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Reply To "Ed"

Reader comment on item: Islamophobia?

Submitted by A.F.D. (Saudi Arabia), Oct 27, 2005 at 16:07

I appreciate "edward" 's comments regarding my post on Arabic-origin words….and the generally fictional basis to the risible (Arabic: mudhHik) idea that Arabic greatly influenced Western languages. To go into this a little further:

1. I didn't say that Arabic had NO influence on European languages: I said that Arabic had very little influence, and certainly not to the extent that is generally believed. Plus, the "influence" that it did have was limited to nouns and especially place names, a very common and linguistically unimportant aspect of borrowing between languages.

What is amazing, considering the 700 years Arabic was spoken in Iberia, is that Arabic had no impact AT ALL on the morphology, syntax or grammar of any Western language. None whatsoever. (What really happened in Muslim Spain between the natives and the interlopers is a story as yet untold).

As I said in my post, as a native Spanish speaker (and a fluent Arabic speaker), I can't think of a single Arabic verb that is used in Spanish today. (Compare this with what happened when French came into contact with Anglo-Saxon! French utterly transformed the British tongue in all linguistic spheres. THAT was a real influence. Nothing even remotely like that happened between Arabic and Spanish, let alone English.

2. "Ed" has kindly directed me to a URL containing Spanish words of (supposedly) Arabic origin. http://spanish.about.com/cs/historyofspanish/a/arabicwords.htm . However, if you closely study this list, you will see that the VAST majority aren't originally Arabic words at all.

Even Dr. Pipes' example (adobe) appears on this list as do two of my examples (algoritmo, aduana). Let me repeat: these are not Arabic-origin words. Also listed is (naranja…English: orange). This is odd because the Arabic word for the fruit (and color) in modern Arabic is (bortuqaal) which of course comes from (Portugal…the country).

It gets even funnier, so I won't go on….but trust me, this list, like most similar lists are totally fraudulent with no basis in true research or authenticity. It's just a knee-jerk attempt to turn a fantasy into reality…..and it never works. (Even the word for (mayor of a city), is misspelled on the list…it has ALCADE...it should be ALCALDE). This is real high-level academic work, as you can see.

Instead, let me direct "ed" to a much larger such list….also listing Spanish words of Arabic origin……here he will see hundreds and hundreds of these "words". What's the catch? The catch is that almost NONE of these words exist in the modern lexicon of Spanish. They may have been used at one time hundreds of years ago, but they have almost all dropped out and are simply linguistic fossils. Here is the URL:


I challenge anyone just to take the first line of this list and see if they can find ANY (except for 2) of these words in a Spanish dictionary……or even find a Spanish speaker who knows what any of these words mean. (You won't be able to, I can tell you that right now). Just two words in that first line are of Arabic origin: ACEITE and ACEITUNA (yawn, yawn)…oil and olive. Wow!

As I said before, parading out the well-worn "aceite, alcohol, mezquita, cuzcuz (is "cuzcuz" really a "Spanish" word?? Tsk tsk) and so on does nothing to detract from my thesis: yes, Arabic words do exist in Spanish (and English)…..but they number in the tens, not the hundreds let alone the thousands many people believe to be the case.

Finally, let's not forget that English has had a much greater impact on modern Arabic than Arabic ever had (or will have) on English.

And contrary to "ed" 's comment, I am the first to admit that "our" languages have all been influenced by foreign vocabularies. English, after all, is full of Latin and Greek words, and Latin-American Spanish is replete with Amerindian words. And Arabic is full of foreign words too.

Best regards: AFD

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