What does Semitic mean?
Too many people use the term Semite or Semitic as if it refers to a race that existed with its language, the “Semitic Language.” The so-called Semitic refers to a group of people who inhabited the Levant. What set them apart is the fact that they spoke similar languages but were not of the same ethnic, genetic or cultural origins. They were Aramaeans, Syriacs, Phoenicians, Hebrews, Arabs, Amharic...etc. Many use the expression Semitic based on unsubstantiated archaeology or history but on the Bible and the table of nations i.e. derived from the fictional characters of Noah and his sons, Shem or Sam, Ham and Japheth. Although many cultures have stories of flood and archaeology strongly suggests that floods happened, there is no proof whatsoever that Noah or his sons ever existed. The biggest flood in ancient history is that of the Black Sea when it turned into saltwater when the Mediterranean broke through the Bosporus and flooded the lower level of the Black Sea.
The term Semite is not historical but a modern one. It came into use at the end of the 18th century.* It designates a large group of divergent people who spoke similar languages but were not one. Thereafter, it became a standard technical modern term unrelated to ethnicity. This is so even though the Jews use the expression anti-Semitic to mean anti-Jewish and it is understood to mean exactly this but Semitic on its own does not mean Jewish.
How is the Quran related to Arabic?
Arabic is related to the Quran, in as far as it was partially and predominantly the language used to write it, along with a variety of foreign languages. Etymologist err when they claim that the language of the Quran is Classical Arabic. Arabic languages existed long before Islam, and pre-Islamic literary works continue to be studied today, as part of Arabic literature. However, one must be vigilant to mention that Muslims consider the Arabic of the Quran is what God himself spoke. Consequently, Muslims continue to pray in Arabic as God’s language and believe it is infallible.
Keeping the above in mind, linguists and philologist have long considered erroneously that Classical Arabic was the language of the Quran. The truth of the matter is there was no one Arabic language but many. There were many tribes in the Arabian Desert, and every tribe had its own language of Arabic. In other words, Arabic was never a unified, single language but many Arabic languages among the tribes. Some of these tribes and their particular versions of Arabic continue to be used by them today in Arabia. Having written this, Classical Arabic of today was based on the dialect of the tribe of Quraysh which was Muhammad’s tribe.
New studies in lexicography and etymology led philologists into better understand the origin of all Semitic languages including Arabic. The new understanding and analysis lead them to the fact that prevalent Syro-Aramaic language up to the seventh century formed a stronger etymological basis for the meanings of textual Arabic.[Kitchen, A.; Ehret, C.; Assefa, S.; Mulligan, C. J. (29 April 2009). "Bayesian phylogenetic analysis of Semitic languages identifies an Early Bronze Age origin of Semitic in the Near East". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 276 (1668): 2703. doi:10.1098/rspb.2009.0408. PMC 2839953.] New discoveries of what is thought to be Quranic scripture seem to suggest that the original was likely to have been Aramaic and Syriac. Further, Arabic predates the Quran and Islam, but the version of Arabic we know today evolved from a mixture of the Arabic tongue of Quraysh and many Arab tribes together with Aramaic and Syriac languages.
|Earliest Arabic on Paper, Eighth Century AD
The writer of this article does not and cannot claim to be linguistically prepared to validate or deny the claim made above. Muslims believe that the language of the Quran was dictated by God himself and hence cannot be but perfect and infallible. On the other hand, linguists and etymologists find fault in the Quran’s language including faults in grammar, spelling, history, science, geography, style and lexicography. In fact, these language scholars claim that too many foreign words were Arabized and included in the text which Muslim believe is sacred. This argument is beyond this writer’s scope of presentation or focus of this article. Simply put, the Quran is full of distinct languages that include Arabic, Aramaic, Syriac, Coptic, Greek, Ethiopian, Persian and others (a simple example is the name Issa applied to Jesus in the Quran while it is a corruption of Issus in Greek and appears on icons as IC XC – Issus Xristus for Jesus Christ).
Modern Arabic readers find it almost impossible to read the original plates of the text of the Quran. This includes scholars who know Classical Arabic fluently, have studied it on the university level and for translation. The writer was able to read one-word Allah which means God (/ˈælə, ˈɑːlə, əlˈlɑː/; Arabic: الله, translit. Allāh, IPA: [ɑɫˈɫɑː(h)] on the two displayed plates of pages of the Quran. The rest of the text was illegible or if legible has no meaning. Simply put, reading the original text of the Quran as it appears on the original plates is like English readers attempt to read Old English, Finnish or Welsh or even harder.
The final written version of the Quran was established more than twenty years after Muhammad’s death in 632 AD, is considered the authoritative account. It was completed under the direction of Caliph Uthman ibn Affaan, the third leader of the Muslim community, in about 650 AD, and was distributed to the main cities under Muslim rule.
||Surviving Copies of the Quran
||Syro-Aramaic Parchments of the Quran
Sana'a, Yemen, (from YouTube)
In 1972, during the restoration of the Great Mosque of Sana'a capital of North Yemen, workers discovered a mash of old parchments in a loft between the inner and outer roofs. The entire load was stuffed into some twenty potato sacks, where they might have remained, where it not fully arrivals seven years later of a German scholar and Quranic expert. He immediately grasped the significance of the find. Working with a team of local assistance, he carefully prized the layers apart and fired off thousands of photographs. Four fragments immediately caught his attention. They contained the first and last chapters of the Quran and, unlike any other currents in existence, they were illustrated with architectural drawings of mosques, vital clue to their origin. Because of its drawings because of the art historical context, you can date this Quran very precisely to the time of Al-Waleed This is the reign between 705 and 715 AD. It is the oldest dateable Quran in the world created some 70 years after the death of Muhammad. From the potato sacks, he identified fragments from nearly a thousand different Qurans. Comparisons between them and the standard Cairo text in use today are startling. These early texts are written in a kind of shorthand with no vowel markings or distinguishing dots which means that individual words can have up to 30 different meanings (see Christoph Luxenberg. The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran: A Contribution to the Decoding of the Language of the Koran is an English-language edition (2007) of Die syro-aramäische Lesart des Koran: Ein Beitrag zur Entschlüsselung der Koransprache (2000) by Christoph Luxenberg.
Sana'a Mosque Parchments Syro-Aramaic Quran Rejected:
Blois (2003) is particularly scathing, describing the book as "not a work of scholarship but of dilettantism" and concluding that Luxenberg's "grasp of Syriac is limited to knowledge of dictionaries and in his Arabic, he makes mistakes that are typical for the Arabs of the Middle East."
Saleh (2011) describes Luxenberg's method as "so idiosyncratic, so inconsistent, that it is simply impossible to keep his line of argument straight.":51 He adds that according to Luxenberg, for the last two hundred years, Western scholars "have totally misread the Qur'ān" and that, ad hominem, no one can understand the Quran as "Only he can fret out for us the Syrian skeleton of this text.":56 Summing up his assessment of Luxenberg's method, he states:
"This gives more ground to what have been peripheral views of the Quran's genesis, like that Muhammad and his early followers used a text that was already in existence and shaped it to fit their own political and theological agenda, rather than Muhammad receiving a revelation from Heaven," Keith Small of Oxford's Bodleian Library.
In short, while philologists attribute Classical Arabic to the language of the Quran the confusion from this discovery caused a controversy. Hence, they who wrote about Arabic or attempt to study it and its history face an uphill battle because of the number of Arabic tongues (maybe seven or more), the lack of resources such as Etymological Dictionary of Arabic and the absence of a standard to compare to and verify. Besides, Western linguists or elsewhere attempts to understand Arabic is often pathetic because they need to prepare for this hard job by studying and excelling in Aramaic, Syriac, languages of the Arab tribes of the seventh century AD and Hebrew, at least to make sense of their research.
From an etymological point of view, the name “Allah” or God in Arabic comes from the Canaanite Phoenician and Hebrew name of God. That is from the name of god El in Canaanite Phoenician pantheon. It became Eloh in Aramaic, El or Elohim (plural) in Hebrew and Allah in Arabic.
||Birmingham Quran Fragments (from the Independent)
Among the oldest surviving pages of the Quran are the Birmingham fragments*. There has been some dispute over the exact dating of the Birmingham fragments; however, some British scholars suggest that the written fragments actually predate Muhammad and the founding of Islam.
Scholars split by claim that Quran scrap rewrites story of Islam
Carbon-dating [parchment] of a fragment of text kept at Birmingham University provokes unholy row [the ink was not carbon-dated]
When chocolate magnate Edward Cadbury funded the acquisition of some 3,000 Middle Eastern manuscripts in the 1920s, he did so in the hope that it would turn Birmingham into a global focal point for religious research.
Some 90 years later, the Quaker philanthropist’s aspirations have been realized in spectacular fashion in the form of four pages of the Koran in early Arabic script which have sparked fierce debate over whether they could rewrite the founding story of Islam.
Leading Oxford academics this week said carbon dating of the parchment, which suggested it dated from between 568-645 AD, may change our understanding of the way in which Islam’s holy book was compiled.
But the assertion that the document, kept at Birmingham University, is part of one of the world’s oldest Korans – and could possibly date from the early years of the Prophet Muhammad’s life, which is generally thought to have been between 570 to 632 – is strongly disputed by other scholars.
It is a tenet of Islam that Muhammad received the divine revelations that form the Koran between 610 and the year of his death. But it has long been maintained that the articles of the Muslim faith were not written into book form until about 650, having hitherto been passed on in the “memories of men” or written piecemeal on materials from palm leaves to the shoulder blades of camels.
But the radiocarbon analysis of the “Birmingham Koran”, documents which were recently rediscovered by a PhD student inside a more recent version of the holy book, opens the possibility that a text of the Koran was in circulation during Muhammad’s lifetime. Some historians argue that the earliest end of the date range also leaves open the theory that the document was in existence during the Prophet’s childhood or even before his birth.
Dr. Keith Small, an expert on Koranic texts at the University of Oxford, told The Times: “This gives more ground to what have been peripheral views of the Koran’s genesis, such as that Muhammad and his early followers used a text that was already in existence and shaped it to fit their own political and theological agenda, rather than Muhammad receiving a revelation from heaven.”
Such an interpretation would substantially rewrite the history of Islam and challenge fundamentalist branches of the faith.
But it is also strongly contested by other scholars, who point out that the science of carbon dating is contradicted by other evidence.
They argue that a study of the orthography of the pages – the spelling, grammar and other conventions of language – shows that it can be dated to the second half of the seventh century and therefore fits in with the more traditional explanation of the Koran’s development.
Among the tell-tale features that indicate that it is from a later version of the holy book are the use of verse markers and marks denoting how a consonant should be pronounced. Such devices, it is argued, were not in use during the Prophet’s life.
Dr. Mustafa Shah, senior lecturer in Islamic studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, told The Independent: “When you look at this, it is clear they simply fit with the stylistic conventions of Arabic linguistic form of the later seventh century.”
Scholars have also pointed out that the carbon dating, carried out at Oxford University, was conducted on the animal skin parchment and not the ink used to write the Koran pages.
Such was the expense of obtaining parchment in the early days of Islam, however, that it was common practice simply to wash off the ink from already existing texts considered redundant and recycle them with new calligraphy. Dr. Abbas Tashkandi, cofounder of the Al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation, said: “The hide may be old, but the writing may be new.”
According to the convention long established by Sunni Muslim scholars, the definitive Koran was compiled under the rule of Uthman, the third caliph or successor to Muhammad, who was elected from 644 to 656.
Those in charge of maintaining the manuscript, which is due to go on public display for three weeks next month, are careful not to make overly bold claims for the significance of their text.
But David Thomas, professor of Christianity and Islam at Birmingham University, defended the dating, saying it was “at least likely” that the parchment was prepared solely for the Koran from which the Birmingham pages originate and thus used soon after the animals which provided it were slaughtered.
Timeline: Writing of the Koran
The Prophet Muhammad receives his first revelation in the form of a visit from the archangel Gabriel while praying in the Cave of Hira, near Mecca. Then aged 40, the Prophet continued to receive revelations for the next 23 years.
Scholars have hitherto agreed that at the time of the Prophets death the Koran did not exist in book form. As Islam grew and Muhammad gathered followers he had encouraged them to learn and recite the revelations and his teachings, some of which were also recorded by literate Muslims on clay tablets, palm fronds and camel bones.
According to Sunni tradition, Abu Bakr, the first caliph or political and religious successor to Muhammad, ordered that all the verses of the Koran, hitherto preserved in the memories of the Prophet’s followers, be collected and written down.
Under the oversight of Muhammad’s personal scribe, a committee collected and verified all the verses. They were written down in a single manuscript and presented to the caliph. It is believed this process happened within a year of Muhammad’s death.
The third caliph, Uthman, became aware of small differences in the Koran as Islam began to expand out of Arabia into Persia and across North Africa. In order to preserve the sanctity of the text he ordered the creation of a standardized copy of the book as given to Abu Bakr. Other versions of the text were supposedly destroyed.
Birmingham Fragments Rejected:
Saud al-Sarhan, Director of Center for Research and Islamic Studies in Riyadh, has been more skeptical; questioning whether the parchment might have been reused as a palimpsest, and also noting that the writing had chapter separators and dotted verse endings features in Arabic scripts which are believed not to have been introduced to the Quran until later. Saud's criticisms have been backed by a number of Saudi-based experts in Quranic history who strongly rebut any speculation that the Birmingham/Paris Quran could have been written during the lifetime of Muhammad. They emphasize that while Muhammad was alive, Quranic texts were written without any chapter decoration, marked verse endings or use of colored inks; and did not follow any standard sequence of surahs. They maintain that those features were introduced into Quranic practice in the time of the Caliph Uthman, and so it would be entirely possible that the Birmingham leaves could have been written then, but not earlier.
The Semitic beginnings of tongues existed more than 4000 years BC, the period in which the mother-country of the Indo-European language was supposed to have existed as well.
The earliest verification of the beginning of what came to be called Proto-Semitic (Proto-Semitic is a hypothetical reconstructed language ancestral to the historical Semitic languages and is considered to be part of the broader macro-family of Afroasiatic languages.). And thereafter Semitic goes back to the Akkadian language 2400 BC; furthermore, the root goes back in history to 3750 BC. Egyptologist have discovered Canaanite Phoenician snake spells to protect pharaonic tombs that date “between 2400 to 3000 BC written in Proto-Canaanite."[ Milstein, Mati (5 February 2007). "Ancient Semitic Snake Spells Deciphered in Egyptian Pyramid". news. nationalgeographic.com. Retrieved 10 April 2017 ] Ancient Hebrew or Biblical Hebrew was written initially in the Canaanite Phoenician script. Ancient Biblical Hebrew script or Paleo-Hebrew script (name invented in 1954) was said to have been used to write the original books of the Torah (Hebrew Bible) beginning in 1954 (see box). Up until this date, the Canaanite Phoenician script was used to write down the Torah.
Contrary to the assumption that a dialect of Arabic was spoken in Mecca, studies have shown that, insofar as the Arabic tradition has identified the language of the Quran and the inhabitants of Mecca, this language must instead have been a basically Aramaic language. It is not just the findings of studies that have led to this insight but that Aramaic was misinterpreted as Arabic. This leads to the assumption that name Mecca was originally an Aramaic settlement. Confirmation of this comes from the name Mecca (Macca) itself, which is not, as yet, explained. However, if the Syro-Aramaic root Km (ma, actually makk meaning lower or to be low) as a basis, we get the adjective akm (mäkkä) (masc.), atkm (mäkktä) (fem.), meaning "(the) lower (one).[https://disqus.com/by/karlenegrinnell/]
A notable trait of early written Semitic languages was that they lacked vowel signs and diacritics which would later distinguish them. This brought about the tendency of mispronunciation and, consequently, miscomprehension. For example, Arabic diacritics were added around the turn of the eighth century AD on orders of Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, governor of Iraq (694–714 AD). Long before this, the Canaanite Phoenician script of the Torah (called Palaeo-Hebrew beginning in 1954) went through similar discretization by the good scribes of the Torah like Arabic and Aramaic. To sum up, there is no truth whatsoever that Canaanite Phoenician descended from the mess of Arabic, especially pre-Islamic Arabic.
In terms of language typology, Canaanite Phoenician, Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic and Amharic belongs to the Semitic family of languages. Arabic or better called Classical Arabic is studied and used in formal writing (but not spoken throughout the (lie of the 20th century) the Arab World.”) Languages were based on ethnic origins: Aramaic (relatively small communities mostly in Iraq and Syria), Syriac (an offspring of Aramaic kept alive in the Maronite Church and the Syriac Churches all over the world), Phoenician (spoken in Lebanon and called modern day Lebanese Language), Amharic (the national language of Ethiopia), Tigre (spoken in Eritrea), and Hebrew (the national language of Israel which was resurrected from a dormant religious language, like Latin in the Catholic Church, to a living language in the early 20th century). There were many other members of these languages which have disappeared over time. These include Akkadian (spoken in ancient Mesopotamia), and Eblaite (spoken in ancient Syria).
The majority of written Arabic fragments to date are found on rocks, camel bones, and rarely on deer skin. Most of them were written by Christians because they contain the mark of the cross. The desert was devoid of materials to write on. Time will tell if more discoveries will produce writing mediums.
Interesting example: The earliest Arabic documents written on paper were discovered Tajikistan and trace back to the eighth century AD when the area was under the rule of the Abbasid Caliphate. Further, the earliest Arabic inscription on a rock the “Ghayyar’el son of Ghawth” from the first century AD. Meanwhile, the “Snake Spells” in Canaanite Phoenician language transliterated in hieroglyphics inscription on a Pharaonic tomb dates to nearly 3000 BC. This simple fact proves that Canaanite Phoenician did not descend from Arabic or any South-Semitic language because there is no archaeological proof that Arabic existed at all in the third or second millennium BC.
Since all modern Semitic languages can be traced back to common groups of ancestors, Semiticists have placed importance upon locating the urheimat of the Proto-Semitic language. The Urheimat of the Proto-Semitic language may be considered within the context of the larger Afro-Asiatic family to which it belongs. Urheimat (German: ur- original, ancient; Heimat home, homeland) is a linguistic term meaning the original homeland of the speakers of a proto-language.
Original Home of Semitic Languages
Philologists do not, as yet, have a consensus on where the Urheimat of Proto-Semitic language or what its background is but make speculations that remain doubtful and complicating the question rather than asserting any of it. Further research and discovery may one day give solid answers to this question. What is important for the reader is the deduction that all Semitic languages come from Proto-Semitic which is the mother of Phoenician Canaanite, Arabic, Hebrew, Akkadian, Summarian, Assyrian, Aramaic, Syriac, Amharic, Tigre, and other languages that died out.
Official Languages, Dialects, National Languages and Foreign Impacts
Phoenician Canaanite, Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, and Ugaritic are derived from the North Semitic group; Arabic and the Amharic (Ethiopian) languages belong to the South Semitic branch. The character-defining feature of Semitic languages is the system of consonant roots. Most words are triliteral (three consonants separated by vowels), though bi- and quadriliterals are also common. Each root represents a distinct meaning; variations from that root are derived by set patterns of vocalization, less important consonants, and prefixes or suffixes. The root sense of the verb is modified to express intensification, causation, reciprocity, etc., by vowel changes or prefixes. All members of the family have two genders, masculine and feminine, and, with the exception of Ethiopic languages, the adjective follows the noun and agrees with it in gender. Nominal sentences are ordered subject-verb-object, while verbal sentences are verb-subject-object.
- Babylonian-Assyrian (including inscriptions from c. 4000 BC to c. 250 BC).
- Canaanite Phoenician (including an inscription from c. 3000 BC) include what appeared in the El-Amarna tablets; biblical Hebrew** and post-Biblical Hebrew; Moabite.
- Aramaic includes inscriptions of Zenjirli; Jewish Biblical, Palestinian, Galilean [Jerusalem Talmud, Jerusalem Targumim, and Midrashim]); Christian Aramaic (Gospels); Samaritan; Palmyrene inscriptions; Nabatean inscriptions; living dialect of Ma'lula in Syria. East-Aramaic, including Babylonian (dockets to cuneiform tablets and the Babylonian Talmud); Mandean; Syrian (Edessan); Syriac inscriptions from north-central Syria (comp. Littmann, "Semitic Inscriptions"); modern dialects spoken at Tur 'Abdin and in Kurdistan, Assyria, and Urumia.
Consonants and Vowels.
The Semitic languages contain the following consonants: gutturals, "alef," "'ayin", "h," and "ḥ"; lower palatals, "ḳ," "kh," and "gh"; upper palatals, "k," "g," ("y"); sibilants, "s" (ם), "ç" (צ), "s" (ש), "sh," "z," "ẓ"; dentals, "t," "d," "ṭ," "th," "dh," "ḍ"; liquids, "l," "n," "r"; labials, "p," "ph" (f), "b," "m," and "w." Some of these characters ("ḍ" and "ẓ") are peculiar to the South-Semitic group.
- North Dialects: Old classical Arabic
- South Dialects: Minaean and Sabaean inscriptions; modern South-Arabic dialects
- Abyssinian Dialects: Old Ethiopic inscriptions; Ethiopic (Ge'ez); and the modern dialects Tigre, Tigriña, Amharic, Hararī, and Gurāgē.
With the exception of a few inscriptions, of which that of Mesha (Moabite), that of Eshmounazar (Phoenician), and the Marseilles inscription (Punic) are the longest, modern sources of the knowledge of Canaanite Phoenician. As the Hebrews were partly, if not largely, of Aramaic stock, it follows that they adopted the language of the Canaanites among whom they settled. The Canaanite language was spoken in Canaan as early as 3000 BC; however, knowledge of this language was enhanced in 1400 BC; for its idioms appear in the El-Amarna letters. The Canaanites appear to have already been in the area that spread from Ashkelon – Gaza on the Mediterranean in the West and Karatepe in Turkey. To the East, they covered the lands beyond Jerusalem and to the North the cities of Emsa, Aleppo and beyond. This is what Canaan was about 2400 or 2500 BC. The Hebrews adopted the Canaanite language, but their language underwent evolution and change because of the influence of Aramaic and Babylonian.
The chief distinguishing characteristic of the Canaanite language is the construction known as "waw consecutive," in which a peculiarly vocalized conjunction connecting two verbs in a narrative enables a discourse begun in the imperfect state to be continued in the perfect, and vice versa. This construction gives especial vividness to a narrative, enabling the reader to stand as a spectator of the original events and watch their development.
The latest inscriptions in the Punic tongue (Western Mediterranean Canaanite Phoenician) appeared recently in the North African villages of the Southern regions and date to the 7th century AD. In the beginning, the inscriptions were very hard to decipher; however, the researchers discovered that they were transliterated inscriptions in the Punic tongue but using the Latin script. Similarly, Canaanite Phoenician of snake spells in the tomb of a Pharaoh Unas at Saqqara from 3000 BC were transliterated Canaanite Phoenician tongue but in the hieroglyphic script.
What happened to Canaanite Phoenician and how does it relate to modern Eastern Mediterranean tongues – Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian?
The people of the Eastern Mediterranean went through a very turbid history because of the conquering armies and migrants from the region far and near. None of the migrants overwhelmed the local population, but they impacted their makeup and language. Beginning with Aramaic which became the lingua franca of the region, there were languages like Persian, Greek, Babylonian, Latin, Arabic, Turkish, Crusader Languages…etc. The strongest impact on Canaanite Phoenician was the Syriac language (a branch of Aramaic).
How do modern usages of languages, wrongly called dialects, happen?
Strictly speaking a dialect is defined as a regional variety of language distinguished by features of vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation from other regional varieties and constituting together with them a single language; however, modern usages of languages of many regions of the Middle East vastly vary.
In Egypt, Coptic was spoken until the late 17th century AD, while in the Eastern Mediterranean, Syriac (a form of Aramaic) was spoken until the 18th century AD. The languages of the Babylonians, Assyrians and Chaldeans had already switched from speaking Assyrian to speaking Aramaic. Even though some communities continued to use Eastern Aramaic such as the Christian Assyrians and Chaldeans, and the Kurds who spoke Kurdish, they were all impacted by Islamic Arab invasion and language. In north Africa, Amazigh (Berber) language was the tongue of the people and continues to be strongly used among the people till this day. Other countries in the region such as Turkey and Iran/Persia spoke their languages and were impacted to a lessor degree by Arabic.
What concerns this study is what happened in the Eastern Mediterranean and specifically Lebanon.
The Lebanese Language (please see the Language Tree Chart and the Alphabet Tree Chart below)
Lebanese or the Lebanese Language (please see Semitic Languages Tree below) which partially includes some Syrian and Palestinian tongues have ancient histories of their own and were influenced and impacted by many cultures, languages and civilizations. Some are fooled to indicate that Lebanese is a dialect of Arabic but the truth of the matter is that Lebanese is subject to different linguistic and grammatical rules than Arabic. The basic root of the Lebanese Language is Canaanite Phoenician which was intensely influenced by Aramaic for generations but was, just as much, if not more, by Syriac and its grammatical and stylistic rules. Arabic and Turkish impacted the Lebanese language but most of the Turkish died out after the end of World War I. Arabic, however, received a major boost or renaissance at the hands of Lebanese scholars. Literary works flourished because of this but slowly waned in the last few years. The reason behind the dying out of Arabic in Lebanese is the stress in education for foreign languages like English and French. Today, there are committees that work on keeping or reviving Arabic but the language is too complex to keep up with the developing world and it was never a spoken language. Arabic is taught in all schools, and Arabic literature is vehemently taught but it has proven itself to be useless in an age where the sciences whether medicine, electronics, engineering…etc. are available in foreign languages. For Arabic to compete with foreign languages, hundreds of translators would have to work for years to keep up with these subjects that change constantly and no human can effectively keep up with the fast change. Arabic is a dying language, but many are not aware how quickly it will cease to matter.
With the above in mind, spoken languages have their basis in the original or fundamental languages that were spoken by the groups of people yet influenced differently regardless whether the official languages of their countries are claimed to be Arabic. For an Eastern Mediterranean person whose spoken language was impacted by Syriac, it is very hard if not impossible to understand the spoken language impacted by Amazigh (Berber) of a person from Algeria or Morocco, even though the official language of all the countries in question is Arabic. The only means of communication between the two is to speak French. This fact in itself proves that Arabic, though the official language of many countries is not a valid means of communication and consequently a dying language.
An exceptionally informative book entitled "Qamoos Al-Alfaath Al Siryaniyya Fe Al-Ammiyya Al-Lubnaniyya" (Dictionary of Syriac Expressions in the Lebanese Language -- or dialect) by Eleya Issa, Librairie du Liban, Publisher © Copyright 2002 قاموس الألفاظ السريانية في العاميّة اللبنانيّة، إيليّا عيسى
Thereafter, came Arabic and Turkish which left major impact on it as well. Turkish waned between the end of World War I and World War II. Also, for reasons indicated earlier, usage of Arabic waned in the first decade of the 21st century.
Below are the phonetic texts of the Lord's Prayer, for demonstration purposes, in Aramaic, Lebanese Language and Hebrew:
tithe malkuthokh nehwe sebyonokh
aykano d-bashmayo oph bar`o
hab lan lahmo d-sunqonan yowmono
washbuq lan hawbayn wahtohayn
aykano doph hnan shbaqan l-hayobayn
lo ta`lan l-nesyuno
elo paso lan men bishop.
bayyna yallé bissama,
tkoon eraadat ala el ard mitil ma hiyyé bilsama.
eteena khibzna kfaayé la kil yawm
wo saamihna an aamaalna el aatlé
mitil ma nihna binsaamih
yallé be aamloona bil aatil.
ma tkhaleena nooaa bil tajaarib
bas khallisna min el shar.
abee-noo she-ba-sha-mai-yeem ,
yeet-ka-desh sheem-cha ,
be-yeet-ba-rech mal-choot-cha ,
re-tson-cha yee-h'-ye a-sbi ba-sha-mai-yeem oo-ba-a-rets ,
be-tee-ten lach-me-noo te-mee-deet , oo-me-chol la-noo
cha-to-tay-noo ka-a-sher a-nach-noo
mo-cha-leem la-chot-teem la-noo ,
be-al te-bee-ay-noo lee-day nees-sa-yon ,
be-shom-ray-noo mee-kol rah , a-men .