Marcus Buck wrote:
Tim Starling hett schreven:
Marcus Buck wrote:
In the Arabic world there's a prevalent POV,
that Arabs form one nation
united by the use of the Arabic language. But in reality Standard Arabic
is something like Latin. With the difference, that Latin fell out of use
to make place for the Romance languages. So Egyptian Arabic vs. Standard
Arabic is like French vs. Latin.
I have heard this before, but I am not convinced, because I have heard
conflicting things from Egyptian people. I don't suppose you have a
credible reference where I can read more about this, and which supports
There's no obvious or agreed-upon measure for the proximity of dialects
or languages nor for identity attitudes. All findings are inherently vague.
What did you hear conflicting things about? About the big differences
and problems with mutual intelligibility of Arabic dialects or about the
notion of "one Arabic nation"?
As one attended Wikimania in Alexandria I found that Egyptians were
quite proud to let it be known that they are not Arabs. The notion of
"one Arabic nation" seems more like an imperial Saudi attitude.
Well, that Arabic has a wide variety of different
dialects, is obvious,
if we look at the basic facts. Arabic is spoken over an area that spans
thousands of kilometers. Arabic spread from its central area in Arabia
in the 7th century due to the spread of Islam.
Islam as a religion, or as a
Since then the dialects
developed different from the standard that didn't change much since then
due to it's liturgical character (just like Latin). Latin was in vulgar
use since about the 1st century. So Latin Vulgar had 2000 years to
change and Arabic Vulgar only 1300 years. Therefore Latin Vulgar should
be roughly 50% more diverse than Arabic Vulgar (Please put the emphasis
on "roughly" cause language change is of course not linear).
Latin only had about 700 years beginning in the first century
BC, and even then it had to compete with Greek and Coptic. The
introduction of Latin in Egypt was also more imperial than religious.
Similarly the roots of Latin in Europe were with the Roman conquests.
Ecclesiastical Latin only became a factor after the fall of the Roman
Empire, and in more countries than the ones who now speak Romance
languages. Islam succeeded in Turkey and Persia, yet these countries
retained their languages. It could very well be that Islam conquered
Egypt at a time of linguistic instability. In the rest of sparsely
populated North Africa there wasn't much of a literate environment to
put up any resistance. With all the foreign invaders wanting a piece of
Egypt over the centuries, with the British meddling in Egyptian affairs
as late as 1956, they deserve credit for their efforts to distill their
own language from a very noisy background.
spread over a very wide area too and does not show that much variation.
But English spread from England only 400 years ago and most of the
speakers shifted to English only in very recent times. So outside of
England there are no real dialects (and even England is no country with
a pronounced dialectal landscape). Therefore the whole subject of
"dialects" is a very obscure thing to many speakers of English.]
Dialects don't need so much as 400 years to develop. In the US there
can be remarkable differences between the way of speaking in the eastern
and western parts of Tennessee. Ebonics is viewed by some as a separate
language. In the some parts of the US the influence of Spanish causes a
great deal of concern. In French visitors from France can find it
difficult to understand some Québécois, and it is only 250 years since
The notion of the "one Arabic nation" is
even more vague. We have to
keep in mind, that mentalities do not necessarily differentiate between
different identity-building elements. Identity can be based on
ethnicity, on language, on religion, on common history, on citizenship
or on arbitrary mixtures of these aspects. The most important connecting
element for people in the Middle East is religion. The Islam. The Islam
connects them to people with entirely different languages too. But the
Standard Arabic language is connected to the Islam also, cause it's the
liturgical language of the Islam. Saying, that Arabic is a macrolanguage
can easily touch religious feelings. That's irrational, but happens. So
there are many different levels of identity and interconnections between
those levels of identity. It's possible, that you talked to Egyptians
and they said "those damned Syrians" or otherwise showed few "Panarabic
loyalty". But that doesn't mean there is no common identity.
identity? Just because both speak a form of Arabic, and both
are predominantly Muslim doesn't stop them from being Egyptians and
you will easily find New Yorkers saying "those damned New Jerseyians" or
US Americans saying "those damned Canadians".
Canadians are more likely
to say "those damned Americans." Americans are
more likely to ignore us, which in many ways is a good thing.
It's normal to have
animosities with the people you know best, your closest neighbors (cause
there's few reason to be angry about people you have no contact to). But
if it comes to identity or loyalty, New Yorkers and New Jerseyians,
Americans and Canadians, and Egyptians and Syrians will stand close and
That's an outrageous assumption. Canadians who attend an international
sporting event between Americans and any other country will most often
cheer for the other country. Since 1959 Canada has never broken
diplomatic relations with Cuba, and has not participated in the US
adventures against Vietnam and Iraq.