Arabic language

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Arabic ( اَلْعَرَبِيَّة )

Spoken in

Egypt , Algeria , Ethiopia , Bahrain , Djibouti , Eritrea , Gambia , Iraq , Iran , Israel , Yemen , Jordan , Qatar , Comoros , Kuwait , Lebanon , Libya , Mali , Morocco , Mauritania , Niger , Nigeria , Oman , Palestine , Saudi Arabia , Senegal , Somalia , Sudan , South Sudan , Syria , Tanzania , Chad , Tunisia , Turkey , United Arab Emirates , Cyprus and other countries
speaker 313 million native speakers ,
424 million second speakers
(Wiesenfeld, 1999)
Official status
Official language in Maghreb :AlgeriaLibyaMoroccoMauritaniaTunisiaWestern Sahara Mashrek :EgyptIraqJordanLebanonPalestineSyria East and Northeast Africa :DjiboutiEritreaComorosSomaliaSomalilandSudanChad Arabian Peninsula :BahrainYemenQatarKuwaitOmanSaudi ArabiaUnited Arab Emirates
Western SaharaWestern Sahara 

Flag of Palestine.svg


Saudi ArabiaSaudi Arabia 
United Arab EmiratesUnited Arab Emirates 

African UnionAfrican Union African Union Arab League United Nations
Arab LeagueArab League 
United NationsU.N. 
Recognized minority /
regional language in
Western Asia IranIsraelTurkeyCyprus Africa :EthiopiaMaliNigerSenegalSouth SudanTanzania(Zanzibar)
Cyprus RepublicRepublic of Cyprus 

South SudanSouth Sudan 
TanzaniaTanzania Flag of Zanzibar.svg
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2


ISO 639-3

ara, arb (standard Arabic), another 29 ISO codes

The Arabic language ( Arabic , own nameاَللُّغَةُ اَلْعَرَبِيَّة, DMG al-luġatu l-ʿarabiyya 'the Arabic language', for shortالعربية, DMG al-ʿarabiyya 'the Arabic', pronunciation ? / i ) is the most widespread language of the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asian language family and in its standard formAudio file / audio sample الفصحى / al-Fuṣḥā one of the six official languages ​​of the United Nations . It is estimated that 313 million people speak Arabic as their mother tongue and another 424 million as a second or foreign language. Thanks to its role as a sacred language , Arabic developed into a world language . The modern standard Arabic language is based on Classical Arabic, the language of the Koran and poetry, and is very different from the spoken variants of Arabic .


The individual Arabic dialects in the various countries sometimes differ greatly from one another, even if mostly only in their pronunciation, and, given the geographical distance, they are difficult or impossible to understand. For example, Algerian films that were shot in the local dialect are sometimes subtitled in high Arabic when they are broadcast in the Gulf States .

The Arabic language encompasses a variety of different language forms that have been and are spoken over the past millennium and a half. The Maltese is the Maghreb-Arab closely related dialects, but was in contrast to the other forms of spoken Arabic developed into an independent standard language.

A large number of dialects have developed from classical Arabic . For all speakers of this language, except for the speakers of Maltese, Standard Arabic is the written and umbrella language .

Whether standard Arabic is to be regarded as a modern standard language is controversial (see also extension language ). There is often a lack of uniform vocabulary for many terms in the modern world, as well as technical vocabulary in many areas of modern science. In addition, Standard Arabic is relatively seldom a means of oral communication within the individual Arab countries.

A good knowledge of classical Arabic is essential for understanding the Koran; just knowing a dialect is not enough. Some editions of the Koran therefore contain explanations in modern standard Arabic.

Distribution area

Official language official (green) and co-official:
majority (dark blue) and minority (light blue)

Variants of Arabic are spoken by around 370 million people, making them the sixth most used in the world. It is the official language in the following countries: Algeria , Egypt , Bahrain , Djibouti , Iraq , Israel , Yemen , Jordan , Qatar , Comoros , Kuwait , Lebanon , Libya , Mali , Morocco , Mauritania , Niger , Oman , Palestinian Territories , Saudi Arabia , Somalia , Sudan , Syria , Chad , Tunisia , United Arab Emirates and Western Sahara . It is the lingua franca in Eritrea , Zanzibar ( Tanzania ), South Sudan , it is spoken by the Muslim population in Ethiopia and is gaining importance in the Maldives . It is also one of the six official languages ​​of the United Nations .

The spoken standard Arabic has been gaining popularity again very recently. The pan-Arab satellite broadcasters, z. B. al-Jazeera in Qatar . However, standard Arabic (fuṣḥā) is not predominant on a general level of communication, rather the language forms in the registers of the so-called ʾal-luġa ʾal-wusṭā , i.e. as a "middle language" ( Middle Arabic) between standard Arabic and dialect.

Due to the dominant Egyptian film and television production in the Arab region (partly due to the size of the population), the spoken Cairo dialect is generally understood in the respective societies and is, so to speak, established as “common language”. Shooting ordinary films in Standard Arabic is rather uncommon, as this language norm is generally reserved for more serious topics, such as: B. occur in television and radio news, religious broadcasts or church services.

On Kai L. Chan's Power Language Index, high-level Arabic ranks fifth among the most powerful languages ​​in the world.


Classical Standard Arabic differs only slightly from Old Arabic . The origin of a word can often be determined by comparing different Semitic languages . For example, the Arabic word laḥm (meat) corresponds to the Hebrew lechem , which means bread . So means Bethlehem in Hebrew house of bread , the corresponding Arabic place name Bayt Lahm , however, home of the flesh . The root thus originally referred to the staple food.

For a long time, many Semitists regarded classical Arabic as the most original Semitic language of all. Only gradually, through comparisons with other Afro-Asiatic languages, it becomes clear that Standard Arabic has consistently expanded many possibilities that were already included in the grammar of earlier Semitic languages. It has thus preserved an extensive Semitic vocabulary and expanded it beyond that. Today's dialects were subject to many changes, as other Semitic languages ​​had experienced much earlier (around 2000 to 3000 years ago).


Already in pre-Islamic Arabia there was a rich language of poets , which is also handed down in writing in poetry collections like the Mu'allaqat . The Arabic of the Koran is based in part on this poetic language , which is still anciently shaped and has a synthetic language structure. It was probably only afterwards that the consonant text of the Koran was made more readable for new non-Arabic Muslims by adding additional symbols. In early Islamic times, many poems in this language were recorded in writing. To this day, memorizing texts is an important part of Islamic culture. To this day, people who can recite the entire Koran by heart are very respected ( Hafiz / Ḥāfiẓ ). This is one reason why Koran schools in the Muslim world ( Pakistan in particular ) continue to experience a brisk influx.

Classical Standard Arabic is in particular the language of the Koran, which spread from the center of the Arabian Peninsula, the Hejaz , over the entire Middle East in the course of the Islamic conquests . Caliph Abd al-Malik , the builder of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem , made this form of Arabic the official administrative language of the Islamic Empire around 700.

The Islamic expansion led to the division of Arabic into a classical written language based on the Koran , and into the lexically and grammatically very different Arabic dialects , which have an analytical language structure and are exclusively reserved for oral use. To this day, every new generation of Arabic speakers is born into this diglossia .

Standard Arabic is hardly spoken anymore as a mother tongue . However, it is still used in writing in books and newspapers, only with vocabulary changes (except in Tunisia , Morocco and to a lesser extent in Algeria , where Arabic shares this role with French ). In the scientific and technical field in the other Arab countries, English is often used in addition to French due to a lack of specific technical vocabulary .

On official occasions, the usually only written language is also used verbally. This language is therefore often referred to as modern standard Arabic. It differs from classic Standard Arabic mainly in vocabulary and, depending on the level of education of the speaker, sometimes also in grammar and pronunciation .

See also: Arabic literature .


The high Arabic sound system is poorly balanced. There are only three formed with the lips sounds ,م [⁠ m ⁠] ,ب [⁠ b ⁠] andف [⁠ f ⁠] ; [⁠ p ⁠] and [⁠ v ⁠] missing. On the other hand, there are many sounds formed on the teeth. The emphatic ( pharyngealized ) consonants are characteristicط[ ],ض[ ],ص[ ] andظ[ ðˤ ] (the IPA phonetic spelling is given ). The throaty, rough sound impression of Arabic arises from the numerous palate and throat sounds like the one spoken deep in the throatق [⁠ q ⁠] or laryngeal Press According toع [⁠ ʕ ⁠] ( " Ayn ") and its unvoiced variantح [⁠ ħ ⁠] ( " HA "). The crackling sound ء / ا [⁠ ʔ ⁠] ( " Hamza ") is a full phoneme .


In standard Arabic there are only the three vowels a , i and u , which can be short or long, as well as the two diphthongs ai and au . The pronunciation of the vowels is influenced by the surrounding consonants and varies greatly. For example, [⁠ ɒ ⁠] , [⁠ a ⁠] and [⁠ æ ⁠] possible allophones of the phoneme / a / .


Standard Arabic has 28 consonant phonemes . The semi-vowels [⁠ w ⁠] and [⁠ j ⁠] are counted as "consonant vowel" in grammar tradition of Western Arabic. All consonants can be geminated (doubled).

  Bilabial Interdental Lamino - dental Postalveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal Glottal
 nonemph.  empathic
Plosives stl.     ت t ط     ك k ق q   ء ʔ
sth. ب b   د d ض ج ʤ          
Fricatives stl. ف f ث θ س s ص ش ʃ   خ x   ح ħ ه h
sth.   ذ ð ز z ظ ðˁ     غ ɣ   ع ʕ  
Nasals م m   ن n              
Lateral     ل l 1)          
Vibrants     ر r              
Approximants و w         ي j        

1) The velarisierte ( "dark") variant [⁠ ɫ ⁠] exists as a separate phoneme in word only Allah الله[ ɒˈɫːɒːh ]. It occurs otherwise in some dialects as allophone of [⁠ l ⁠] around emphatic consonants, z. B.سلطان sulṭān [ sʊɫˈtˁɑːn ], but not in the standard.

Syllable structure

In classical Arabic there are open or short syllables in the form KV and closed or long syllables in the form KV̅ or KVK (K stands for a consonant, V for a short vowel, V̅ for a long vowel). After the long vowel ā and after ay there can also be a doubled consonant and cause an excessively long syllable KV̅K (e.g.دابة dābba "animal").

In modern standard Arabic, the syllable structure changes because the classic endings are usually left out. This means that at the end of a word, in addition to the long syllables of the form KV̅K and KVKK (e.g.باب bāb , from bābun "door" orشمس šams , from šamsun "sun").

Since a syllable only begins with a single consonant, there cannot be any consonant connections at the beginning of the word. In the case of older loanwords , initial consonant connections are removed by adding an auxiliary vowel (e.g.أسطول usṭūl "fleet", from ancient Greek στόλος stólos ). In the case of newer loanwords, a vowel is inserted between the initial consonants (e.g.فرنسا faransā "France", while earlier borrowings of "Franks" asإفرنج ʾIfranǧ ).


Since the Arabic script does not note the stress and the medieval grammarians have not commented on stress at any point, strictly speaking, one cannot make any definite statements about the stress in historical Classical Arabic. Recommendations in this regard in textbooks are based on the emphasis applied by modern speakers to Classical Arabic, although Europe is usually guided by the pronunciation habits in the Lebanon / Syria region. In areas such as B. Morocco or Egypt, classical Arabic texts are read with a different emphasis.

According to the usual view, the word stress in Arabic does not distinguish between meanings and is in part not precisely defined. In general, long syllables attract the tone. In classical Arabic, the stress can be on the penultimate or third from last syllable. The penultimate syllable is stressed if it is closed or long (e.g.فعلت faʿáltu "I did"); otherwise the third from last syllable is emphasized (e.g.فعل fáʿala "he did").

In modern Standard Arabic, the failure of the classical endings can also emphasize the last syllable (e.g. كتاب kitā́b , from kitā́bun "book"). Sometimes the emphasis shifts further forward (e.g.مدرسة mádrasa instead of madrásatun "school"; the usual pronunciation of this word in Egypt is z. B. madrása , in Morocco one hears madrasá ). In contrast to classical Arabic and the other modern dialects, Moroccan Arabic is a tonal language .

Dialectal variation

The phonology of the New Arabic dialects is very different from that of Classical Arabic and modern Standard Arabic. The i and u are partly as [⁠ e ⁠] and [⁠ o ⁠] spoken. Most dialects monophthongize ay and aw to [ ] and [ ], which means that the dialects have five instead of three vowel phonemes. Short vowels are often the schwa [⁠ ə ⁠] reduced or fall out completely. This means that consonant clusters at the beginning of a word are also possible in some dialects. Example: for baḥr: bḥar (sea); for lam: lḥam (meat) in the Tunisian dialect, where the open or closed syllable is exchanged.

Some of the dialects have lost consonants of Standard Arabic, and some have also developed new phonemes. The sounds [ ] and [ ðˤ ] coincide in almost all dialects to form a phoneme, the pronunciation of which varies regionally. Also the sound has [⁠ ʔ ⁠] his Phonemstatus lost. In some dialects are [⁠ thetav ⁠] and [⁠ ð ⁠] to [⁠ t ⁠] and [⁠ d ⁠] become; with words from the high Arab they are but when [⁠ s ⁠] and [⁠ for ⁠] pronounced. The highly Arabic [⁠ ʤ ⁠] is realized in different ways, including in Egypt as [⁠ ɡ ⁠] and in parts of North Africa and the Levant as [⁠ ʒ ⁠] . The highly Arabic [⁠ q ⁠] is as in parts of Egypt and the Levant [⁠ ʔ ⁠] spoken in some other dialects it has become [⁠ ɡ ⁠] developed. Often, however, the pronunciation is [⁠ q ⁠] maintained at words from the high-Arab, so that the phonemes [⁠ q ⁠] and [⁠ ɡ ⁠] exist in parallel. Some dialects have taken over foreign phonemes through loanwords from other languages, e.g. As the Maghreb dialects the sound [⁠ v ⁠] from the French or the Iraqi Arab the volume [⁠ p ⁠] from the Persian .


Arabic is written from right to left using the Arabic alphabet , which only knows consonants and long vowels . However, as a learning and reading aid there is a later added system with markers ( Tashkil ) for the short vowels A, I and U, and the final N, which is important in classical grammar, consonant doubles and consonants without a subsequent vowel. The Koran is always written and printed with all additional characters. In principle, the vocalized and supplementary written Arabic would be a precise phonetic transcription at the same time , but this is almost only used for the Koran. In all other texts, the grammatical structure must be fully known in order to be able to correctly deduce the appropriate short vowels and endings.

The Arabic script is a current script that has slipped over the course of history. Since the letters are connected in a word, there are up to four different forms of a letter: standing alone, connected to the right, connected to the left and connected on both sides. As more and more letters coincided in shape, a system was developed to distinguish them by dots above and below the consonants. Ancient forms of Arabic script, such as Kufi (كوفي), don't use dots yet. In the course of time Kufi became more and more through the italic Naschī (نسخي, DMG Nasḫī ) replaced.


In many Islamic countries, efforts are being made to base the pronunciation of modern standard language on classic standard Arabic. The basis for this is usually the pronunciation standard of the Koran recitation ( ar.tilāwa تلاوة), which is largely codified and also reproduced in modern Koran prints by means of diacritics . This form of pronunciation enjoys a high degree of prestige , but is usually only used in a religious context.

The earlier pronunciation of Standard Arabic is not known with certainty in every detail. A typical case in which there is still no complete clarity about the pronunciation norms of Classical Standard Arabic is the so-called nunation , i.e. the question of whether or not the case endings in most indefinite nouns end in n ( kitābun or kitāb ). Arguments can be found for both variants, and since the vowel sign of the ending was not written in old manuscripts, this question remains debatable.


The item

Arabic knows indeterminate (indefinite) and determined (definite) nouns, which differ in the high-level language (no longer in dialect) by their endings. Unless they are diptotically inflected (see under case), indeterminate nouns receive the nunation . A noun is mainly determined by the preceding article al- (ال, Dialektal often el- or IL- is), which is indeed invariant in shape, but spoken by a vowel set in the inside without voting paragraph (Hamza) (see Wasla ). In addition, there is (when speaking) an assimilation of the l contained in the article to the following sound, if this is a so-called sun letter ( e.g. asch-shams - "the sun" - instead of al-shams ). In the case of moon letters , the article remains al- and the following sound is not doubled (eg: al-qamar - "the moon" - in this case no assimilation). A word is also determined in the status constructus (الإضافة / al-iḍāfa , literally "addition, annexation") by a subsequent (determined) genitive or an attached personal suffix; there are also many proper names (e.g.لبنان, Lubnan - Lebanon) without an article.

An example: القمر, al-qamar (u) - "the moon" as opposed toقمر, qamar (un) - "a moon"

The grammatical gender

There are two genera (gender) in Arabic: the feminine (feminine) and the masculine (masculine). Most feminine words end with a , which - if it is a Ta marbuta - becomes at in the status constructus . Female persons (mother, sister etc.), most proper names of countries and cities as well as the names of body parts that are duplicated (foot - qadam; hand - yad; eye - ayn) are feminine even without a feminine ending. The same goes for some other nouns such as B. the words for "wind" (rīḥ) , "fire" (nār) , "earth" (arḍ) or "market" ( sūq ) .


  • Masculine: قمر( qamar-un ) "a moon"
  • Feminine: لغة( luġa-tun ) "one language"

The number

There are three numbers : singular (singular), dual (two-number) and plural (plural). In the Egyptian dialect, however, the dual was largely abolished. On the other hand, some nouns for time units have not only retained the dual, but have also developed a separate counting plural as the fourth number, e.g. B. “Tag”: singular yōm , dual yōmēn , plural ayyām , plural after number words tiyyām .

The collective

Arabic also knows a collective that occurs among other things in fruit and vegetables. An example of this isتفاح / tuffāḥ  / 'apples'; to form the singular of a collective, a Ta marbuta is added:تفاحة / tuffāḥa  / 'an apple'.

The case

A distinction is made between three cases : nominative (al-marfūʿ; ending in -u), genitive (al-maǧrūr; ending in -i) and accusative (al-manṣūb; ending in -a), which are usually characterized by the short vowels of the word endings ( marked in the typeface by auxiliary orthographic symbols ). Most nouns are inflected triptotically, i. This means that they have three different endings corresponding to the three cases (determined: -u, -i, -a ; indeterminate: -un, -in, -an ). There are also diptota - nouns in which the genitive ending in the status indeterminatus is equal to the accusative ending -a (the two cases are not formally distinguished) and which have no nunation ( -u, -a, -a ). Adjectives of the basic form afʿal (including color adjectives such as aḥmar-u, aḥmar-a - red ) and certain plural structures (such as fawāʿil , e.g. rasāʾil-u, rasāʾil-a - letters ) are inflected diptotically .

The genitive, for example, always follows prepositions (e.g. fi 'l-kitābi - in the book ) and in a genitive combination of the noun regens ( e.g. baitu' r-raǧuli - the man's house ).

Unlike German, the Arabic language does not differentiate between a direct (accusative) object and an indirect (dative) object. Instead, the construction of preposition and genitive in German can often be reproduced with the dative.

Example: fi 'l- baiti - in the house

The verb

The real complexity of the Arabic language lies in the variety of its verbal forms and the verbal nouns, adjectives, adverbs and participles derived from them. Every Arabic verb has two basic forms, the perfect and the past tense, of which the former expresses a completed action in the past (example: kataba - he wrote / has written ), the latter, on the other hand, an unfinished in the present or future tense ( yaktubu - he writes / will write ). The future tense (I) can also be formed by adding the prefix sa- or by adding the particle saufa in front of the past tense ( sayaktubu / saufa yaktubu - he will write ). In addition, Arabic also knows a kind of progressive form of the past ( kāna yaktubu - he used to write ) and the two time stages future II ( yakūnu qad kataba - he will have written ) and past perfect ( kāna qad kataba - he had written ), which, however, are in occur primarily in written texts. The imperfect is divided into modes indicative (yaktubu) , subjunctive (yaktuba) , Apokopat (yaktub) and Energikus ( yaktubanna or yaktuban ). The subjunctive comes u. a. after modal verbs (e.g. arāda - to want) in connection with ʾan (that) or as a negated form of the future tense with the particle lan (lan yaktuba - he will not write). The apocopy is mostly used as a negation of the past together with the particle lam (lam yaktub - he did not write). The energetic nerve can often be formed with the construction fa + l (i) ((fal-) yaktubanna- he should / must write). Another important form is the verbal noun ( kitābatun - writing ). The formation of verbal nouns is based on a fixed scheme, down to the basic stem. This means that the verbal nouns of the stems II - X can be derived from certain stem formation morphemes with a few exceptions (e.g. tafʿīl for the II. stem, mufāʿala / fiʿāl for the III. stem, etc.).

E.g .: nāqaša (III) - discuss → munāqaša / niqāš - dialogue; discussion

Many verbs exist in several of a total of 15 stems derived from the transformation of the root, each of which can have certain aspects of meaning (e.g. intensifying, causative, denominative, active or passive, transitive or intransitive, reflexive or reciprocal). Of these 15 tribes, however, only nine are regularly used in today's written Arabic language, and tribes IX and XI – XV are rarely used. The 9th stem is mainly used to denote the verbs for colors or physical characteristics:

iḥmarra (from aḥmar) - to blush, to become red

iḥwalla (from aḥwal) - to squint

The translation of the verbs of the stems II - X can partly be done by certain rules. When deriving a verb from the root, z. E.g. the 3rd trunk denotes an activity that happens with or through a person, while the 7th trunk often expresses a passive:

kātaba (III) - correspond with so.

(inkataba (VII) - to be written)

Each strain has certain properties, e.g. B. a prefix , lengthening, change or omission of a vowel or doubling (gemination) of the middle radical (i.e. root consonant). The type and order of these consonants, with the exception of so-called weak radicals, however, never change within a word family. Most verb forms can be derived schematically.

A peculiarity of Arabic grammar makes the oral rendering of standard Arabic much easier: in standard Arabic, the vowel ending is usually omitted at the end of a sentence. This form is called the " pause form ". Now, however, the three cases and also to some extent the modes are expressed precisely by these endings, which are omitted during a pause in speech. That is why many speakers use this “pause form” very often when they speak modern Standard Arabic and thus save themselves part of the sometimes complicated grammar. The complicated system of verb forms is still largely preserved in many dialects, so that the dialect speakers have fewer difficulties with it. Although the meaning of a word mostly depends on the consonant, as described below, it is precisely the short vowels that make up a large part of the complicated grammar.

Arabic is a language in which the verbs “sein” and “haben” are much less complete than in German. Often in the present tense verbless nominal clauses are : āanā kabīr - "I [am] tall"; only for reinforcement or if the syntax makes it formally necessary (e.g. after the conjunction أن ʾan - “that”) - as in the time stage of the past - the temporal auxiliary verb kāna for “to be” is used. A nominal sentence (without copula) is negated in the present tense with the inflected negation laisa (“not to be”). The verb “haben” does not exist at all, instead it is expressed as a nominal sentence by the prepositions li- (“for”), (“in”), maʿa (“with”) and especially ʿinda (“at”) + personal suffix : ʿIndī ... - "with me [is] ..." = "I have ..."; negates: laisa ʿindī ... - "with me [is] not ..." = "I have not ...".

Furthermore, since Arabic has relatively few independent adverbs (in German this would be, for example, “noch”, “almost”, “nicht mehr” etc.), some verbs contain an adverbial meaning in addition to their original meaning. These verbs can be used alone in the sentence or in conjunction with another verb in the past tense, e.g. B. mā zāla (literally: “have not stopped”) - ((still) still (to be)) or kāda (almost / almost (to be)). In some dialects, these adverbs are expressed differently. So in Egypt "still" means "lissa" or "bardu". (Accordingly, the sentence "He (still) writes." In Egyptian Arabic reads "lissa biyiktib.")

Another verb category are the state verbs (e.g. kabura - "to be large", ṣaġura - "to be small"), which verbalize an adjective and can be used instead of a nominal sentence. The word pattern of these verbs is often faʿila or faʿula . This category contains a large vocabulary, but is used less often in comparison to the verbs that express an action (e.g. ʾakala - "to eat").

Verbal stem: root consonant

Arabic dictionaries are often designed in such a way that the individual words are sorted according to their roots , that is to say their “word families”. Therefore, when learning Arabic, it is important to be able to identify the root consonants of a word. Most of the words have three root consonants, some also have four. By separating certain prefixes, intermediate syllables and end syllables you get the root of a word. Beginners in particular should use such dictionaries sorted according to roots, since the use of "mechanical-alphabetical" lexicons with little knowledge of grammar often leads to a form not being recognized and incorrectly translated.


Strictly speaking, there are only three parts of speech in Arabic: noun (اِسْم), verb (فِعْل) and preposition (حَرْف). Prepositions that we know from German or English are adverbs in Arabic. There are so-called "real prepositions", words that are called مَبْنِيّ (undeclinable) in Arabic because they cannot be changed. An example is the word فِي.

Real prepositions

The real prepositions include:

Arabic German
بـ  bi- with in
لـ  li- for, to
كـ  ka- how
إِلى  'ilá to
حتى  ḥattá to
على  'alá on
عن  'on over
في  in
من  min from
منذ  mundu since, for (temporally)

Is مَعَ ("with") a preposition (حَرْف)?

There is no clear answer to this question. Most grammarians, however, see مع as a "noun" (اِسْم) because the word مع can contain nunation (تَنْوِين). For example: They came together - جاؤوا مَعًا

A preposition (حَرْف) is by definition مَبْنِيّ, so it cannot have a nunation under any circumstances. That is why the word مع is an adverb of time or place (ظَرْف مَكان; ظَرْف زَمان), grammarians also say: اِسْم لِمَكان الاِصْطِحاب أَو وَقْتَهُ


Most Arabic words consist of three root consonants (radicals). Different words are then formed from this, for example the following words and forms can be formed from the three radicals KTB:

  • KaTaBa: he wrote (perfect) - the pattern FaʿaLa is characteristic of verbs in the perfect tense.
  • yaKTuBu: he writes (past tense) - the pattern YaFʿaLu stands for verbs in the past tense.
  • KiTāBun: book - the pattern FiʿāL often occurs with nouns.
  • KuTuBun: Books - also the pattern FuʿuL.
  • KāTiBun: scribe / writer (singular) - the pattern FāʿiL is a pattern for active participation.
  • KuTTāBun: scribe (plural) - the pattern FuʿʿāL often occurs in nouns that denote professions.
  • maKTaBun: desk, office - the maFʿaL pattern often describes the place where something is done.
  • maKTaBatun: library, bookstore - also the maFʿaLa pattern.
  • maKTūBun: written - the pattern maFʿūL is a pattern for passive participles.

In Classical Standard Arabic, the mostly unwritten endings -a, -i, -u, -an, -in, -un, -ta, -ti, -tu, -tan, -tin, -tun or no ending occur . For the T in the endings see Ta marbuta ; for the N in these endings see Nunation .

The vocabulary is extremely rich, but often not clearly standardized and overloaded with meanings from the past. For example, there is no word that corresponds relatively closely to the European word “ nation ”. The word used for this (أمة, Umma ) originally and in a religious context to this day meant “community of believers (Muslims)”; or z. B. "Nationality" (جنسية, ǧinsiyya ) actually "gender" in the sense of "clan" - "sex life" e.g. B. is called (الحياة الجنسية, al-ḥayāt al-ǧinsiyya ), where al-ḥayāt means "life". The word for "nationalism" (قومية, qaumiyya ) originally refers to the rivalry of “(nomad) tribes” and comes from qaum , which originally and still today often means “tribe” in the sense of “nomadic tribe”. Very old and very modern concepts are often superimposed in one word without one triumphing over the other. " Umma " z. B. regains more of its old religious significance. Through contact with classical cultures, there are numerous old loanwords from Aramaic and Greek and, since the 19th century, many newer ones from English and French .

The most common words

As in other languages, the structural words are the most common in Arabic . Depending on the counting method and text corpus, different results are obtained.

A study by the University of Riyadh comes to the following conclusion:

  1. في (in [preposition])
  2. من min (from, from [preposition])
  3. على ʿAlā (on, over, on, at [preposition])
  4. أنّ anna (that [conjunction])
  5. إنّ inna (certainly, verily [conjunction, also reinforcing particles ])
  6. إلى ilā (to, after, up, up to [preposition])
  7. كان kāna (to be [verb])
  8. هذا ، هذه hāḏā, hāḏihi (this, this, this [demonstrative pronoun ])
  9. أن an (that [conjunction])
  10. الذي allaḏī (the [relative pronoun])

The above list does not contain monomorphematic words or personal suffixes. In another word list these are taken into account:

  1. و wa- (and [conjunction])
  2. ل li- (for [conjunction])
  3. في (in, an, on [preposition])
  4. ب bi- (with, through [preposition])
  5. ـه -hū (his [possessing personal suffix])
  6. من min (from, from [preposition])
  7. ـها -hā (her [possessing personal suffix])
  8. على ʿAlā (on, over, on, at [preposition])
  9. إلى ilā (to, after, up, up to [preposition])
  10. أنّ anna (that [conjunction])

Both counts leave the definite article ال al- (der, die, das) disregarded.

According to the Riyadh study, the most common noun that has a noun equivalent in German is يوم yaum (“day”), the most common adjective كبير kabīr (“large”).

Language example

General Declaration of Human Rights :

يولد جميع الناس أحراراً ومتساوين في الكرامة والحقوق. وهم قد وهبوا العقل والوجدان وعليهم أن يعاملوا بعضهم بعضا بروح الإخاء
Yūladu ǧamīʿu 'n-nāsi ʾaḥrāran wa-mutasāwīna fi' l-karāmati wa-'l-ḥuqūqi. Wa-hum qad wuhibū 'l-ʿaqla wa-'l-wiǧdāna wa-ʿalaihim ʾan yuʿāmilū baʿḍuhum baʿḍan bi-rūḥi' l-ʾiḫāʾi.
  • In IPA inscription:
ˈJuːladu dʒaˈmiːʕu‿nˈnːaːsi ʔaħˈraːran mutasaːˈwiːna fi‿lkaˈraːmati wa‿lħuˈquːqi wa qɒd ˈwuhibuː‿lˈʕɒqla wa‿lwidʒˈdaːna wa ʕaˈraːran mutasaːˈwiːna an juˈʕaˈbmila ʔan juˈʕaˈbmila ʔan juˈʕabmila an
All people are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should meet one another in a spirit of brotherhood.


Transfers into Arabic are mostly made from English and French, often from Spanish and, during the Soviet Union, from Russian. Transmissions from other European languages ​​as well as from Japanese, Chinese, Persian, Turkish and Hebrew are rare. For example, works by Jürgen Habermas are only available in a translation from the French that was published in Syria . Some works by Friedrich Nietzsche , also from French, have been published in Morocco . The Antichrist by Nietzsche appeared in Syria in a translation from Italian. The Cairo Book Fair , the second largest in the world for the Arab and North African region, is state owned.

Learn arabic

Numerous German-speaking universities and non-profit continuing education institutions offer courses in Arabic as a foreign language, e. B. as part of oriental studies , theology , or even Arabic studies , the science of Arabic language and literature. The interest in Arabic as a foreign language is based, among other things, on the fact that it is the language of the Koran and that all Islamic terms are originally Arabic. Arabic is a must in Muslim schools around the world. There are a variety of Arabic language schools, most of which are located in Arabic-speaking countries or in non-Arabic Muslim regions.


For Western learners of Arabic, the first major obstacle is the Arabic script . In German-speaking countries, the main focus is on learning Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), which, in contrast to the Arabic dialects, is also written. Its mother form, Fusha , is considered a sacred language and observes the so-called nunation , which is largely dispensed with in the MSA. Since the Arabic script is a consonant script and, with the exception of textbooks and Koran texts , is written without vocalization , learning the written vocabulary takes a disproportionate amount of time compared to the alphabet scripts of other languages. Even in Arabic-speaking countries, everything is written with vocalization in the first two years of school, without exception.

As far as the grammar of modern standard Arabic is concerned, the later elimination of vowels has a slowing effect on learning speed. Even for native speakers, much of the Arabic class in school is used for correct conjugation.

See also


General descriptions


  • Wolfdietrich Fischer: Grammar of Classical Arabic. 3. Edition. Wiesbaden 2002, ISBN 3-447-04512-4
  • Ernst Harder, Annemarie Schimmel : Arabic language teaching. Heidelberg 1997, ISBN 3-87276-001-7 (Brief introduction to the Arabic language and grammar.)
  • John Mace: Arabic Grammar. A revision guide. Edinburgh 1998, ISBN 0-7486-1079-0 (Clear grammar based on contemporary Arabic.)
  • Mohamed Badawi / Christian A. Caroli: As-Sabil: Basics of Arabic grammar , Konstanz 2011.


  • Katharina Bobzin: Basic Arabic course. Textbook with audio CD and key. 2nd revised edition. Wiesbaden 2004, ISBN 978-3-447-05043-2 (12 lessons each with test page, text and exercise part, completely set to music with precise writing instructions for all Arabic letters.)
  • Tawfik Borg: Modern Standard Arabic. Conversation course. 5th edition. Hamburg 2004, ISBN 3-921598-23-0 (Conversation- related textbook, some of which, however, uses Egyptian instead of high Arabic vocabulary.)
  • Wolfdietrich Fischer, Otto Jastrow: Course for the Arabic written language of the present. 5th edition. Wiesbaden 1996, ISBN 3-88226-865-4
  • Günther Krahl, Wolfgang Reuschel, Eckehard Schulz: Arabic with System Berlin / Munich 2012, ISBN 978-3-468-80354-3
  • Dr. Amin Tahineh: Arabic for adult education. ISBN 3-00-007862-2
  • Mohamed Badawi / Christian A. Caroli: As-Sabil. Practical textbook for learning the Arabic language of the present, Volume 1 , Konstanz 2005.
  • Mohamed Badawi / Christian A. Caroli: As-Sabil: Basics of Arabic Verblehre , Konstanz 2008.
  • Stefan Wild : Didactic problems of academic teaching in classical Arabic . In: JH Hopkins (Ed.): General Linguistics and the Reaching of Dead Hamito-Semitic Languages . Brill (Verlag) , Leiden 1978, pp. 51-67.


  • Nabil Osman, Abbas Amin: German-Arabic dictionary . Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden 2015, ISBN 978-3-447-10397-8 . (First modern large dictionary for the Arabic language since Götz Schregle, 1974)
  • Götz Schregle : German-Arabic dictionary . Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden 1974, ISBN 978-3-447-01623-0 . (Applies to the standard German-Arabic dictionary)
  • Hans Wehr : Arabic dictionary for contemporary written language (Arabic-German) . Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden 1985, ISBN 978-3-447-06584-9 . (The standard dictionary of contemporary Arabic, sorted by roots)
  • Arne Ambros: A Concise Dictionary of Koranic Arabic Wiesbaden 2004, ISBN 3-89500-400-6
  • Arne Ambros, Stephan Procházka: The Nouns of Koranic Arabic Arranged by Topics Wiesbaden 2006, ISBN 3-89500-511-8

Technical literature on specific topics

  • André Roman: La création lexicale en arabe - étude diachronique et synchronique des sons et des formes de la langue arabe , Jounieh [u. a.], (CEDLUSEK) Université Saint-Esprit de Kas, 2005 434-130 / 42/81, LSV 0874
  • Hartmut Kästner: Phonetics and Phonology of Modern Standard Arabic . Verlag Enzyklopädie Leipzig, 1981, publishing license no.
  • Pierre Larcher: Linguistique arabe: sociolinguistique et histoire de la langue , Leiden [u. a.], Brill, 2001
  • Petr Zemánek, Jiří Milička: Words Lost and Found. The Diachronic Dynamics of the Arabic Lexicon. RAM-Verlag, Lüdenscheid 2017. ISBN 978-3-942303-45-3 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Arabic  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Arabic language  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikibooks: Arabic  - learning and teaching materials
Placement test

Individual evidence

  2. a b Arabic, Standard - Ethnologue , accessed on January 23, 2016.
  3. Arabic . In: Ethnologue . ( [accessed August 23, 2018]).
  4. ^ Arabic as a world language , accessed March 23, 2014.
  5. ^ Kai L. Chan: Power Language Index. Kai L. Chan, May 2016, accessed November 18, 2019 .
  6. ^ Bengt Knutsson: Studies in the Text and Language of Three Syriac-Arabic Versions of the Book of Judicum, with Special Reference to the Middle Arabic Elements . Brill, 1974. Partial online view
  7. Olivier Durand: Le vocalisme bref et la question de l'accent tonique en arabe maroccain et berbère. In: Rivista degli Studi Orientali, Volume LXIX (1995), pp. 11-31. Bardi, Rome 1996.
  8. Drissner, Gerald: Arabic for Nerds . 270 Questions on Arabic Grammar. 1st edition. Createspace, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-1-5175-3838-5 , chap. 35 , p. 62 .
  9. Drissner, Gerald: Arabic for Nerds . 270 Questions on Arabic Grammar. 1st edition. createspace, Berlin 2015, ISBN 978-1-5175-3838-5 , pp. 64 .
  10. ʿAbduh, Dāwūd ʿAṭīya: al-Mufradāt aš-šāʾiʿa fī 'l-luġa al-ʿarabīya: dirāsa fī qawāʾim al-mufradāt aš-šāʾiʿa fī l-Riuġa al-ʿaradabīya 1979.
  11. ^ Fromm, Wolf Dietrich: Frequency dictionary of the modern Arabic newspaper language , Leipzig 1982.
  12. ("About cultural transfer on rocky routes", Neue Zürcher Zeitung . 3/2006)