A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ursula Lindsey on the Various Arabics

We've had frequent discussions on this blog about the diglossia problem: the divergence between the Classical and Colloquial Arabics, and the concern that Modern Standard Arabic is dying or endangered.  Ursula Lindsey at The Arabist points to a piece she's published at Al-Fanar, a site devoted to Arabic educational issues. It's a good piece, more solid and less sensational than some of the wrting on the subject, and it deserves your attention:"The Arab World's Tangled Linguistic Landscape."

In her link at The Arabist,  she also notes something we've commented on as well in  the past:
During the uprising against Hosni Mubarak, there were two slogans: الشعب يريد اسقاط النظام ("The People Want the Fall of the Regime") was in Fosha, or classical Arabic and -- as that language does -- it traveled across borders, from one Arab country to the other. But in Egypt there was also another slog: ارحل يعني امشي ("'Depart' means get out!") which "translated" the Fosha word for "leave" into the Aameya one. The revolution spread alongside a classical slogan, but they also saw an eruption of colloquial Arabic, indispensible to satire and subversion, to "telling it how it is," into the stultified public discourse, and I think that will remain the case (look at Bassem Youssef, look at mahraganaat music).

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