[Foundation-l] How to dismantle a language committee

Milos Rancic millosh at gmail.com
Mon Jan 12 04:39:49 UTC 2009

On Mon, Jan 12, 2009 at 5:12 AM, Tim Starling <tstarling at wikimedia.org> wrote:
> Arabic may have spread from Morocco to Malaysia, but Cairo is quite close
> to the Arabian peninsula, so I wonder if you're not overgeneralising.

From: http://www.lmp.ucla.edu/Profile.aspx?menu=004&LangID=51

"Egyptian Arabic is distinguished by a larger vowel inventory than
Classical Arabic, with four short vowels (plus epenthetic schwa) and
six long vowels, compared to three short vowels and six long vowels in
Classical Arabic. Consonantal changes have included the loss of
interdental fricatives. Egyptian Arabic is also characterized by two
regular phonological processes lacking in Standard Arabic. First, all
long vowels become shortened in unstressed positions and before
consonant clusters. And second, many instances of short i and u are
dropped by a process known as high vowel deletion. For example, when
the feminine suffix -a is added to the participle kaatib "having
written (masc.)", the i is deleted, resulting in katba.

Like other varieties of Arabic, Egyptian Arabic derives the bulk of
its vocabulary by applying a number of patterns or templates to a
stock of consonantal roots. For example, from the triliteral root
(three-consonant root) g-w-z with the basic meaning of "pair" is
derived gooz "pair; husband", yiggawwiz "to get married", gawaaz
"marriage", and migwiz "double". As an example of a template, the
template maCCaC is used to derive many nouns referring to a place
where an activity is done by substituting the C's in the template with
the consonants of a triliteral root, such as: maktab "office" (a place
where one writes) and maTbax "kitchen" (a place where one cooks).

Verbs occur in two aspects: the perfective and the imperfective. The
perfective is usually translated as a past tense or present perfect.
Its conjugational morphology consists entirely of suffixes, for
example: katab "he wrote", katabit "she wrote", katabt "I wrote",
katabna "we wrote". The plain imperfective form is used much like an
infinitive or subjunctive, as yiktib "he writes" in biyHibb yiktib"he
likes to write".  The imperfective also serves as the basis for the
present and future tenses with particles bi and Ha, as in biyiktib "he
writes" and Hayiktib "he will write". The conjugational morphology of
the imperfective employs both prefixes and suffixes.

For example, from the imperfective stem ktib we get yiktib "he
writes", tiktib "she writes", and yiktibu "they write". The imperative
is formed by leaving off the prefix of the imperfective. Verbs, and
certain other elements, are usually negated by simultaneous use of the
particles ma- and -š. Sometimes these particles are affixed to either
side of the verb, as in the past tense makatabš "he didn't write",
while in other cases, the particles combine to form the separate word
miš "not" which occurs before the verb, as in the future miš Hayiktib
"he won't write".

In addition to the direct object clitics found in Standard Arabic,
Egyptian Arabic also has indirect object clitics which follow any
direct object clitic but precede negative -š. For example, "he wrote"
is katab, "he wrote it (fem.)" is katabha, "he wrote it to you" is
katabhaalak, and finally "he didn't write it to you" is makatabhalakš.

As in Standard Arabic, nouns are either masculine or feminine, and
either singular, dual, or plural, and plurals are either sound
(regular) or broken (irregular) employing a suffix or broken
(irregular) employing a different template, as described in the Arabic
Overview. Broken plurals are not restricted to a small subset of the
vocabulary and are frequently used even with loanwords having three or
four consonants, such as the English loanword sikšin "section" >
sakaašin"sections". Many adjectives also have broken plural forms.

Egyptian Arabic is much less averse to borrowing than Standard Arabic,
and the sources from which it has borrowed reflects the influence that
different peoples have had in Egypt over its history. Many borrowings
remain from Coptic, a Cushitic language which has been dead for
several centuries but which was the dominant language in Egypt when
the Arabs first arrived. Borrowings from Coptic are concentrated in
fields of activity for which were foreign to Peninsular Arabic
culture, such as agriculture. Later borrowings came primarily from
Greek, Italian, French, and English. Most new borrowings are from

Like other modern dialects, though unlike Standard Arabic, the
predominant word order in Egyptian Arabic is Subject Verb Object

This is a lot. Not like difference between Hittite and English, but it
is like differences between Old Church Slavonic and Serbian or between
Latin and Italian.

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