teaching foreign languages at an early age

A. Katz amnfn at well.com
Mon Jan 17 18:00:42 UTC 2011


For purposes of ease of learning as a new language, Arabic and Spanish, or 
Arabic and Catalan, need not have any elements that can be properly traced 
to historical borrowing or genetic common origin. All that is required is 
that there be some genuine similarity in their present forms of whatever 
origin  -- even mere coincidence.

For instance, the definite articles are superficially similar. Are they 
related? Most would say "no." The Spanish comes from Latin ille and the 
Arabic from maybe hal-, but "el" and "al" seem very similar, and this is 
not just a sound similarity, but a similarity of function. After all, not 
every language has a definite article, let alone one that sounds like 

As Jo said, it can all seem very mysterious why one language seems easy to 
learn, and the ease is often a subconscious assessment of similarity that 
has nothing to do with the rigors of genetic classification.


On Mon, 17 Jan 2011, Daniel Riaño wrote:

> The influence of Arabic over modern Spanish is amazingly scarce, specially
> considering the centuries of Moorish presence in the Iberian Peninsula.
> Probably even less over Catalan. The identifiable influence of other Semitic
> languages over Modern Spanish (outside toponymy and modern borrowings) is
> almost zero.
> Almost all the influence of Arabic on Modern Spanish affects the vocabulary,
> and even there, the quantity of words of Arabic origin in the common modern
> vocabulary is surprisingly small, probably around one or (at most) two
> hundreds, mostly restricted to substantives, and almost all of them
> belonging to a small number of semantic fields: water and irrigation,
> warfare, local institutions, building, horses, some crafts, and specially
> plants and food. Most educated Spanish speakers identify the "al" element at
> the beginning of many words with an Arabic etymology, with or without reason
> (usually with). A good number of scientific terms entered the Spanish
> vocabulary via the arabic scholars, most of them of Greek origin. There's
> one expresion of Arabic origin ("ojala", "God Willing") that
> Spanish-speaking people use vey often.
> With much philological pain it has been collected a list of almost 4,000
> words of Arabic origin used in documents written in Spanish at some time,
> but most of them are words out of use, often terms to designate aspects of
> Islamic life.
> There is very little of Arabic in modern Spanish morphology: an -i suffix
> used almost only with Arabic (or muslim-) related realia ("nazarí") and
> maybe an "a" causative prefix (as in "acalorar") still productive.
> Most phonetic and syntactical phenomena that have been attributed to Arabic
> influence, and there's not much of them, are best (and usually) explained
> otherwise.
> Daniel
> P.S. The influence of Berber languages over all romance languages of the
> Iberian Peninsula is much smaller, limited to local lexical borrowings in
> some small locations.
> 2011/1/17 A. Katz <amnfn at well.com>
>> I don't know much about Catalan, but I am wondering if there might not be
>> some grammatical or areal feautures of the language that might make Arabic
>> not that hard to learn, if you already speak Cat. After all, Spanish had
>> some Arabic influence in it in general, and I imagine that all languages
>> spoken on the Iberian peninsula have Semitic influences from both the
>> moorish conquests and the earlier Carthaginian occupation.

More information about the Funknet mailing list