UAE: Modernising the Mother Tongue

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at
Sat Feb 21 14:53:43 UTC 2009

 Forwarded From:  edling at

The National

Modernising the Mother Tongue

The last speaker of Arabic on Earth will probably be a tour guide,
singing songs in the early morning air as he escorts tourists who have
never heard his native tongue. He will tell them about the poetry of
Mutannabi, the words of Umm Kulthum and the music of the Cairo khan
and the Sana'a souq and they will smile and wonder how such a
beautiful language could ever pass from the Earth.

It has happened before and is happening now. Today is International
Mother Language Day, a United Nations-organised day designed to
promote linguistic diversity and warn that nearly half of all the
6,700 languages of the world will probably vanish before the 21st
century is over.

At first glance, the idea of the language of the Emirates vanishing
seems absurd: the arrival of satellite TV and the internet has linked
the Arab world more closely than before, more non-Arabic speakers are
learning the language and Arabic media have been set up in Russia, the
US, Britain and Iran. But a stroll through downtown Abu Dhabi quickly
highlights how few Emiratis use Arabic as a social language,
especially the younger generation.

Full story:


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at


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