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Egyptians and books in modern classical Arabic

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Submitted by dhimmi no more (United States), Aug 2, 2008 at 07:40

There is no doubt that such books exist in Egypt but the real question is do Egyptians really read them? It has always been a puzzle to me why do Egyptians buy less books in modern classical Arabic than let us say the Lebanese or the Syrians

Part of the puzzle can be solved by discovering that Egyptian Arabic (al-lugha al-3ammiya) is indeed a very different language from modern classical Arabic or Arabi faseeh.

Egyptian Arabic has very different grammar and syntax and it is full of foreign words that are not Arabic words. Many loan words are from Egyptian/Coptic which seems to be the main source of such words and such different grammar (see Yousef and Haykal's "From the pharaoh's lips. Ancient Egyptian language in Arabic of today"). It also has many loan words from Greek, Italian, French and Turkish. Egyptian Arabic is not a lahja (or dialect). It is a unique language and not it is not unlike Italian and Latin. This was pointed out by Niloofar Haeri in her book :"Sacred language, ordinary people. Dilemmas of culture and politics in Egypt"

And here is an example:

In Egyptian Arabic why do you go to Cairo? becomes inta rayeh li masr leh. Now in modern classical Arabic it would be: li madha tadhhab ila al-qahira. Even for those that do not know any Arabic you can see for yourself the difference. And this is only one sentence.

What is most amusing is the fact that Egyptians, even the Muslim Ulama, when on let us say TV they start by speaking in modern classical Arabic and then they switch to Egyptian Arabic but if you read the speech the next day in a newspaper you will find that such speech has been translated from Egytpian Arabic to modern classical Arabic (see Haeri)

This means that modern classical Arabic (the language fo such books) is indeed a foreign language to Egyptians and it very well could explain the fact that Egyptians read less because books are not published in their mother tongue but in a foreign language. It is very interesting that Madboli the biggest seller of books in Egypt told Haeri that the few books published in Egyptian Arabic sell very fast and are in great demand but not those written in calssical Arabic. So I susepct that such books just do not sell because they are not written in the language of the masses.

Also Egypt is indeed an old civilization and there is always a healthy dose of scepticism and great sense of humour about anything and every thing and such books are seen as no more than propaganda that should be viewed with great suspicion

The real question is who really pays for these books to be published? I suspect it is Saudi money.


Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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Reader comments (19) on this item

Title Commenter Date Thread
Anti Semitic books in Cairo [78 words]Doris GuttentagOct 27, 2008 16:03141157
Anti US and Antisemetic books in Egypt [94 words]TazeenAug 19, 2008 04:01137002
1I've got a problem with articles like this... [471 words]
w/response from Daniel Pipes
Kevin MorrowAug 11, 2008 16:22136591
freedom of press [14 words]Emad MuhiydeenovichAug 10, 2008 17:19136547
No, it's called hypocrisy!!! [78 words]JaladhiAug 14, 2008 11:45136547
Egyptians and books in modern classical Arabic [468 words]dhimmi no moreAug 2, 2008 07:40136112
The role of books in Muslim countries [118 words]UgriAug 2, 2008 06:07136109
Egyptian sensationalism [285 words]Rebecca MouldsAug 1, 2008 10:32136057
Ever read the Guardian, Kos, Move on, Counterpunch etcetera? [47 words]Nick GoodAug 1, 2008 07:09136049
The non-political books are also revealing [135 words]JJAug 1, 2008 02:22136035
You Can Buy Looney Books in Any Country [17 words]C.Jul 31, 2008 18:24136016
You Can Buy Looney Books in Any Country? [64 words]KristaAug 1, 2008 20:34136016
Here's a really looney book [98 words]onlytruthAug 9, 2008 12:42136016
So Much for the Camp David "Peace" in 1979. [149 words]YnnatchkahJul 31, 2008 14:55136007
Books and Propaganda [300 words]SammishJul 31, 2008 11:36135970
getting the other viewpoint [118 words]G.VishvasAug 1, 2008 07:31135970
what other viewpoint? [112 words]SammishAug 4, 2008 15:43135970
why read books when you have the internet? [35 words]CandideAug 5, 2008 02:44135970
let the criticised have a say too [118 words]G.VishvasAug 6, 2008 04:40135970

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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