It happened that the issue of usage of classic Arabic language or at least Arabic letters in mobile messages and popular social media sites has been a hot subject of discussion between many people who I met the last two weeks. I know the issue is not new but in my modest opinion it will remain a hot issue in this period of time for several reasons: 1. The increasing number of Arab youth ignorant of the basic Arabic grammar. 2. The technical simplicity of using one type of font (Latin letters in our case) on keyboards and mobile devices for some objective reasons we will discuss later. 3. The natural historical stage of decline of old lingual forms * and inevitability of change in structure and forms – a stage in which Arabic language has entered long ago though totally denied by proponents of classic Arabic language divinity. 4. The political and cultural regression of Arabs and their position as consumers rather than producers of the cultural product. 5. Failure to acknowledge the above factors and deal with their results.
We have to admit first that Arabic language has long since seized to be a language of living science. We now import scientific knowledge and technology from the west and mostly from English speaking countries. In a way or another English now is playing the role which Arabic language played around a millennium ago. It is worth to note that the Arabic font was adopted by most of the islamized nations regardless of their cultural heritage, script and the suitability of this font their phonetics. It is also worth to remember that Arabic language imported even during its splendid era hundreds of words from the languages of conquered nations as they were more culturally developed than Arabs Now that English is the language of science and a more or less modified English is the universal lingua franca, why should Arabic language be isolated and preserved from any evolution? Or why shall we reject the changing script.
Ironically, the Arabic script we know nowadays was not the script of ancient Arabs before Islam The epitaph of famous Imru-l-Qays is written in musnad script. The only nations that still uses ancient Arabic script are Ethiopia and Eritrea where is Ge’ze script is based on Arabic musnad.
Both educated and uneducated Arab youth are, in their majority, ignorant of the basic Arabic grammar simply because the colloquial language they grow up hearing at home is a scriptless derivative of Arabic and not real Arabic while the language they use to learn sciences (further than the frame of school) is English It is a natural tendency to use the script you are familiar with to write a scriptless language you know. If somebody dictates to you now a sentence in Aramaic or ancient Mayan wouldn’t you use the letters you are familiar with the most to write down what you hear?
Objective technical issues can hinder using Arabic script for internet/mobile chat. A computer system and a keyboard cannot be compared to paper and pen. While the paper wouldn’t mind you writing from left to write or from right to left, changing the script in a computer window or a mobile phone would not be that handy. It may take three keys or two not more… But during a short chat you may use equal number or foreign and Arabic words, which makes it easier to keep your English keyboard settings and adapt the Arabic words to the Latin script rather than doing the opposite. Moreover, some devices may not be prepared to read or write Arabic… while the need to install Arabic support diminishes with the increasing availability of knowledge in English rather than Arabic.
A main obstacle impeding the revival of Arabic (certainly in new forms) is the orthodoxy of linguists and their romantic and sometimes surreal (metaphysical) perception of the arabic language as divine and already complete. Thus any change is perceived by them as a heresy and corruption. Read my blogpost about Louis Awad’s “Introduction to the Jurisprudence of the Arabic Language“. Language is a dynamic living being that adapts, adopts, influences and gets influenced by other languages. The law of change applies to it as it applies to all living beings. Language is also a mortal being. It lives, flourishes, gives birth to some derivative languages and dies…
Yes, languages die… And they die earlier if they fail to incorporate change. Classic Arabic language is now living in a cultural ICU, with artificial ventilation and implanted pacemaker. It is unable to walk in the streets even in major Arabic cities… It is unable to see its children born and is unable to run on their tongues as they pronounce their first words… The only place where classic Arabic can survive now is books. It is our choice either to embrace change allowing our language to adapt and survive or leave it to face its destiny of oblivion and rest in peace beside other great languages. .
Antanas Smetona, the last president of Lithuania before it was invaded by Soviet and then Nazi armies in 1941, used Latin to make his last unsuccessful appeal for help from the Allies… may be his speech was heard, but there was no one who could understand!
I have to confess in the end that I am a lover of classic Arabic and that classic Arabic is the most appropriate language in which I can fully and easily express myself. I adore classic poetry and traditional literary forms… I write in English for practical reasons and to keep my mind from being lazy in the lap of a comfortable mother language.