Phonetic Res.

Robert R. Ratcliffe ratcliff at
Sat Jan 30 15:22:51 UTC 1999

----------------------------Original message----------------------------
Mohammed Z. Kebbe wrote:

> ----------------------------Original
> message----------------------------
> Hi,
> I find the discussion on phonetic resemblance very stimulating.
> Languages have been grouped on evidence of phonetic similarity; true.
> But a large number of similarities are just coincidental or chance
> resemblances. I can cite so many examples where Arabic seems to be
> very
> close to English, French or German; does this mean that Arabic is
> somehow related to the Indo-European family?
> Ziad Kebbe.

 Very happy to hear someone talking about Arabic on histling. The short
answer is that Arabic and IE are not related GENETICALLY, as far as our
current knowledge goes. But they are related historically, since Arabic
and its ancestors have been in contact with IE languages for thousands
of years.  I'd have to see your list of examples to decide what might be
what.  But I suspect the similarities have one of three explanations: 1)
there is a small set of ancient agricultural terms which are shared by
many ancient Semitic and ancient IE langauges: Ar. Haql/ Lat. ager,
"field", Ar. qarn, Lat. corn "horn" 2) there are borrowings into Arabic
proper from Latin, Greek, or Persian Ar. SiraT/Lat (via) strata, 3)
there are borrowings from Arabic into modern European languages, Eng.
"alcohol", "algebra", etc. As a fourth category you might add borrowing
into European languages from other Semtic languages. Eng. camel doesn't
come from AR. jamal, but comes via Latin and Greek from a NW Semitic
language, probably Phoenician or Hebrew.

Robert R. Ratcliffe
Senior Lecturer, Arabic and Linguistics,
Dept. of Linguistics and Information Science
Tokyo University of Foreign Studies
Nishigahara 4-51-21, Kita-ku
Tokyo 114 Japan

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