Arabic is the native language of more than 400 Million people in the Middle East and North Africa. Literary Arabic, considered as the standard language known as /al.fuS.Ha/ "the most eloquent", refers to both Modern Standard Arabic and Classical Arabic.
- Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is the official language of all Arab countries and is the only form of Arabic taught in schools at all stages. It is the language of present-day media (including television and radio, and practically all written matter such as books, newspapers, magazines and documents of every kind) across North Africa and the Middle East.
- Classical Arabic is the language of the Qur'aan and the language of old literature. Arabic is often associated with Islam, but it is also spoken by Arab Christians and Arab Jews.
- Colloquial (Spoken) Arabic refers to the many national or regional varieties derived from Classical Arabic, spoken daily across North Africa and the Middle East, which constitute the everyday spoken language. These sometimes differ enough to be mutually incomprehensible. These dialects are not typically written, although a certain amount of literature (particularly plays and movies) exists in many of them. They are often used to varying degrees in informal spoken media, such as soap operas and talk shows. Educated Arabs of any nationality can be assumed to speak both their local dialect and their school-taught literary Arabic (to an equal or lesser degree).
The influence of Arabic on other languages has been most profound in those countries dominated by Islam or Islamic power. Arabic is a major source of vocabulary for languages as diverse as Berber, Kurdish, Persian, Swahili, Urdu, Hindi (especially the spoken variety), Bengali, Turkish, Malay and Indonesian. In addition, Spanish and Portuguese both have large numbers of Arabic loan words. For example the Arabic word for book /kitaab/ is used in Berber, Kurdish, Persian, Swahili, Urdu, Bengali, Turkish. Arabic script is still used in Persian, Urdu, Kurdish, Pashto.
Some English words are derived from Arabic, often through other European languages, especially Spanish and Italian. Among them are commonly-used words like "sugar" /suk.kar/ and "cotton" /quTn/. English words more recognizably of Arabic origin include "algebra", "alcohol", "alchemy", "alkali" and "zenith."
Grammatically, Arabic has that distinctive feature of Semitic languages, the tri-consonantal root consisting of three consonants separated by two vowels. The basic meaning of the root is furnished by the consonants and is altered by changes in, or omission of, the vowels and by the addition of various affixes. Gender is found in the Arabic verb, as well as in the noun, pronoun, and adjective. The modern Arabic dialects have considerably simplified classical Arabic, as by discarding the declension of the noun and other inflections. Arabic has its own alphabet, which is composed of 29 letters. The direction of writing is from right to left. There are 3 long vowels and 3 short vowels. Short vowels are shown by symbols above or below the consonants, but they are optional and are often not written.
Arabic is a member of the Semitic language stock, very closely related to Hebrew and Aramaic. The Semitic languages are unique in their reliance on 're-vowelling' (changing the form of words by replacing the vowels in them). Words are listed in the dictionary as all consonants, e.g. From the root k-t-b which is related to "writing", you may derive /kataba/ "he wrote", /yaktubu/ "he writes", /kitaab/ "book", /maktab/ "office" or "desk" and /maktaba/ "library" ... etc.