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Development of Ar ) abic in the shadow of the Qur an and diglossia

The main motive behind the codification of the Arabic language by lexicographers and grammarians was to defend the pure Arabic language against linguistic corruption and to teach nonArab-speakers correct Arabic. Standardising, codifying, developing orthographic and orthoepic symbols were based on the absolute necessity to preserve the correct form and pronunciation of the Qur

) an. The Qur

) an, but with

it also Classical Arabic as a whole, had to be protected against influences of Arabic dialects and against the influences of languages of subjected peoples in the new Arabo-Islamic empire, for example, Persian, Aramaic, Coptic or Greek. Soon urban forms of spoken Arabic were felt to be more open to ‘corruption’ than the language of bedouin tribes. The rift between the language of the city-dwellers and Arab nomadic or semi-nomadic tribes was to make a lasting imprint on the history of Arabic dialects. To this day these are often subdivided into urban, rural and tribal dialects. For large parts of the Near and Middle East, Classical Arabic became a religious and cultural lingua franca. It became the scholarly medium of Muslims all over the world. Arabic deeply influenced other languages spoken and written by Muslims. In the case of Persian, Ottoman Turkish, Pashto, Urdu and Haussa even the Arabic writing system was adopted. The Islamic vocabulary which has penetrated most languages spoken by Muslims to some degree is Arabic. It starts with religious formulas used in the ritual prayer and does not end with Muslim proper names. The model of Classical Arabic was so

powerful mainly because it was inspired by the Qur

) an. In morphology and syntax

the rules had been laid down once and forever by Arab grammarians. Strict linguistic norms assured linguistic unity over time and space, but on the other hand they blocked development and flexibility. This led in the course of centuries to a diglossia which is until today one of the most important features of the linguistic space of Arabic. Diglossia in Arabic has often been

described as a split between a written formal language which is also used for speech on formal occasions, on the one hand, and informal language, which is not written, on the other. The formal language is Classical Arabic; the spoken language is one of numerous different Arabic dialects. While we can be sure that such a situation characterized the choice of any speaker or writer of Arabic from

( Abbasid times onwards at

least, modern research has shown for the linguistic situation of modern Arab speakers that the term ‘diglossia’, which implies the existence of two different layers of language, is too simplistic. In reality, today one has to distinguish at least five socio-linguistic levels of Modern Arabic: the classical heritage; contemporary classical; the colloquial of the cultured; the colloquial of the enlightened; and the colloquial of the illiterate. Real speech moves inside this continuum, involves frequent code switching and moves freely between these registers. We can assume that this situation prevailed in Arabic in premodern times also. The language of Classical Arabic was

and is a language of the highest cultural prestige, but nobody speaks it as his or her mother tongue. It has to be acquired. The language spoken at home and in the market was and is one of the Arabic dialects; such a dialect is the first language of each Arab. As the means of informal communication it carries no prestige whatsoever. The gulf separating

the formal and the informal mode of

expression became historically wider

and wider until the formal and the

informal levels became mutually almost

or totally incomprehensible. At the same

time the differences between the Arabic

dialects which were spread over a wide

geographic area developed centrifugally

even further. A speaker of a Moroccan

dialect today cannot make himself

understood to the speaker of an Iraqi

dialect. They can communicate only if

both have learned Classical Arabic.