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Is Arabic underestimated?

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daegga
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 Message 17 of 75
08 July 2015 at 11:51pm | IP Logged 
Serpent wrote:
(but we didn't have much or anything to lose, we just didn't progress
while Europe did).


We got our fair share of Mongols too in Europe ;)
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Gala
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 Message 18 of 75
09 July 2015 at 5:24am | IP Logged 
kanewai wrote:
Cavesa wrote:
Really it is weird how one of the best civilizations
of the middle
ages got to this point in a few centuries. What would you say was the historical
reason, please?


I love history - here's a quick timeline that might give some answers:

pre-6th Century: Arabs are tribal nomads living on the periphery of the Roman
(Byzantium) and Persian (Sassanid) empires.

541 - The Justinian plague decimates both empires. This was one of the deadliest
plagues in history. Plagues thrives in areas with dense populations, and the desert
nomads were mostly spared.   Despite the plague, both empires continue to fight
seemingly endless wars with each other.

621 - Mohammed has his night journey. For the first time in history the Arab tribes
are united under the banner of Islam. The Roman and Persian empires are both weak
from the plague, the wars, and a discontented populace. The Muslims conquer the
Arabian peninsula under Mohammed, most of the Middle East (including Persia) under the
Rashidun caliphate, and North Africa and Spain under the Umayyad Caliphate of
Damascus). Byzantium manages to survive, but has lost most of it's empire to the
Caliphates.

750-1258 - A 500-year 'Golden Age' of Islam under the Abassid Caliphate based in
Baghdad.

1200's - The Mongol invasions. Entire kingdoms are reduced to dust from China to
Arabia. Baghdad is sacked, and it's libraries, mosques, and schools burned. The city
lies in ruin for centuries.

From The Mongols (Steven Dutch): Iraq in 1258 was very different from
present day Iraq. Its agriculture was supported by canal networks thousands of years
old. Baghdad was one of the most brilliant intellectual centers in the world. The
Mongol destruction of Baghdad was a psychological blow from which Islam never
recovered. With the sack of Baghdad, the intellectual flowering of Islam was snuffed
out. Imagining the Athens of Pericles and Aristotle obliterated by a nuclear weapon
begins to suggest the enormity of the blow. The Mongols filled in the irrigation
canals and left Iraq too depopulated to restore them.


And there you have it - the end of the Golden Age for the Arabic people. In Egypt the
slaves took over and established a military dictatorship-style sultanate (the
Mamluks), and eventually the Turkish Ottomans replaced the Roman/Byzantine Empire in
the region.


There have been many destructive "blows" from the West since. The Crusades,
for example. And a long series of invasions and occupations beginning with the French
and British in the 19th century and continuing into the present with the USA. Not
trying to start a political debate, but the Mongols were certainly not the last to
wreak havoc in the region.
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Chung
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 Message 19 of 75
09 July 2015 at 6:57am | IP Logged 
I think that the point is that the Mongol occupation was remarkable for its destructiveness, and how it set back the profile of Arabic at arguably the worst time. The successive Ottoman and Iranian empires that followed the Mongol Ilkhanate weren't Arabophone and had nothing to do with the West and colonialism. In addition the Moors by this time were well on the decline in Europe (especially on the Iberian peninsula) and the prestige of Arabic (Andalusian Arabic in Iberia) was falling too. By the time Christopher Columbus left on his first expedition, the last Islamic state in the Iberian peninsula had surrendered, and the survivors were either rebelling or dealing with the Inquisition.

Imagine if Christopher Columbus and Hernán Cortés among others had been serving Moorish rulers because the Reconquista didn't succeed. "Latin America" might have been instead something like "Arabic America" with some form of Arabic being just another language that benefited from colonialism (and incidentally acquire a lot of secular baggage).
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kanewai
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 Message 20 of 75
09 July 2015 at 10:23am | IP Logged 
Chung wrote:
Imagine if Christopher Columbus and Hernán Cortés among others had been
serving Moorish rulers because the
Reconquista
didn't succeed. "Latin
America" might have been instead something like "Arabic America" with some form of Arabic
being just another language that benefited from colonialism (and incidentally acquire a lot
of secular baggage).


It kind of happened anyway! Mexican and Latin American cuisine (real Mexican, not Tex-Mex
or Californian "Mexican") has a far stronger Arabic influence than people realize. Mexican
spices, in particular, are more Middle Eastern than Spanish. The cheeses, the meat on
spits, and the meatballs are all direct descendants of Arabic foods. Even some town names,
like Guadalajara (wadi al-hara) are Arabic. This is partly due to the fact that the
original conquistadors emerged from centuries of Moorish rule, and partly because a lot of
Middle Easterners fled to the Yucatan and other parts of S. America after the collapse of
the Ottomans.

The religion was Catholic, the language Spanish, and the economic system was pure medieval
Spanish feudalism. But there is still a lot of "Islamic" cultural influence on the area. I
have no idea if that impacted the language too, and if it could explain why American
Spanish is so different from Iberian. It would be an interesting study.

I'll post some links tomorrow (for some reason I can't do this from my home computer).
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Doitsujin
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 Message 21 of 75
09 July 2015 at 10:40am | IP Logged 
Surtalnar wrote:
But when I look at the internet, and here on the forums, Arabic seems quite unpopular.

The numbers say otherwise. According to Wikipedia, 0.8% of the websites are in Arabic. This number might seem to be low, but if you compare it with other major languages, it isn't that bad. For example, only 5.8% of all websites are in German.

Surtalnar wrote:
We know it is more expenditure because you have to learn a new alphabet, but the same is true with Mandarin, which is booming.

The Arabic alphabet may look exotic, but it only has 28 characters and takes at most a couple of weeks to learn, while it can take years to master the most frequently used Chinese characters.

Surtalnar wrote:
I mean, if we look at the demographics the number of Arabic-speaking people will further rise, also there is a trend that Arabic overpowers other languages in their countries like French or Berber, and also the dialect level will shrink because of globalization, alphabetization and mass media.

IMHO, this fear is unfounded, because many other minority languages have survived in spite of suppressive language policies. Neither will the dialects disappear, because they have always co-existed with classical Arabic.

Monox D. I-Fly wrote:
Because it is hard? Don't get me wrong, I'm a Muslim and learn Arabic, and that's why I can say that it is hard. Going by the amount of verb types alone, Arabic has... what? 12 x 3 = 36?

No offence, but given the lack of knowledge of Arabic grammar and phonetics that your posts have shown so far, you may want to refrain from commenting on Arabic language topics.
Arabic verbs have only two tenses, with 13 possible forms each. Of these 13 possible forms only 8 forms are commonly used. And if you only want to be able to read the Qur'an you need to know even fewer verb forms. (Arabic also has different moods and derived verb forms (II-XV), but most of them follow a predictable pattern and even the irregular verbs fall into several more or less predictable patterns. For more information see the Wikipedia entry that I linked to.)

Cavesa wrote:
I've recently read a few blog posts by a Marocan who has been living in the Czech Republic for a decade or longer and he wrote about related issues. [...] He actually finds this low vocabulary to be one of the key problems of educating the youth and teaching them to logically think, to debate and so on.

IMHO, this argument is flawed, because you can think logically in any language and dialect. Dialects and MSA might be missing some important words, but the Israelis have shown that neologisms can be more or less seamlessly integrated into a language brought back from death. If they could do it so can the Arabs.
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Luso
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 Message 22 of 75
09 July 2015 at 11:39am | IP Logged 
daegga wrote:
Serpent wrote:
(but we didn't have much or anything to lose, we just
didn't progress while Europe did).


We got our fair share of Mongols too in Europe ;)

On a very, very inferior scale. The Mongol invasions were the worst thing that befell
the Islamic world, hands down. Imagine kingdoms larger and more evolved than the Holy
Roman Empire or France reduced to ashes (quite literally, I'm afraid) in a few years.
It has been said that, after the conquest of Baghdad, the Tigris river ran red
(the blood) and then black (the ink from the books of the many libraries thrown away)
for days.

I respect your "Kingdom of the East" point of view (I know a bit of your people's role
in stopping some other such advances) but, unless you were Russian or Ukrainian, you
wouldn't really know. The Russians, having been sandwiched for centuries between the
descendants of the Mongols (to whom they had to pay tribute) and powerful European
kingdoms (who took large chunks of their homeland at will) got paranoid about
conquering land (cf. 19th Century's "Great Game" and beyond).

Of course, the Crusades were one large, unmitigated crime against humanity, unleashed
to quench an European Christian problem, not solved by the "Trêve de Dieu": basically,
local nobility had been at each other's throats for more than a century, when the
Church decided they should turn on someone else: the "infidels".



But enough of History (if only it were just History...): I'd like to thank
hp230 for his posts. Nothing new for me, I'm afraid: my former Arabic teacher
is from Tunisia and, being now a good friend, keeps me posted about recent
developments in Arab countries, since the "Arab Spring" fad is not selling anymore
(which is a shame).

As for literature, maybe you're being a bit hard on yourself: Arab book prizes seem to
showcase vibrant minds. And some details are wonderful: just recently, a woman got an
award for a piece of work denouncing women's living conditions. The award was
delivered in a country not known for a progressive stand in favour of women's rights
(it was their turn to host the event, I guess), and in the end it all went very well.
:P

In any case, it's always best to have the view of an insider. Welcome to the
discussion(s).

Cavesa wrote:
It might be true the Lebanese are probably the closest to the european
mentality.

I think it depends on where you're from, since there are nuances to that "European
mentality". I'm not disagreeing, just adding. ;)

When I went to Morocco, it was all mildly exotic (albeit being just a day to get there
by car). In the group there was a Croatian lady who "felt right at home". Since they
had the Turks over there until not so long ago, some habits crept up on them.

So, as you can see, it's a matter of degree.


Serpent wrote:
Also, makes me remember Luso's post(s) about the forgotten Arabic
heritage in Portugal. English and Spanish are understandably more relevant. Not sure
if this applies to other countries that have Arabic-speaking neighbours. I wonder how
many people from Malta can read Arabic, certainly less than Italian.

I don't recall the posts, but it sounds like me. ;)

Unfortunately, in my country the Reconquista was made when things were at a low point:
mosques had to be converted into churches or tore down (and vice-versa), etc. Not a
lot of cultural preservation going on at the time.

However, things were considerably less acute than in the Crusades (in which Portuguese
and Spanish did not participate, having been making "God's work" in the Peninsula for
a few centuries): in any case, it's different to take a neighbour's land (most of the
times, you had traded with him in the past, or even been allied with him against
other kingdoms) than it is to cross the seas to make war against someone whom you've
never seen (but have been told to hate).


Nice points from kanewai (once more). Just one note: of course the language was
impacted. When you end some 750 years of occupation and cast off to a distant land
during the very same year, you ensure two things:
a) you carry a lot of baggage;
b) it's all very fresh.

Edited by Luso on 09 July 2015 at 11:51am

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Serpent
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 Message 23 of 75
09 July 2015 at 1:44pm | IP Logged 
Luso wrote:
It has been said that, after the conquest of Baghdad, the Tigris river ran red

Same was said about Dnepr river after the Battle of Kulikovo. Although the casualties were more even.

Quote:
I respect your "Kingdom of the East" point of view (I know a bit of your people's role in stopping some other such advances) but, unless you were Russian or Ukrainian, you wouldn't really know.

??? (simply confused over what you mean and whether you're addressing me or daegga)

Edited by Serpent on 09 July 2015 at 2:05pm

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Luso
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 Message 24 of 75
09 July 2015 at 2:09pm | IP Logged 
Serpent wrote:
Luso wrote:
I respect your "Kingdom of the East" point of view (I
know a bit of your
people's role in stopping some other such advances) but, unless you were Russian or
Ukrainian, you wouldn't really know.

??? (simply confused what you mean and whether you're addressing me or daegga)

I was addressing daegga => Austria => Österreich => Kingdom of the East

Russia => Rus => "rods" => Old Norse for "rower", apparently


As much as I would like, the Princes of Kiev and the Russians didn't manage to hinder
the Mongol advance much. Neither did the Poles or the Hungarians. In spite of the
occasional (minor) defeat, they kept on coming. Had the Great Khan not died, and no
one knows where they would have ended (maybe our fair shores).

EDIT: The beginning "quote" was missing, rendering the text difficult to read. Sorry.
I just put it back.

Edited by Luso on 09 July 2015 at 9:27pm



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