Features That Are Unique About Arabic

Features That Are Unique About Arabic

Perhaps one of the most fascinating languages in the world today is the Arabic language. It is also one of the most widely-spoken languages, ranking fifth just behind the English and Hindi languages. Arabic is the official language of the 22 countries that form the Arab League. There are more than 300 million Arabic speakers across the world, though they predominantly live in the region stretching across the Middle East and North Africa. It is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations. This articles gives a brief description about the relevant basic elements that are unique in Arabic.


Arabic Writing System

Unlike most other languages, Arabic is written in script. This accounts for the Arabic alphabet being one of the most visually interesting written languages in the world due to its distinct cursive format. At the same time, it is written from right to left, unlike Latin based languages, which are written from left to right. However, the numerals are written from left to right, with several variations used in India, Pakistan and Iran for the numbers 4, 5, 6 and 7 in the Arabic language. The Nabataean alphabet system, which the written Arabic language is based, on did not have singular letter symbols for about a third of the alphabet. Examples of this are the letters H, G, K, T and Z, where there are four ways for them to be written. This means that some consonants would share the same shape. As a way of differentiating the consonants that shared the same shape, a system of dots, which were placed over the letters, was developed, although there were no letter shapes assigned to B and F. Just as all languages evolve over time to adapt to other cultures, however, additional letters were used to refer to foreign words and nouns with sounds that are not used in the standard language.


Except For A Few Letters, Arabic Is Written In Cursive

As mentioned above, whether writing or typing in Arabic, the letters are in cursive and connect to one another. The cursive style of each letter changes it from its original shape, as they vary in shape depending on their position within a word. Letters can exhibit up to four distinct forms corresponding to an initial, medial (middle), final, or isolated position. Arabic speakers, therefore, must know the multiple shapes of each letter. Generally, letters in the same word are linked together on both sides by short horizontal lines, but six letters (و ,ز ,ر ,ذ ,د ,ا) can only be linked to their preceding letter.


The Unique Arabic Sound

The Arabic language has many sounds such as specific throat sounds that don’t exist in any other language. Some words in Arabic are very similar in pronunciation, but have completely different meanings when just one syllable is mispronounced. An example of a unique sound is the ”h” in hubb (the word for love) which is pronounced as if you’re gently breathing on a window pane to create a fog. Some of the unique throat sounds found in Arabic include the pronunciation of haa, a guttural breath that’s only found in Arabic, along with aynghayn and kha, which are like the clearing of the throat.


Arabic Language Is Classified In Three Forms

The Arabic language is classified into three forms: Classical Arabic (CA), Colloquial Arabic Dialects (CAD), and Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), also called fusha. Classical Arabic is the language used in liturgy. It has not changed and it is the one that is taught academically. Additionally,  it is the language used by religious scholars. Today it is more of a formal written language.

Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is almost the same as Classical Arabic and used and understood in everyday spoken contexts by Arabic speakers around the globe. It is the language mainly used by politicians and the media. Likewise, it is used in schools teaching Arabic as a foreign language as well as in modern Arabic literature.


Arab colloquial dialects are generally only spoken. A colloquial language is used in daily conversation and there are over 100 of them!

These are just some of the things that add texture and interest to the Arabic language, providing one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world its own distinct personality.

Gary Greer

Gary Greer was born and raised in the United States.  After an eight year stint in the U.S. Army in 1992, he attended Delaware State University to pursue his B.A. in English Communications to become a writer. Since then he has traveled the globe, living in the Europe and the Middle East, working for such prestigious organizations as the U.S. Army, NAPA Auto Parts, and AMIDEAST, and other well-known organizations, as well.  Gary came to Jordan in 2005, bringing with him a wealth of experience in the fields of Business and Education, and has since implemented and taught specialized English and Business training courses in the Business, Hospitality, Medical and Legal sectors throughout Jordan for TE Data, The Nuqul Group, The Ministry of Justice, The Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, UNRWA, and the Mövenpick and Kempinski Hotels, among others. Along with teaching, he has also pursued his dream of becoming a writer and has written and done the voice-over narration of two travel documentaries about Jordan for Seven Stars television worked as an editor for Family Flavours magazine and acted in television advertisements for USAID. He now works as a content writer for Kaleela.com.

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