in written Arabic (Naskh
|Native to||Countries of the Arab League, minorities in neighboring countries and some parts of Asia, Africa, Europe|
|310 million, all varieties (2011–2016)|
270 million L2 speakers of Standard (Modern) Arabic
Latin (incl. Arabic chat alphabet, Hassaniya (Senegal), Moroccan, Lebanese)
|Signed Arabic (national forms)|
Official language in
|Modern Standard Arabic is an official language of 28 states, the third most after English and French|
ara – inclusive code
arq – Algerian Arabic
aao – Algerian Saharan Arabic
bbz – Babalia Creole Arabic
abv – Baharna Arabic
shu – Chadian Arabic
acy – Cypriot Arabic
adf – Dhofari Arabic
avl – Eastern Egyptian Bedawi Arabic
arz – Egyptian Arabic
afb – Gulf Arabic
ayh – Hadrami Arabic
acw – Hijazi Arabic
ayl – Libyan Arabic
acm – Mesopotamian Arabic
ary – Moroccan Arabic
ars – Najdi Arabic
apc – North Levantine Arabic
ayp – North Mesopotamian Arabic
acx – Omani Arabic
aec – Saidi Arabic
ayn – Sanaani Arabic
ssh – Shihhi Arabic
ajp – South Levantine Arabic
arb – Standard Arabic
apd – Sudanese Arabic
pga – Sudanese Creole Arabic
acq – Taizzi-Adeni Arabic
abh – Tajiki Arabic
aeb – Tunisian Arabic
auz – Uzbeki Arabic
Dispersion of native Arabic speakers as the majority (dark green) or minority (light green) population
Use of Arabic as the national language (green), as an official language (dark blue) and as a regional/minority language (light blue)
Arabic (Arabic: العَرَبِيَّة, al-ʻarabiyyah, [al ʕaraˈbijːa] (listen) or عَرَبِيّ, ʻarabī, [ˈʕarabiː] (listen) or [ʕaraˈbij]) is a Semitic language that first emerged in the 1st to 4th centuries CE. It is now the lingua franca of the Arab world. It is named after the Arabs, a term initially used to describe peoples living in the area bounded by Mesopotamia in the east and the Anti-Lebanon mountains in the west, in Northwestern Arabia and in the Sinai Peninsula. The ISO assigns language codes to thirty varieties of Arabic, including its standard form, Modern Standard Arabic, which is modernized Classical Arabic. This distinction exists primarily among Western linguists; Arabic speakers themselves generally do not distinguish between Modern Standard Arabic and Classical Arabic, but rather refer to both as al-ʻArabīyat ul-fuṣḥá (العربية الفصحى "the eloquent Arabic").
As a modern written language, Arabic is widely taught in schools and universities, and is used to varying degrees in workplaces, government and the media. Standard Arabic, also referred to as Literary Arabic, (الفُصْحَى, al-fuṣḥā) is the official language of 26 states, as well as the liturgical language of the religion of Islam, since the Quran and Hadith were written in Arabic. Modern Standard Arabic largely follows the grammatical standards of Classical Arabic and uses much of the same vocabulary. However, it has discarded some grammatical constructions and vocabulary that no longer have any counterpart in the spoken varieties, and has adopted certain new constructions and vocabulary from the spoken varieties. Much of the new vocabulary is used to denote concepts that have arisen in the industrial and post-industrial era, especially in modern times. Due to its grounding in Classical Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic is removed over a millennium from everyday speech, which is construed as a multitude of dialects of this language. These dialects and Modern Standard Arabic are described by some scholars as not mutually comprehensible. The former are usually acquired in families, while the latter is taught in formal education settings. However, there have been studies reporting some degree of comprehension of stories told in the standard variety among preschool-aged children. The relation between Modern Standard Arabic and these dialects is sometimes compared to that of Latin and vernaculars (or today's French, Spanish or Italian) in medieval and early modern Europe. This view though does not take into account the widespread use of Modern Standard Arabic as a medium of audiovisual communication in today's mass media—a function Latin has never performed.
During the Middle Ages, Literary 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, mainly in vocabulary, is seen in European languages, mainly Spanish and to a lesser extent Portuguese and Catalan, owing to both the proximity of Christian European and Muslim Arab civilizations and 800 years of Arabic culture and language in the Iberian Peninsula, referred to in Arabic as al-Andalus. Sicilian has about 500 Arabic words as result of Sicily being progressively conquered by Arabs from North Africa, from the mid-9th to mid-10th centuries. Many of these words relate to agriculture and related activities. The Balkan languages, including Greek and Bulgarian, have also acquired a significant number of Arabic words through contact with Ottoman Turkish.
Arabic has influenced many languages around the globe throughout its history. Some of the most influenced languages are Persian, Turkish, Azeri, Armenian, Hindustani (Hindi and Urdu), Kashmiri, Kurdish, Bosnian, Kazakh, Bengali, Malay (Indonesian and Malaysian), Maldivian, Pashto, Punjabi, Spanish, Tagalog, Assamese, Sindhi, Odia and Hausa and some languages in parts of Africa. Conversely, Arabic has borrowed words from other languages, including Greek, Aramaic and Persian in medieval times and languages such as English and French in modern times.
Classical Arabic is the liturgical language of 1.8 billion Muslims, and Modern Standard Arabic is one of six official languages of the United Nations. All varieties of Arabic combined are spoken by perhaps as many as 422 million speakers (native and non-native) in the Arab world, making it the fifth most spoken language in the world. Arabic is written with the Arabic alphabet, which is an abjad script and is written from right to left, although the spoken varieties are sometimes written in ASCII Latin from left to right with no standardized orthography.
Arabic is usually, but not universally, classified as a Central Semitic language. It is related to languages in other subgroups of the Semitic language group (Northwest Semitic, South Semitic, East Semitic, West Semitic), such as Aramaic, Syriac, Hebrew, Ugaritic, Phoenician, Canaanite, Amorite, Ammonite, Eblaite, epigraphic Ancient North Arabian, epigrahic Ancient South Arabian, Ethiopic, Modern South Arabian, and numerous other dead and modern languages. Linguists still differ as to the best classification of Semitic language sub-groups.
The Semitic languages changed a great deal between Proto-Semitic and the emergence of the Central Semitic languages, particularly in grammar. Innovations of the Central Semitic languages—all maintained in Arabic—include:
- The conversion of the suffix-conjugated stative formation (jalas-) into a past tense.
- The conversion of the prefix-conjugated preterite-tense formation (yajlis-) into a present tense.
- The elimination of other prefix-conjugated mood/aspect forms (e.g., a present tense formed by doubling the middle root, a perfect formed by infixing a /t/ after the first root consonant, probably a jussive formed by a stress shift) in favor of new moods formed by endings attached to the prefix-conjugation forms (e.g., -u for indicative, -a for subjunctive, no ending for jussive, -an or -anna for energetic).
- The development of an internal passive.
There are several features which Classical Arabic, the modern Arabic varieties, as well as the Safaitic and Hismaic inscriptions share which are unattested in any other Central Semitic language variety, including the Dadanitic and Taymanitic languages of the northern Hejaz. These features are evidence of common descent from a hypothetical ancestor, Proto-Arabic. The following features can be reconstructed with confidence for Proto-Arabic:
- negative particles m *mā; lʾn *lā-ʾan > CAr lan
- mafʿūl G-passive participle
- prepositions and adverbs f, ʿn, ʿnd, ḥt, ʿkdy
- a subjunctive in -a
- leveling of the -at allomorph of the feminine ending
- ʾn complementizer and subordinator
- the use of f- to introduce modal clauses
- independent object pronoun in (ʾ)y
- vestiges of nunation