Monday, February 14, 2011
We had a discussion in the comments a few posts back (see comments to the linked post) about the chant al-sha‘b yurid isqat al-nizam (The people want the fall of the regime) which is literary Arabic as opposed to the Egyptian colloquial al-sha‘b ‘ayiz isqat al-nizam, which would be more natural. We've also spoken recently about Arabic diglossia in the Tunisian revolution, and the etymology of the word baltagi, so it seems appropriate to link to Ben Zimmer's post on Language Log on "How Mubarak was told to go, in many languages" which includes references to diglossia (irhal ya‘ni imshi ya illi ma btifhamshi), (Irhal ("go away" in formal Arabic) means imshi ("go away" in colloquial), you who doesn't understand me"), shown above, which also alludes to Ben Ali's last, "I have understood you" speech in Tunisia, and even a sign in hieroglyphics (so the pharaoh could understand it, naturally). Also see a related column by Zimmer here. He's a linguist rather than an Arabic specialist, but there's some interesting stuff there.