The Arabic Language

The Arabic Language: Its Role in History

ANWAR G. CHEJNE
Copyright Date: 1969
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 260
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttv9cb
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  • Book Info
    The Arabic Language
    Book Description:

    Arabic, with its rich literary heritage, is one of the major languages of the world. It is spoken by about one hundred million people inhabiting a wide and important area of the Middle East. Yet the language and its significant role in history are little known in the English-speaking countries except among specialists. This book will, it is hoped, help to introduce the language and demonstrate its importance to a wider audience. Professor Philip K. Hitti of Princeton University writes in the foreword: “Until recently Arabic studies in this country had been limited to the graduate level and confined to a few universities. Since World War II they have inched their way to the undergraduate curriculum of a small number of universities. But they are still top-heavy and anemic. They will so remain unless they send their roots deeper down into high schools and enlist the interest of a widening circle of nonspecialists. “Hence the value of this work by Professor Chejne. It is a commendable attempt to introduce the Arabic language, with its features and problems, to students and nonspecialists, to tell the story of its dramatic evolution from a tribal dialect to one of the few carriers of world culture, to indicate its unique relation to the religion of Islam and its role in the development of modern Arab nationalism. The book, written in a language intelligible to the layman, sums up what is already known and presents the contribution of the author.”

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6182-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-1)
  3. Chapter 1 THE SIGNIFICANCE OF ARABIC IN ARAB-MUSLIM SOCIETY
    (pp. 3-24)

    Arabic, with its rich literary heritage, is one of the major languages of the world. Since the Middle Ages it has enjoyed a universality that makes it one of the world’s great languages, along with Greek and Latin; English, French, Spanish, and Russian. This status reflects not only the number of Arabic speakers, but also the place the language has occupied in history and the important role it has played — and is still playing — in the development of Arab-Muslim society. Although the present-day Arab world is beset by social upheaval and political disunity, the image of classical Arabic...

  4. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  5. Chapter 2 AN INTRODUCTION TO THE LANGUAGE
    (pp. 25-37)

    Arabic belongs to the Semitic group of languages. These include Akkadian (Babylonian and Assyrian), Ugaritic, Hebrew, Phoenician, Aramaic, Syriac, Ethiopic, South Arabic, and many Arabic dialects. From the earliest times down to the present, records show that the permanent home of the Semitic languages is in a contiguous area that includes the Fertile Crescent, the Arabian Peninsula, and Ethiopia. Within this area scholars have described three main geographical distributions of the Semitic languages. Northeast Semitic is found in Mesopotamia and includes Akkadian, the earliest recorded Semitic language, which dates back to the third millennium B.C. Akkadian took its name from...

  6. Chapter 3 THE CODIFICATION OF THE LANGUAGE AND PHILOLOGICAL STUDIES
    (pp. 38-51)

    Perhaps the most important single factor in the rise of Arabic from a tribal dialect to an urban and international language was its codification, which not only fixed grammatical rules, but also motivated intensive linguistic studies.

    The great interest in codification to make Arabic a capable and uniform instrument of communication arose first in relation to Islām, and then was furthered by national, political, administrative, commercial, and economic motives. Our sources do not permit us to determine accurately the chronology for the codification of the language. However, they do reveal the existence of a widespread awareness of linguistic problems immediately...

  7. Chapter 4 THE DEVELOPMENT, GROWTH, AND DECLINE OF THE LANGUAGE
    (pp. 52-84)

    The history of the development of the Arabic language and literature is one of the most remarkable chapters in the evolution of the world’s major languages. In its rapid expansion and durability Arabic perhaps stands unique. In a short span of time Arabic emerged, in spite of many problems and challenges, to occupy an enviable position in a wide area of the Asiatic Middle East, throughout North Africa, and for a time in Spain and Sicily. What is most remarkable about Arabic is its rapid evolution as a literary language of great religio-cultural significance. This is what a Western scholar...

  8. Chapter 5 THE ARAB WORLD CONFRONTS THE WEST
    (pp. 85-99)

    When the Islamic state — once great and unified — broke up into petty dynasties in the east and west, Arabic culture did not immediately fall victim to the political rivalries that ensued. Its distinctive character was preserved for many years throughout the Arab-Muslim world, and intellectual developments in grammar, history, religion, belles-lettres, science, and philosophy were freely exported from state to state. Continued uniformity in intellectual outlook was due in no small part to the common Arabic language, which permitted easy intercourse among scholars whether they lived in Baghdad, Spain, or Cairo.

    This cultural and linguistic uniformity has prevailed...

  9. Chapter 6 THE REVIVAL OF LITERARY ARABIC IN MODERN TIMES
    (pp. 100-124)

    As the discussion in the previous chapter indicated, the process of cultural and linguistic revival has been going on for more than one century. The first attempts were initiated by individuals, primarily in Cairo and Beirut, with little or no official encouragement. But with the rise of national consciousness, the various political parties and the emerging Arab governments set out to make Arabic an integral part of the movement toward politico-cultural emancipation from foreign rule. Important work for the Arabic revival occurred in Egypt, North Africa, and the Fertile Crescent. The success and failure of such activity led to the...

  10. Chapter 7 LEADERS OF THE LINGUISTIC MOVEMENT AND LINGUISTIC STUDIES
    (pp. 125-144)

    The attempts at reviving and revitalizing Arabic during the past century have been fairly successful. Such efforts would have been futile had they not been given impetus and direction by devoted and enthusiastic leaders who were responsible for producing a varied and abundant literature. This literature covers every conceivable subject in modern times, and contains a large number of works which deal with many aspects of the language, including its virtues and defects, its role and significance in society, its various problems and need for reforms, its grammar, and lexicon structure. The major linguistic issues could be elucidated by this...

  11. Chapter 8 PROBLEMS AND PROPOSALS FOR THE REFORM OF ARABIC
    (pp. 145-168)

    In attempting to revive Arabic as a flexible instrument of thought and, at the same time, to make it a symbol of politico-cultural revival in a nation-state, the Arabs have encountered a number of difficulties. The question has been posed whether the language is actually an obsolete instrument of expression or whether Arab society itself, deriving its inspiration from the Arab cultural heritage, is to be blamed for the present shortcomings of the language. Al-Ḥajj of Lebanon has said: “If the people rises, the language rises . . . when a poet is found, a language of poetry is found;...

  12. Chapter 9 SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION
    (pp. 169-176)

    This study shows that Arabic has been the object of considerable attention by the Arabic-speaking people in particular and the Muslim community in general for almost fifteen centuries. The attachment to and admiration for the language have been strong, amounting to adulation, and have even given rise to a linguistic cult with great aesthetic, religious, cultural, and national significance. While one may doubt the supposed divine attributes and other superior qualities attached to Arabic by the Arab-Muslim intelligentsia of medieval and modern times, in the light of the data presented here one cannot but grant that such beliefs have constituted...

  13. NOTES
    (pp. 179-202)
  14. LIST OF PERIODICALS
    (pp. 203-204)
  15. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 207-228)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 229-240)