Arabic is not an easy language to learn; both the script and the structure are quite unlike that of any European language. The aim of this book is to reduce to a minimum the difficulties the students will encounter in learning Arabic
The script and grammar of the language are clearly explained in a series of carefully graded lessons, each of which contains many examples and exercises. The result is a detailed and practical course in the classical language of Arab civilisation and culture.
The Author A.S. Tritton, is a distinguished Oriental scholar with many years experience of teaching Arbic. He has written a book invaluable both to the student of Arabic and to the absolute beginner.
Arabic is a Semitic language and so different from those usually studied in Europe; this is perhaps the main difficulty, there are none of the familiar landmarks. The verbs' have' and' be ' do not exist; when' be ' is indispensable, 'become' is used as a substitute and it does not take the same case after it as it does before it. The verb has no tenses, only two forms indicating completed and incomplete action. Normally the' finished' form is used to describe past events but it is also used to express wishes and prayers where the action is only ideally finished. To make up for this poverty the verb is developed in other ways, thus 'be good', 'do well', 'approve' are all expressed by modifications of the same verb.
Most words are derived from roots which consist of three consonants called radicals; it is obvious that these roots are not words. The addition of vowels, prefixes, suffixes to the root makes words. In this way some seventy word patterns are made, each with its own meaning. In English man", ran " fat ' are all of the same pattern, a short vowel between two consonants but one is a noun, one a verb, and one an adjective; this is impossible in Arabic. As there are so few word patterns the language sounds rather monotonous; a poem must have the same rhyme throughout and it is common to find nearly one hundred lines with a complicated rhyme like a:muha:.
An illustration will make the next point clear. KaTaBa has a vowel between the first and the second radical, yaKTuBu has not. The beginner, especially in trying to hear the language, finds it hard to believe that the syllable yak, which ends in k, has anything to do with words which begin with k.
The Arab grammarians used the root, a real root, with its derivatives, as the type of all words; they called katibu the faialu of ktb not the active participle and maktu:bu the maf'iu:lu instead of the passive participle. maktabu and maka:nu are the maf'Galu of ktb and kwn respectively; we should call them nouns of place. In maka:nu the UI of the root has combined with the short vowel to form a long one.
They recognized only three parts of speech, noun, verb, and particle. This classification is useful because, (1) it is not often needful to distinguish the noun from the adjective, what is true of the first is usually true of the second; and (2) there are some words which have no equivalents in English and are lumped together with prepositions and conjunctions as particles. In most languages the commonest words are irregular; this is also true of Arabic, but it has fewer irregularities than most languages. The structure of sentences is simple; elaborate periods are few; clause is joined to clause by and ' while it is left to the imagination of the reader to supply a more precise link. Effects are obtained by the combination of simple words; what is in me ' may mean' my abilities' or ‘my feelings' according to the context.
The primary sense of the' root usually develops derived meanings. To push money to someone is to pay him; to try to push his enemy .from him is to defend him. 'Total' and 'eloquence' both come from 'arrive'; by the addition of small sums you arrive at a total, by persuasive words your ideas arrive at the minds of your hearers. It is obvious that the primary meaning of the root must be picked out from the mass of derivatives.
Print and handwriting are essentially the same. The script unites at least two stages of history. At first only the consonants were written, though in the earliest known inscriptions three of them, alif (which was then the glottal stop), w, and y were also used to indicate the long vowels. The first book to be written was the Koran and this fixed the spelling of the language because the text was too sacred to be tampered with. Unfortunately. Muhammad spoke the dialect of Mecca which did not use the glottal stop, replacing it near u and i by the consonants w and y. Other dialects kept the glottal stop and were considered more elegant. So a special sign for the glottal stop was invented, written like the new vowel signs outside the consonantal framework. It was introduced into the Koran and now appears in all Arabic sometimes alone and sometimes in conjunction with alif or w or y but representing only one sound.
Apart from school books all vowels are written only in the Koran; elsewhere they are used sparingly.
The Arabic of a newspaper is in essentials that of the Koran; the main difference is the large new vocabulary. partly old words with new meanings. partly loan words. The syntax is slightly simplified. The spoken tongue varies from place to place and differs from the written by the loss or degeneration of inflections and a different vocabulary. It is written only in jokes in comic papers, dialogue in novels, and sometimes in short stories.
Formerly the Arab sat on the floor, ate with his fingers and at meal or bed times his food or bed was brought to him. The result is that many words, indispensable in English, scarcely occur in accounts of native life. For • table' Syria uses an Italian, Egypt a Greek, and Mesopotamia a Persian word.
This book is an introduction to written Arabic which is understood from the Atlantic to the frontiers of Persia. It will not help a man to talk to a crossing-sweeper the day of his arrival but it will quicken his progress in talking after the first month or so.
Words, which have been fully explained in the lessons, are left out of the vocabularies.
Proper names, which come in the examples, have not been transliterated in the phonetic alphabet.
In the transcription j and y have their English sounds. Owing to the nature of the type in this book many of the vowels are to the left of the consonants instead of being directly above them.
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