Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book. This includes both the literary language (Modern Standard Arabic or Literary Arabic, used in most written documents as well as in formal spoken occasions, such as lectures and radio broadcasts) and the spoken Arabic varieties, spoken in a wide arc of territory stretching across the Middle East and North Africa. Arabic is a Central Semitic language, closely related to Hebrew and the Neo-Aramaic languages, and also related to the South Semitic languages (e.g. Amharic in Ethiopia, Tigrinya in Ethiopia and Eritrea, and Mehri in Yemen and Oman) and the extinct East Semitic languages (e.g. Akkadian, first attested nearly 5,000 years ago). The written language is distinct from and more conservative than all of the spoken varieties, and the two exist in a state known as diglossia, used side-by-side for different societal functions.
Influence of Arabic on other languages
The influence of Arabic has been most important in Islamic countries. Arabic is an important source of vocabulary for languages such as Baluchi, Bengali, Berber, Catalan, English, French, German, Gujarati, Hindustani, Italian, Indonesian, Kurdish, Malay, Malayalam, Maltese, Pashto, Persian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Rohingya, Saraiki, Sindhi, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Tagalog, Turkish and Urdu as well as other languages in countries where these languages are spoken. For example, the Arabic word for book (كتاب kitāb) has been borrowed in all the languages listed, with the exception of French, Spanish, Italian, Catalan and Portuguese which use the Latin-derived words “livre”, “libro”, “llibre” and “livro”, respectively, German and English which use the Germanic “Buch” and “Book”, Tagalog which uses “aklat”, Hebrew which uses “sefer”, Gujarati which uses “chopdi”, Marathi which uses “pustak”, Malayalam which uses “pustakam” and Bengali which uses “boi”.
In addition, English has many Arabic loanwords, some directly but most through the medium of other Mediterranean languages. Examples of such words include admiral, adobe, alchemy, alcohol, algebra, algorithm, alkaline, almanac, amber, arsenal, assassin, candy, carat, cipher, coffee, cotton, ghoul, hazard, jar, kismet, lemon, loofah, magazine, mattress, sherbet, sofa, sumac, tariff and many other words. Other languages such as Maltese and Kinubi derive ultimately from Arabic, rather than merely borrowing vocabulary or grammar rules.
Arabic and Islam
Classical Arabic is the language of the Qur’an. Arabic is closely associated with the religion of Islam because the Qur’an is written in the language, but it is nevertheless also spoken by Arab Christians, Mizrahi Jews and Iraqi Mandaeans. Most of the world’s Muslims do not speak Arabic as their native language but many can read the Quranic script and recite the Qur’an. Among Non-Arab Muslims, translations of the Qur’an are most often accompanied by the original text.
Some Muslims present a monogenesis of languages and claim that the Arabic language was the language revealed by God for the benefit of mankind and the original language as a prototype symbolic system of communication, based upon its system of triconsonantal roots, spoken by man from which all other languages were derived, having first been corrupted. Statements spread in later centuries regarding the Arabic language being the language of Paradise are not considered authentic according to the scholars of Hadith and are widely discredited.