century CE. The Nabataean script and other scripts including the Safaitic, Hismaic, and Greek contained the Old Arabic. The language was common in the Middle East and North Africa. Historically, natives mainly used the Old Arabic language for trading and commercial activities.
7th Century: Classical/Quranic Arabic
Islam heavily influenced the Arabic language during the 7th century CE as the religion began to rise. The result was the emergence of Classical Arabic, which authors used to write the Quran and other religious texts. Literature and poetry writers and writers of legal and political texts also used Classical Arabic.
Middle Ages: Different Arabic Dialects
Due to Islamic conquests, Arabic spread worldwide during the Middle Ages. As a result, different dialects emerged. The languages that natives spoke in different places such as Persia, Turkey, and Spain influenced the kind of Arabian dialect.
Today: Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and Modern Colloquial Arabic
A hybrid form of Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), emerged as languages mixed. MSA is the most common version of Arabic used today in many Arab-speaking countries such as Egypt, the UAE, Iraq, and Qatar. Most media outlets, books, and political speeches and debates also use MSA.
European colonial languages such as English and French also influenced the Arabic Language, resulting in the Colloquial Arabic version. Colloquial Arabic derives from the MSA, with a partial influence from other European languages. It varies from country to country.
Some aspects of the Modern Arabic Language include:
- The inclusion of more modern words and phrases to keep up with the changing times
- Absorbing loanwords from other languages, including English, French, and Spanish, allowing for a greater range of vocabulary and expression
- The emergence of a variety of new dialects including Gulf, Levantine, and Maghrebi in different Arabic regions and cultures
- Cultural adoption by many non-Arabic speaking countries such as China, Russia, and India
- Standardization to make the language uniform and increase understanding across regions
The Arabic Language Continues to Evolve
The widespread use of Arabic has led to a greater appreciation of the language’s importance. There is an increase in demand for learning, whether for formal purposes or personal enrichment.
Arabic remains a vibrant and ever-changing language despite its long history. Thanks to today’s quick digital communication, Arabic is more accessible and easier to learn for non-native speakers. There are now numerous online courses and resources available for those who wish to learn Arabic.
Understanding a specific version of Colloquial Arabic is best when you are traveling to a particular Arab-speaking country. The MSA is particularly valuable today because you can use it in any Arabic-speaking country.
To learn more about your options for studying Arabic, contact an organization that offers Arabic lessons in your chosen dialect.