Arabic (العربية al-ʿarabiyyah, , or عربي ʿarabī, ) is a Central Semitic language, thus related to and classified alongside other Semitic languages such as Hebrew and the Neo-Aramaic languages. Arabic has more speakers than any other language in the Semitic language family. It is spoken by more than 280 million people as a first language, most of whom live in the Middle East and North Africa. It is the official language of 22 countries and it is the liturgical language of Islam since it is the language of the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book. Arabic has many different, geographically distributed spoken varieties, some of which are mutually unintelligible. Modern Standard Arabic (sometimes called Literary Arabic) is widely taught in schools, universities, and used in workplaces, government and the media.
Modern Standard Arabic derives from Classical Arabic, the only surviving member of the Old North Arabian dialect group, attested in Pre-Islamic Arabic inscriptions dating back to the 4th century. Classical Arabic has also been a literary language and the liturgical language of Islam since its inception in the 7th century.
Arabic has lent many words to other languages of the Islamic world, like Turkish, Urdu and Persian. During the Middle Ages, Arabic was a major vehicle of culture in Europe, especially in science, mathematics and philosophy. As a result, many European languages have also borrowed many words from it. Arabic influence is seen in Mediterranean languages, particularly Spanish, Portuguese, and Sicilian, owing to both the proximity of European and Arab civilizations and 700 years of Arab rule in the Iberian peninsula (see Al-Andalus).
Arabic has also borrowed words from many languages, including Hebrew, Persian and Syriac in early centuries, Turkish in medieval times and contemporary European languages in modern times. Arabic is written with the Arabic alphabet, which is an abjad script, and is written from right-to-left.
World Day of the Arabic language is the day the world celebrates all 30 July of each year in Arabic World Day of the Arabic language
Classical Arabic (فصحى fuṣḥā) is the language found in the Qur'an and used from the period of Pre-Islamic Arabia to that of the Abbasid Caliphate. Classical Arabic is considered normative; modern authors attempt to follow the syntactic and grammatical norms laid down by classical grammarians (such as Sibawayh), and use the vocabulary defined in classical dictionaries (such as the Lisān al-Arab).
Based on Classical Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic (فصحى fuṣḥā) is the literary language used in most current, printed Arabic publications, spoken by the Arabic media across North Africa and the Middle East, and understood by most educated Arabic speakers. "Literary Arabic" and "Standard Arabic" are less strictly defined terms that may refer to Modern Standard Arabic or Classical Arabic.
According to Islamic scholars, Modern Standard Arabic or Classical Arabic adopted several new Arabic style, words and linguistic tools from the Quran which uses Arabic as the medium of prophetic language.
Colloquial or dialectal Arabic refers to the many national or regional varieties which constitute the everyday spoken language. Colloquial Arabic has many different regional variants; these sometimes differ enough to be mutually unintelligible and some linguists consider them distinct languages. The varieties are typically unwritten. They are often used in informal spoken media, such as soap operas and talk shows, as well as occasionally in certain forms of written media, such as poetry and printed advertising. The only variety of modern Arabic to have acquired official language status is Maltese, spoken in (predominately Roman Catholic) Malta and written with the Latin alphabet. It is descended from Classical Arabic through Siculo-Arabic and is not mutually intelligible with other varieties of Arabic. Most linguists list it as a separate language rather than as a dialect of Arabic. Historically, Algerian Arabic was taught in French Algeria under the name darija.
Like other languages, Modern Standard Arabic continues to evolve. Many modern terms have entered into common usage, in some cases taken from other languages (for example, فيلم film) or coined from existing lexical resources (for example, هاتف hātif "telephone" < "caller"). Structural influence from foreign languages or from the colloquial varieties has also affected Modern Standard Arabic. For example, texts in Modern Standard Arabic sometimes use the format "A, B, C, and D" when listing things, whereas Classical Arabic prefers "A and B and C and D", and subject-initial sentences may be more common in Modern Standard Arabic than in Classical Arabic. For these reasons, Modern Standard Arabic is generally treated separately in non-Arab sources.
The sociolinguistic situation of Arabic in modern times provides a prime example of the linguistic phenomenon of diglossia, which is the normal use of two separate varieties of the same language, usually in different social situations. In the case of Arabic, educated Arabs of any nationality can be assumed to speak both their local dialect and their school-taught Standard Arabic. When educated Arabs of different dialects engage in conversation (for example, a Moroccan speaking with a Lebanese), many speakers code-switch back and forth between the dialectal and standard varieties of the language, sometimes even within the same sentence. Arabic speakers often improve their familiarity with other dialects via music or film.
The issue of whether Arabic is one language or many languages is politically charged, similar to the issue with Chinese, Hindi vs. Urdu, Serbian vs. Croatian, etc. The issue of diglossia between spoken and written language is a significant complicating factor: A single written form, significantly different from any of the spoken varieties learned natively, unites a number of sometimes divergent spoken forms. For political reasons, Arabs mostly assert that they all speak a single language, despite significant issues of mutual incomprehensibility among differing spoken versions.
From a linguistic standpoint, it is often said that the various spoken varieties of Arabic differ among each other collectively about as much as the Romance languages. This is an apt comparison in a number of ways. The period of divergence from a single spoken form is similar -- perhaps 1500 years for Arabic, 2000 years for the Romance languages. Also, a linguistically innovative variety such as Moroccan Arabic is essentially incomprehensible to all non-Moroccans other than Tunisians, much as French is incomprehensible to Spanish or Italian speakers. However, there is some mutual comprehensibility between conservative varieties of Arabic even across significant geographical distances, much as there is some mutual comprehensibility between Spanish and Italian, both conservative Romance varieties. This suggests that the spoken varieties, at least, should linguistically be considered separate languages, and this is indeed what the Ethnologue tries to do.
On the other hand, a significant difference between Arabic and the Romance languages is that the latter also correspond to a number of different standard written varieties, each of which separately informs the related spoken varieties, while all spoken Arabic varieties share a single written language. Indeed, a similar situation exists with the Romance languages in the case of Italian. As spoken varieties, Milanese, Neapolitan and Sicilian (among others) are different enough to be largely mutually incomprehensible, yet since they share a single written form (Standard Italian), they are often said by Italians to be dialects of the same language. As in many similar cases, the extent to which the Italian varieties are locally considered dialects or separate languages depends to a large extent on political factors, which can change over time. Linguists are divided over whether and to what extent to incorporate such considerations when judging issues of language and dialect.
The influence of Arabic has been most important in Islamic countries. Arabic is a major source of vocabulary for languages such as Baluchi, Bengali, Berber, Catalan, Cypriot Greek, Gujarati, Hebrew, Hindustani, Indonesian, Kurdish, Malay, Marathi, Pashto, Persian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Rohingya, Sindhi, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Tagalog, Turkish and Urdu as well as other languages in countries where these languages are spoken. For example, the Arabic word for book (/kitāb/) has been borrowed in all the languages listed, with the exception of Spanish, Catalan and Portuguese which use the Latin-derived words "libro", "llibre" and "livro", respectively, Tagalog which uses "aklat", Hebrew which uses "sefer" and Gujarati which uses "chopdi".
In addition, English has many Arabic loan words, some directly but most through the medium of other Mediterranean languages. Examples of such words include admiral, adobe, alchemy, alcohol, algebra, algorithm, alkaline, almanac, amber, arsenal, assassin, banana, candy, carat, cipher, coffee, cotton, hazard, jar, jasmine, lemon, loofah, magazine, mattress, sherbet, sofa, sugar, sumac, tariff and many other words. Other languages such as Maltese and Kinubi derive from Arabic, rather than merely borrowing vocabulary or grammar rules.
The terms borrowed range from religious terminology (like Berber taẓallit "prayer" < salat), academic terms (like Uyghur mentiq "logic"), economic items (like English sugar) to placeholders (like Spanish fulano "so-and-so") and everyday conjunctions (like Hindustani lekin "but", or Spanish hasta "until"). Most Berber varieties (such as Kabyle), along with Swahili, borrow some numbers from Arabic. Most Islamic religious terms are direct borrowings from Arabic, such as salat 'prayer' and imam 'prayer leader.' In languages not directly in contact with the Arab world, Arabic loanwords are often transferred indirectly via other languages rather than being transferred directly from Arabic.
For example, most Arabic loanwords in Hindustani entered through Persian, and many older Arabic loanwords in Hausa were borrowed from Kanuri. Some words in English and other European languages are derived from Arabic, often through other European languages, especially Spanish and Italian. Among them are commonly used words like "sugar" (sukkar), "cotton" (quṭn) and "magazine" (maḫāzin). English words more recognizably of Arabic origin include "algebra", "alcohol", "alchemy", "alkali", "zenith" and "nadir". Some words in common use, such as "intention" and "information", were originally calques of Arabic philosophical terms.
Arabic words also made their way into several West African languages as Islam spread across the Sahara. Variants of Arabic words such as kitaab (book) have spread to the languages of African groups who had no direct contact with Arab traders.
Arabic was influenced by other languages as well. The most important sources of borrowings into (pre-Islamic) Arabic are Aramaic, which used to be the principal, international language of communication throughout the ancient Near and Middle East, Ethiopic, and to a lesser degree Hebrew (mainly religious concepts).
As Arabic occupied a position similar to Latin (in Europe) throughout the Islamic world many of the Arabic concepts in the field of science, philosophy, commerce etc., were often coined by non-native Arabic speakers, notably by Aramaic and Persian translators. This process of using Arabic roots in notably Turkish and Persian, to translate foreign concepts continued right until the 18th and 19th century, when large swaths of Arab-inhabited lands were under Ottoman rule.