A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Internet Arabic: "The Mixed Language of the Third Millennium"?

 I've noted many times (check my Arabic language tag for a collection of posts) the frequent laments of Arabic linguistics and literature professors about the imminent demise (if it's not dead already) of the Arabic language. Usually this falls onto one of two categories: (classical, literary) Arabic is moribund because of the influence of colloquial dialects (which have been around from earliest days, of course), or because of the influence of foreign language vocabularies entering pure Arabic. These days the complaint is usually about English (mostly) and French (especially in North Africa and Lebanon). A few hundred years ago (Arabic has been dying for a long time, it seems), it was Persian and Ottoman Turkish.

Well, here's a piece, more about how the language is changing than a lament of its demise, about the influence of the Internet on Arabic. Obviously anyone who reads Arabic posts on Facebook or Twitter knows that a mix of languages, jargon, and sometimes alphabets is routine. The article — which is in French, unfortunately for those who don't read it — contains an introduction and a translation of an Arabic article in Hayat by one Abu Wazen on the "mixed Arabic of the Internet, the language of the third millennium." The article does not see the changes wrought by the Internet as a necessarily bad thing.



The Familiar Strange said...

The creative use of alternate characters as substitutes for Arabic letters with sounds that don't exist in English (e.g. 7 instead of the letter Ḥet) has always reminded me of Volapuk Encoding - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volapuk_encoding

YGQ said...

Thank you for mentioning my post! I'll put online somehow the arabic translation (not mine!) I do think of launching some kind of research project about this kind of issues... By the way, check if you have some time to spare the "langue" thumbnail: there are various pieces about "arabic for the dumbs" which may interest you. And keep on bloging!