Arabic (Arabic: العَرَبِيَّة al-ʻarabiyyah [ʔal.ʕa.ra.ˈbij.jah] (listen), or عَرَبِيّ ʻarabī [ˈʕa.ra.biː] (listen) or [ʕa.ra.ˈbijj]) is usually classified as a Central Semitic language, and linguists widely agree that the language first emerged in the 1st to 4th centuries CE. It is now the lingua franca of the Arab world. It is named after the Arabs, a term initially used to describe peoples living in the area bounded by Mesopotamia in the east and the Anti-Lebanon mountains in the west, in northwestern Arabia, and in the Sinai Peninsula. Arabic is classified as a macrolanguage comprising 30 modern varieties, including its standard form, Modern Standard Arabic, which is derived from Classical Arabic. As the modern written language, Modern Standard Arabic is widely taught in schools and universities, and is used to varying degrees in workplaces, government, and the media. The two formal varieties are grouped together as Literary Arabic (fuṣḥā), which is the official language of 26 states, and the liturgical language of the religion of Islam, since the Quran and Hadith were written in Arabic. Modern Standard Arabic largely follows the grammatical standards of Classical Arabic, and uses much of the same vocabulary. However, it has discarded some grammatical constructions and vocabulary that no longer have any counterpart in the spoken varieties, and has adopted certain new constructions and vocabulary from the spoken varieties. Much of the new vocabulary is used to denote concepts that have arisen in the post-classical era, especially in modern times. Due to its grounding in Classical Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic is removed over a millennium from everyday speech, which is construed as a multitude of dialects of this language. These dialects and Modern Standard Arabic are described by some scholars as not mutually comprehensible. The former are usually acquired in families, while the latter is taught in formal education settings. However, there have been studies reporting some degree of comprehension of stories told in the standard variety among preschool-aged children. The relation between Modern Standard Arabic and these dialects is sometimes compared to that of Latin and vernaculars (or today's French, Czech or German) in medieval and early modern Europe. This view though does not take into account the widespread use of Modern Standard Arabic as a medium of audiovisual communication in today's mass media—a function Latin has never performed. During the Middle Ages, Literary Arabic was a major vehicle of culture in Europe, especially in science, mathematics and philosophy. As a result, many European languages have also borrowed many words from it. Arabic influence, mainly in vocabulary, is seen in European languages, mainly Spanish and to a lesser extent Portuguese, and Catalan, owing to both the proximity of Christian European and Muslim Arab civilizations and 800 years of Arabic culture and language in the Iberian Peninsula, referred to in Arabic as al-Andalus. Sicilian has about 500 Arabic words as result of Sicily being progressively conquered by Arabs from North Africa, from the mid-9th to mid-10th centuries. Many of these words relate to agriculture and related activities.[full citation needed] The Balkan languages, including Greek and Bulgarian, have also acquired a significant number of Arabic words through contact with Ottoman Turkish. Arabic has influenced many languages around the globe throughout its history. Some of the most influenced languages are Persian, Turkish, Spanish, Urdu, Kashmiri, Kurdish, Bosnian, Kazakh, Bengali, Hindi, Malay, Maldivian, Indonesian, Pashto, Punjabi, Tagalog, Assamese, Sindhi, Oriya, and Hausa, and some languages in parts of Africa. Conversely, Arabic has borrowed words from other languages, including Greek and Persian in medieval times, and contemporary European languages such as English and French in modern times. Classical Arabic is the liturgical language of 1.8 billion Muslims, and Modern Standard Arabic is one of six official languages of the United Nations. All varieties of Arabic combined are spoken by perhaps as many as 422 million speakers (native and non-native) in the Arab world, making it the fifth most spoken language in the world. Arabic is written with the Arabic alphabet, which is an abjad script and is written from right to left, although the spoken varieties are sometimes written in ASCII Latin from left to right with no standardized orthography.
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