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Hello blog!  Long time no see!

There is a special form of writer’s block that happens when one has unintentionally neglected one’s blog for quite a while.  I want this first new post to be really special, and it starts to feel like a lot of pressure, so then nothing gets written and the days and weeks turn into months…

But enough of that.  I have just learned that today is officially World Arabic Language Day!  Today, UNESCO celebrates the 40th anniversary of Arabic becoming the sixth (and so far, final) of the official working languages of the UN.  Each of the six languages get their own special day during the year, but I just had to pause to observe this one.

I love Arabic.  I mean, I love all languages, and I love this world of thousands of languages, but somehow I managed to fall in love with this one in particular.  One day soon I really need to get back to it, because those vowels, those throaty consonants, that beautiful script always gives me goosebumps.

Of course, one of the fascinating things about Arabic is that in reality, there are quite a few different “Arabics.”  The language that the UN recognizes is known as Modern Standard Arabic, but so-called “regional dialects” like Moroccan Arabic and Levantine Arabic, are worlds apart; the farther the geographic distance between any two speakers in the Arabic world, the less and less intelligible they become to each other, until it barely seems like they’re speaking the same language at all.  And the Arabic in those calligraphy samples I linked to is the Classical Arabic of the Qur’an – close to MSA, but again very different from the regional dialects.  It’s a perfect illustration of some of the big questions sociolinguists ask – what is a language? What is a dialect? And what’s the difference between the two? The blog Arabic Literature (in English) actually refers to this as “World Arabic(s) Language Day” and has a nice brief overview of how complicated things get when you even start to talk about the Arabic language.

To celebrate the day, I suggest spending a little while poking around the wikipedia page on the language(s) while listening to some great music – I’m personally very partial to Rachid Taha’s latest:

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What language would you like to have its own special day?

Copyright Allison Taylor-Adams.  See About for details.

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