Posted by: Just_in | November 11, 2009

Semitic Languages- Arabic & Hebrew

Modern Standard Arabic belongs to the Semitic language family. Semitic languages have a recorded history going back thousands of years, one of the most extensive continuous archives of documents belonging to any human language group. While the origins of the Semitic language family are currently in dispute among scholars, there is agreement that they flourished in the Mediterranean Basin area, especially in the Tigris-Euphrates river basin and in the coastal areas of the Levant.
The Semitic language family is a descendant of proto-Semitic, an ancient language that was exclusively spoken and has no written record. This relationship places Arabic firmly in the Afro-Asiatic group of world languages. Specifically, Arabic is part of the Semitic subgroup of Afro-Asiatic languages. Going further into the relationship between Arabic and the other Semitic languages, Modern Arabic is considered to be part of the Arab-Canaanite sub-branch the central group of the Western Semitic languages. Thus, to review, while Arabic is not the oldest of the Semitic languages, its roots are clearly founded in a Semitic predecessor.

Aside from Arabic, the Semitic language family includes Hebrew, Aramaic, Maltese, Amharic, Tigrinya, Tigre, Gurage, Geez, Syrica, Akkadian, Phonoecian, Punic, Ugaritic, Nabatean, Amorite and Moabite. While a majority of these are now considered “dead” languages, either entirely obsolete or used only in religious practice, Arabic has flourished. The reason for this is inextricably linked with the rise of Islam and, more specifically, Islam’s holy book, the Qur’an.

Hebrew Script- 11th C.

Hebrew Script- 11th C.

Page from a 12th century Qur'an in Arabic

Page from a 12th century Qur'an in Arabic

14th century BC diplomatic letter in Akkadian, found in Amarna

14th century BC diplomatic letter in Akkadian, found in Amarna.

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