The fascination of the Arabic language and its grammar - Dr Fadl Samarai (Grammarian)
Just today I saw an awesome Arabic saying and shared it with a friend who is interested in languages and the way we use languages. Then he gave me two names I should look for when I want to learn more about the beauty of the Arabic language. Those names are Dr Fadel Al Samarai and Nahj Al Balagha. Now I like to share a great example how we can use Arabic and how does this language work when we like to learn more than only using very basic and common topics. I hope you will enjoy this too.
The richness of the Arabic Language ( Sentence structures) Dr Fadl Samarai a famous Arabic Grammarian in the Arab world compared the Arabic language to a highly sophisticated, state of the art computer alongside the English language (or any other language) which he compared to an obsolete and outdated computer. This might sound a bit biased considering he is an Arab, a Muslim and a famous Arabic Grammarian on Arab TV, however he has very good reason to make this comparison once we examine the Arabic language in a bit more detail.
Before we can understand this comparison we need to understand the difference between a declining language like Arabic and a non-declining language like the English language.
Let's take the following 3 simple sentences in both Arabic and English:
- Khalid came
- I saw Khalid
- I went with khalid
ذَهَبْتُ مَعَ خَالِدٍ
In all 3 sentences Khalid is written the same way in English regardless of what role it plays in the sentence.
On the other hand you will notice the name Khalid in Arabic (خَالِد) changes depending on its role in the sentence (Khalid(un), Khalid(an) and Khalid(in) respectively). In the first sentence he is the doer, the second he is the object and the third he followed by the word مَعَ (with). Most nouns and verbs in Arabic decline depending on their role in the sentence.
Declension, as Dr Fadl explains gives the Arabic language an added dimension of being able to communicate what one wants to say in the most precise way possible that English and other non declining languages are not able to do.
Comparison of one simple sentence
Let us take a simple sentence in English and translate it to Arabic
Muhammad gave Khalid a book
أَعْطَى مُحَمَّدٌ خَالِداً كِتَاباً
In English we are limited to the proper sentence structure which needs to be adhered to. If we were to rearrange the same words of the sentence in random order as follows:
gave a Muhammad Khalid book
It would make absolutely no sense. Also if we wanted to say the same sentence in another way we would need to bring in a new word or change a word with one of its synonyms.
On the other hand!
In Arabic we can use the same words (with same function in the sentence) and rearrange them in 10 different ways:
أَعْطَى مُحَمَّدٌ خَالِداًً كِتَاباً
مُحَمَّدٌ أَعْطَى خَالِداً كِتَاباً
كِتَاباً أَعْطَى مُحَمَّدٌ خَالِداً
كِتَاباًً خَالِداً أَعْطَى مُحَمَّدٌ
كِتَاباً خَالِداً مُحَمَّدٌ أَعْطَى
أَعْطَى خَالِداًً كِتَاباً مُحَمَّدٌ
أَعْطَى خَالِداً مُحَمَّدٌ كِتَاباً
أَعْطَى كِتَاباً مُحَمَّدٌ خَالِداًً
أَعْطَى كِتَاباًً خَالِداًً مُحَمَّدٌ
In all 10 sentences the same words are used with each word having the same function in the sentence. Each of the 10 sentences can be translated back into English as "Muhammad gave Khalid a book"
Now the question will arise what is the point. Would this not make the other 9 forms redundant since they all have the same meaning. Actually they all have the same general meaning with a subtle difference in each based on the positioning of the words.
Let's take some examples:
أَعْطَى مُحَمَّدٌ خَالِداً كِتَاباًً
One did not know anything of the event (i.e. Muhammad giving Khalid a book) prior to hearing it. In other words, this is completely new information for the person hearing it.
مُحَمَّدٌ أَعْطَى خَالِداً كِتَاباً
One is aware that Khalid received a book but is unaware of the person who gave it to him. So one would ask "Who gave Khalid the book?" and this would be the response.
كِتَاباً أَعْطَى مُحَمَّدٌ خَالِداً
One is aware that Khalid received something from Muhammad but is unaware of what he gave. So one would ask "What did Muhammad give Khalid?" and this would be the response.
كِتَاباً خَالِداً ً أَعْطَى مُحَمَّدٌ
One is aware that Muahmmad gave something to someone but is unaware of what was given and to whom it was given to. So one would ask "What did Muhammad give and to whom it he give it to?" and this would be the response.
And so on…….
This is one example of how English seems quite powerless when compared with the Arabic language.
you discover the Latin ... I mean in Latin it is the same ?
I'm not sure that is really incredible
I see what you mean. Maybe It is for me awesome because I already have looked at more in Arabic and still my friends show me new things how the language can work. I will show you two texts, they are very old and very special. If you consider that in Arabic nearly every second or third word contains the letter Alif and you can find in around up to 90% of the words letters with dots on top and at the bottom then you maybe understand what I mean and what does impress me so in this language.
yeah I've also learned arabic and I speak it. I'm really interested in the structure of the language. I was thinking you were emphasizing the facts that most of words are constructed on a basis, on which we put a big number of declinations. If it is the thing incredible is this language for you, then you might be interested in latine and how it is construct.
If what is incredible for you is the letter alif is every where, we can also find other languages incredible for such "specificity".
But glad for you if you like this language, it is a beautiful one's
Thank you for your tip about Latin. But I guess it is already very hard for me to learn Arabic and improve my English. So I should not start with another Language before I will be able to read Arabic without vowel signs and understand a bit the spoken language too.
But you have to consider that these are really very old texts, if I am not mistaken then they are from the 700 century. So this way of language is not spoken today. But with Latin it is the same. This language is used mostly for professions.
And there is one more point, this man shall have spoken at least one of these sermons without preparing it in advance.
Hi Elke, your contribution to this forum is far beoynd ordinariy language-learning. I would rather consider it as theoretical philosophy. We students are more stucked to substantives, verbs, objects idafas and so on. LOL
You are right that this is far beyond our level. :-) I only wanted to show what opportunity this language offers when we want to learn more than only being able to have talks in an A1 or A2 level. And for me texts like those are more interesting from the view how the language is used and when it comes to texts without religion also the way how people think and how they express themselves about what happened around them. But when it comes to Arabic then we have to accept that many thing are based on religious topics and we have to except this without starting every time a discussion about religion. To learn Arabic and the culture behind it and the using of this language should be every time fun and enjoyable.
My sincere respect for your approach and feelings for the Arab language and culture.
Hi Toto, if you mean genitiv-constructions in Latin, you might be right. There are similarities between Arab and Latin although L has no definite articles. Look at this: A boy's horse = Equus puerii. First noun substantive, second is genitiv. Same in Arab
I hope this might help you to get a feeling how we can play with the language.
Btw, just some minutes ago I got saying from the 4th Kalif Ali Ibn Abi Talib. These I read are still so close to the today's life. Many of them fits perfectly in our time.
And if you accept the VSO - order (Verb,Subject,Object) as the only correct word-order, you easily realize that examples 2 to 10 are nonsens.
Mmmm ... Are you sure that this is the only way how someone can express themselves? What makes you so sure that this shall be the only way of word order?
SVO is also OK as well as Idafa-constructions. All other disorders simply dont make sense. Could'nt see any idafa's among these 10 examples mentioned.
Yes, you are right. There are no genitive sentences. But maybe you should consider that you still only learn the grammar from the today's language which is just very common now. The reachness of a language means also to get into the old language which you can find in texts and in poems. Just today I have read a lot about and from Ali Ibn Abi Talib. He was the 4th Kalif. And when I read this I have to remember like I read poems from Goethe, Schiller or Lessing. I guess in your native language there should be changed the way people express themselve too. At least in my native Language it happens a lot. So you see, there might be a lot of more left which you can learn in case you are interested in it. :-)
Finnish, Russian, Hungarian, Latin and Greek must be even more advanced if this is the stick we use to measure a language.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Arabic and I get he’s biased but this claim of Arabic’s mystical greatness is old. All languages have advantages and draw backs.
Exactly. In German, too, you can do much the same shifting of words to express different emphases as given in the OP to this thread.
I think each language has different ways of expressing things, which also evolve over time -- some features disappear, others arise. There's nothing superior in one structure or the other. It's just different. And for me, this is the amazing thing which makes me love learning languages. So many ways to express thoughts and feelings. This is humanity's capacity.
Very fascinating and such an incredible read. It amazes me the richness of the Arabic language, I have only touched upon the surface but I am already enamored with its beautiful complexity.
A Lingot to you is much deserved! شكرا لك
Thank you. Yes, I always love to read old Arabic poems and other things. The way they use to name things is so amazing.