Arabic tidbits

A friend explained some of the intricacies of Arabic to me the other night; I thought I’d write down the most striking aspects:

* Status in the ancient Arab world was greatly influenced by your language abilities. Ancient heroes were language experts, not usually warriors or political leaders.
* The Koran, in fact, was especially notable due to its masterful Arabic language. The quality of the writing was what gave it authenticity.
* Perhaps because of this, the ancient vocabulary was much bigger than today’s.
* Arabic generally uses a single, unique word to express even complex subjects. It does not use prefixes or suffixes to build word, so words with similar meaning can sound very different.
* The written language mostly omits vowels.
* Objects (“table”) have gender and verbs depend on which gender the person you’re speaking about is.
* Plurals have a special case when there’s exactly two of something.
* Students generally enter university without any formal training in grammar. Most take an introduction to it just to experience how difficult it is.
* The meaning of a word depends on its position in the sentence and its pronunciation.
* Ancient writing can still be read, as the script is much the same.
* Poets would battle each other – just meet and try to impress each other with their command of language. One famous story tells of a poet who amazed his challenger by responding with a sentence that was a complete palindrome and still fit the conversation.
* When a line doesn’t work, the phrase “it won’t rhyme” means it doesn’t match one of the [traditional 13 poem templates](
* Every line has to fit [that pattern](