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A Profile of Arabic Script Languages

Bushra Zawaydeh, Ph.D., Senior Linguist


June 7, 2007

Proprietary Information of Basis Technology Corp.


History of the Arabic Script

ƒ Derived from the Nabataean script, which was used in Petra in the
2nd century BC.

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History..

ƒ The Nabataean script is an offshoot from the Aramaic script.

ƒ The Aramaic script developed from the Phoenician script.

ƒ The Phoenician script was a model for the Greeks to develop the
Greek writing system (around 1000 B.C.), from which English, and
all Western alphabets were based on.

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Development of Phoenician Script

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Development of Arabic Script

ƒ Arabic inscriptions became widely available after the birth of


Islam.

ƒ The Quran descended upon the prophet Mohammad in the year


A.D. 612 (Khan, 2001)

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History

ƒ Before the descension of the Quran, Arabic was primarily an oral


language.

ƒ Arabic is considered a holy language because it is the language of


the Quran. Hence it is the primary prayer language for Muslims.

ƒ Arabic spread through the spread of Islam. By the 11th century,


Arabic became the common medium of expression from China to
France.

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Types of Arabic Calligraphy: Kufic

ƒ The earliest manuscripts of the Quran (8th – 10th century) were


written in the Kufic style of Arabic writing (Campbell, 1997).
ƒ Kufic script is angular, which was most likely a product of
inscribing on hard surfaces such as wood or stone.

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Types of Arabic Calligraphy: Naskhi

ƒ Since the 11th century, the cursive style that is known as Naskhi
was developed.

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Arabic Abjad

ƒ There are different writing systems that


languages use, such as:

ƒ Alphabet – denotes both consonants and vowels.


Ex: English.

ƒ Abjad – denotes consonants.


Ex: Arabic, Hebrew.

ƒ Syllabary - characters denote syllables.


Ex: Japanese Hiragana

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Spread of Arabic

ƒ The Muslim Arab civilization flourished in the Arabian Peninsula,


and was embraced by the Turks, Iranians, Afghans, Indians, North
Africans, Spanish Andalusians.

ƒ Arabic became the language of art, science, and technology.

ƒ Islamic Calligraphy became a noble art, that was appreciated more


than any other form of art.

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Samples of Arabic Calligraphy

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Cursive Arabic Calligraphy

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Features of the Arabic Script

ƒ The Arabic alphabet contains 28 letters.

ƒ complex text language, because it has bidirectional script. It is written


right to left, except for numbers and Latin words are written left to right.

ƒ Many letters change their form depending on whether they appear alone,
at the beginning, middle or end of the word.

ƒ Letters that change form, are always joined in both hand-written and
printed Arabic. Hence, it is cursive, as in the English hand writing.

ƒ Only 3 long vowels are written.

ƒ Diacritics indicate things like short vowels and gemination.

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Arabic Abjad

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Arabic Letters in Different Positions

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Letters in Different Positions

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Arabic Diacritics

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More Features of the Arabic Script

ƒ Lack of capital letters.

ƒ Lack of word division word finally.

ƒ Unlike many other alphabetic scripts, it denotes a high phonetic


accuracy, when diacritics are added.

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Arabic Ligatures

ƒ Arabic script uses ligatures. A compulsory one is the lam followed


by an aleph:

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Ligatures

ƒ Optional/ stylistic

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Arabic Language

ƒ Arabic is a Semitic language.

ƒ 221 million speakers.

ƒ Countries it is spoken in:


ƒ Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Chad, Cyprus, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea,
Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mali,
Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Oman, Palestinian West Bank & Gaza,
Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tanzania,
Tunisia, Turkey, UAE, Uzbekistan and Yemen.

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Worldwide use of the Arabic Abjad

•Dark green → Countries where the Arabic script is the only official orthography.
•Light green → Countries where the Arabic script is used alongside other
orthographies.

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Arabic Abjad Usage in Other Languages

ƒ Arabic Abjad is used in a large number of languages other than


Arabic.

ƒ Abjad spread in the world through the Islamic conquests (7-8th


century).

ƒ It is the second most widespread script in the world.

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Writing Systems of the World Today

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Languages Using the Arabic Script Presently

1. Arabic 11. Berber languages.


2. Persian/ Dari 12. Moplah (dialect of Malayalam)
3. Urdu 13. Malagasy
4. Pashto 14. Sulu
5. Baluchi
6. Kurdish
7. Lahnda
8. Kashmiri
9. Sindhi
10. Uyghur

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Languages that Abandoned the Arabic Script

ƒ Languages now using Roman


ƒ Indonesian (Malay)
ƒ Hausa
ƒ Somali
ƒ Sudanese
ƒ Swahili
ƒ Turkish
ƒ Caucasian languages now using Cyrillic
ƒ Chechen
ƒ Kabardian
ƒ Lak
ƒ Avar
ƒ Lezgi

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Adoption of the Arabic Script

ƒ When the Arabic Abjad was adopted, it was augmented to fit the
phonologies of the non-semitic languages.

ƒ The alphabet was extended by the different languages. The 28


basic Arabic letters were extended to more than 100 letters
(Esfahbod, 2004).

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Method of Adoption

ƒ All the Arabic letters are borrowed directly to preserve the Arabic
orthography.

ƒ When borrowing Arabic loanwords, the pronunciation would depend on


the phonology of the borrowing language.

ƒ Arabic specific sounds that are not present in the borrowing language,
would be pronounced as a sound that is present in that language. Ex:
the Arabic gutturals and interdentals.

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Arabic Gutturals

ƒ Sounds produced with a constriction in the back part of the vocal


tract (Zawaydeh, 1999)
ƒ Emphatics (T, D, S, Z) ‫ ظ‬،‫ ص‬،‫ ض‬،‫ط‬
ƒ Uvulars (q, X) ‫ خ‬،‫ق‬
ƒ Pharyngeals (H, Eiyn) ‫ ع‬،‫ح‬
ƒ Laryngeals (glottal stop, h) ‫ ء‬،‫ﻩ‬

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Rendition of Arabic Gutturals and Interdentals

ƒ The Arabic emphatics are not pronounced as uvularized, but rather


as plain, non-uvularized sounds.

ƒ Persian:
ƒ Pharyngeal ‫ ع‬sound is pronounced as a glottal stop.
ƒ Pharyngeal ‫ ح‬sound is pronounced as a [h].

ƒ Persian phonetic redundancies:


ƒ Persian /s/ is rendered as ‫ص‬ ،‫ س‬،‫ث‬
ƒ Persian /z/ is rendered as ‫ ز‬،‫ ذ‬،‫ ض‬،‫ظ‬

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Nastaliq Script

ƒ A writing style which is used, with extra letters, to write:


ƒ Farsi
ƒ Urdu
ƒ Pashto
ƒ Kashmiri
ƒ Sindhi
ƒ Turkish - (Under the Ottoman Empire before 1920).

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Nastaliq Samples

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Persian

ƒ Locally called:
ƒ Farsi in Iran.
ƒ Dari in Afghanistan
ƒ Tajiki in Central Asia (former Soviet Union countries)
ƒ Dialects:
ƒ Lari (in Iran)
ƒ Hazaragi (in Afghanistan),
ƒ Darwazi (In Afghanistan and Tajikistan)

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Persian Language Map

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Status of Languages in Iran

ƒ Main languages:
ƒ Persian and its dialects 58%
ƒ Azeri and other Turkic languages 26%
ƒ Kurdish 9%
ƒ Balochi 1%
ƒ Arabic 1%

ƒ Official language is Persian.


ƒ Ethnologue reports 71 languages!

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Strategies for Modifying Arabic Script: Persian

ƒ Basic Strategy:
ƒ Add more dots to certain letters to create new letters.
ƒ Persian added 4 more letters.
ƒ Persian /p/ is: ‫ پ‬while Arabic /b/ is ‫ ب‬.
ƒ Persian /ʒ / is: ‫( ژ‬while ‫ ج‬is /ʤ/)
ƒ Persian /ʧ/ is: ‫چ‬
ƒ Persian /g/ is: ‫ – گ‬this originally had three dots.

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Persian/ Dari Alphabet

ƒ 32 letters. Red is the Persian additional letters.

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Persian vs. Arabic

ƒ Æ used for Izafet compounds.


ƒ Persian Kaf and Ya

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Other Persian Orthographic Modifications

ƒ ‫ إ‬Æ‫ا‬
ƒ ‫ ة‬Æ ‫ ﻩ‬or ‫ت‬
ƒ Arabic words with hamza, may be spelled in various ways,
example: ‫ ﻣﺴﺆول‬is spelled as ‫ﻣﺴﺌﻮل‬.
ƒ Damma is pronounced as an [o] not an [u] as in Arabic.

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Languages Extending the Persian Alphabet

ƒ Some languages used the Persian alphabet as a base, which in turn


is based on Arabic, and added more letters that are not in Persian
or Arabic.
ƒ Examples:
ƒ Urdu
ƒ Pashto
ƒ Sindhi

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Status of Languages in Pakistan

ƒ Major languages in Pakistan are:


ƒ Punjabi, Saraiki, Sindhi, Pashto, Urdu, Balochi, Hindko, and Brahui.

ƒ Official language is English.


ƒ National Language is Urdu.

ƒ Language Distribution
ƒ Punjabi 44%
ƒ Pashto 15%
ƒ Sindhi 14%
ƒ Siraiki 11%
ƒ Urdu 8%
ƒ Balochi 4%
ƒ others 4%

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Languages in Pakistan

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Status of Languages in Pakistan

ƒ Urdu and Sindhi have standardized spellings. If a speaker from the


other languages needs to write their language, they would use
either Urdu or Sindhi.

ƒ In Pakistan, the classical spelling standard of Pashto is not always


followed. There is a tendency to use the Urdu forms of letters
instead of the Pashto forms (UCLA Language Materials Project).

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Urdu Alphabet

ƒ Red is Persian Letters.


ƒ Blue is the Urdu letters

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Urdu Alphabet

ƒ Uses the emphatic ‫ ط‬above the letter to mark sounds that are
retroflex, which are the “d, t, and r”.

ƒ Uses the shape of the Arabic nun ‫ ن‬without the dot, to indicate
nasalized vowels: ‫ ﻣﺎں‬mãː “Arab”

ƒ For aspirated consonants, follows the letter.


ƒ Urdu [h] appears in the following forms:
ƒ Distinguishes between [i] and [e, ɛ] sounds word finally:
ƒ ‫ ﻟﮍﮐﯽ‬laɽkiː “girl”.
ƒ ‫ ﻟﮍﮐﮯ‬laɽke “boys”.

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Status of Languages in Afghanistan

ƒ Official languages are Pashto and Dari (Afghan Persian).


ƒ Turkic languages (Uzbek and Turkmen).
ƒ Other languages: Baluchi, Pahsai, Nirisani, etc.

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Pashto

ƒ Uses a modified form of the Perso-Arabic script.


ƒ Improvised the Perso-Arabic script by adding letters that don’t
appear in any other script.
ƒ Used 4 Persian letters.
ƒ Added 8 more letters:
ƒ 4 Retroflex consonants /t/, /d/, /r/, /n/. Written with “pandak”,
“gharwandah”, or “skarraen”: ‫ ټ ډ ړ‬and ‫ڼ‬
ƒ Letters “ge” and “xin”: ‫ښږ‬
ƒ dental affricates /dz/ ‫ ځ‬and /ts/ ‫څ‬
ƒ [g] is written either in the Persian style or as: ‫ګ‬

‫ابپتټثجځچڅحخدډذرړزژږسشښصضطظعغفقﮎګلمنڼﻩ‬
‫ۀوؤىئيېۍ‬

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Pashto Zwarakay

ƒ Pashto has a 4th vowel diacritic, which looks like a horizontal line.

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Pashto diacritics

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Arabic Numbers

ƒ The decimal numbering system originated in India.


ƒ It got adapted by the Arabic world.
ƒ The Europeans adopted the Arabic numbers.

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Arabic Numbers

ƒ The number 4, 5, 6, 7 have various forms in the languages of Iran,


Pakistan, and India.

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Basis Technology Products Handling Arabic Script
ƒ Arabic
ƒ Base Linguistics ƒ Urdu
ƒ Arabic Chatroom Reverse ƒ Base Linguistics
Transliterator
ƒ Entity Extractor
ƒ Entity Extractor
ƒ Name Matching ƒ Name Matching
ƒ Name Translation ƒ Name Translation
ƒ Arabic Editor ƒ Language Identification
ƒ Transliteration Assistant
ƒ Digital Forensics
ƒ Pashto
ƒ Language Identification ƒ Transliteration Assistant
ƒ Name Matching
ƒ Persian ƒ Name Translation
ƒ Base Linguistics ƒ Language Identification
ƒ Entity Extractor
ƒ Transliteration Assistant
ƒ Name Matching
ƒ Name Translation
ƒ Digital Forensics
ƒ Language Identification
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References
ƒ Afghan Transitional Islamic Administration. Ministry of Communications. United Nations
Development Program. Computer Local Requirements for Afghanistan.
ƒ Bhurghi, Abdul-Majid. Enabling Pakistani Languages through Unicode. (Written for Microsoft).
ƒ Campbell, George. 1997. Handbook of Scripts and Alphabets. New York: Routledge.
ƒ Eid, Mushira, et. Al. 2006. Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics. Volume I.
ƒ Ishida, Richard. 2004. Urdu script notes [Draft].
http://people.w3.org/rishida/scripts/urdu/urdu-in-unicode.html.
ƒ Kew, Jonathan. 2005. Notes on some Unicode Arabic characters: recommendations for usage.
Draft 2.
ƒ Khan, Gabriel Mandel. 2001. Arabic Script. New York: Abbeville Press.
ƒ Milo, Thomas. 2002. Authentic Arabic: A case Study. 20th International Unicode Conference.
Washington, DC.
ƒ Salloum, Habeeb. The Odyssey of the Arabic Language and its Script.
http://www.alhewar.com/habeeb_salloum_arabic_language.htm
ƒ UZT 1.01 & Unicode Mapping for Urdu. Center for Research in Urdu Language Processing.
National University of Computer and Emerging Sciences.
ƒ Unicode Standard 4.0.
ƒ Zawaydeh, 1999. The Phonetics and Phonology of Gutturals in Arabic. Ph.D. Dissertation.
Indiana University.

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