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Arabic writing system - Essay Example

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Arabic belongs to the group of Semitic alphabetical scripts in which mainly the consonants are represented in writing, while the marking of vowels (using diacritics) is optional. The earliest-known alphabet to mankind was the North Semitic, which developed around 1700 B.C…
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Download file to see previous pages 800 B.C.), whence came the letters of the ancient Roman alphabet, and ultimately all Western alphabets.
The North Arabic script, which eventually prevailed and became the Arabic script of the Quran, relates most substantially and directly to the Nabatian script, which was derived from the Aramaic script. Old Aramaic, the language of Jesus and the Apostles, dates from the 2nd millennium B.C., and some dialects of which are still spoken by tiny groups in the Middle East. Arabic script still shares with Aramaic the names of the alphabet letters (Alef, Jeem, Dal, Zai, Sheen, etc.); similar graphic representation for phonetically similar letters (Sad and Dad, Ta and Tha, etc.); connections of letters in the same word and several forms of each letter depending on its location in the word, except for letters that cannot be connected to the letters which come after them (Alef, Dal/Dthal, Raa/Zai, Waw). The Arabic alphabet contains 18 letter shapes, by adding one, two, or three dots to letters with similar phonetic characteristics a total of 28 letters is obtained. These contain three long vowels, while diacritics can be added to indicate short vowels.
With the spread of Islam, the Arabic alphabet was adapted by several non-Arab nations for writing their own languages. In Iran Arabic letters were used to write Farsi, with the addition of four letters to represent the phonetics that did not exist in Arabic: p, ch, zh, and g. The Ottoman Turks used the Arabic alphabet until 1929 and added still another letter. This alphabet was also used to write other Turkish languages and dialects, such as Kazakh, Uzbek, etc. Several other languages used the Arabic alphabet at one time or another, including Urdu, Malay, Swahili, Hausa, Algerian Tribal, and others.
Arabic script is not used solely for writing Arabic, but for a variety of languages. In each language, it has been modified to fit the language's sound system. There are sounds not found in Arabic, but found in, for instance, Persian, Malay and Urdu: such sounds don't correspond to any sound from the Arabic system of sounds for which the Arabic alphabet can be used. For example, the Arabic language lacks a [p] sounding letter, so many languages add their own letter for [p] in the script, though the symbol used may differ between languages. These modifications tend to fall into groups: all the Indian and Turkic languages written in Arabic tend to use the Persian modified letters (and those are the languages that are "geographically closer" to Persia), whereas West African languages tend to imitate those of Ajami, and Indonesian ones those of Jawi. A writing system in which the Persian modified letters are used is called Perso-Arabic script by the scholars. Generally, in countries where national education is effective and where the national language is written in Arabic script, Arabic script is also used to write the other languages used in that country (Coulmas 20).
The Arabic alphabet is written from right to left and is composed of 28 basic letters. Adaptations of the script for other languages such as Persian and Urdu have additional letters. There is no difference between written and printed letters; the writing is unicase (i.e. the concept of upper and lower case letters does not exist). On the other hand, most of the letters are attached to one another, even when printed, and their appearance changes as a function of whether they connect to preceding or following letters. Some ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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