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Practice English Speaking&Listening with: How Similar are Persian and Arabic?

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Hey Mahmoud, can you help me read this Arabic message I got?

I can't recognise any of the words

Oh, that's not Arabic.

Hello everyone. Welcome to the LangFocus channel. My name is Paul.

In a recent video I talked about the Persian language, which is spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan.

Because Iran is located in the Middle East next to Iraq,

a lot of people wonder if the Persian language and Arabic are related.

Well, they are not directly related, but they have influenced each other.

Persian and Arabic belong to completely different language families, which means that they have separate origins.

Arabic is a Semitic language, and it comes from the same root language as

Hebrew, Aramaic, Phoenician, Ugaritic, etc.

Persian, on the other hand, is an Indo-European language that shares common roots with the languages

of Northern India, as well as most of the languages in Europe, such as English, French, and German.

Therefore Persian and Arabic have very different grammar, and the way that words are constructed is completely different.

Semitic languages have a unique system of mostly three-letter roots,

and these three-letter roots are put into templates that form the shape of different words.

For example, the Arabic root for "learn", which in English is like DRS.

If you want to say, "I learned", you take those three root letters and you add them into this template here, and say, "asruus".

Persian does not have this system of putting the root into templates.

The root words stay in one piece and affixes are attached to it.

Let's look at an example in Persian using the root word "dān", which means "know".

The first word is "dānestan", which means "to know",

so if we add the affix, "estan", that creates the infinitive of the verb.

The next word is "dāneŝ", which means "knowledge", so the affix "eŝ" creates an abstract noun.

Then if we take that word, and we add another affix at the end, "dāneŝmand",

that means scientist, so that creates a concrete noun.

So you can see that nothing is changing with the root word itself.

The root word "dān" doesn't change, the letters don't get separated the way they would in Arabic.

There are a couple other differences that I think show, that Persian has simpler than Arabic.

One of the differences is Persian language only has two grammatical cases, and only one of them is actually marked,

whereas Arabic has three grammatical cases and all three of them are marked.

And other differences that Persian doesn't have any grammatical gender,

there's no feminine, masculine, or neuter nouns which is quite a relief to some of us.

So, the origins of Arabic and Persian are unrelated, and structurally they are completely different languages.

There are two main similarities between Persian and Arabic: the script, and the vocabulary.

Except for the Persian that is spoken in Tajikistan, which is written in the Cyrillic script,

Persian is written in a modified form of the Arabic script.

So what is modified about it?

Well, in the Persian language, they have some sounds that you can't find in the Arabic language.

So they needed to create some new letters that represent those sounds.

There are four of these new letters in the Persian version of the Arabic script.

They actually come from Arabic letters, but the markings above or below the letters are different.

In Arabic, there is no "p" sound but in Persian there is a "p" sound,

So they created this new letter to represent the "p" sound.

They took the Arabic letter "ب" for "/b/" ["buh"], the "b" sound,

and they added two more dots underneath that letter.

So when we see that, we know it's a "/p/" ["puh"].

And in Standard Arabic, there is no "/t͡ʃ/" ["ch"] sound.

So they took the Arabic letter "ج" for ["djuh"], and they added two more dots under the letter.

That represents "ch".

There is also no "/ʒə/" ["juh"] sound in Standard Arabic, so they took the Arabic letter "ز" for ["zuh"] , the "Z" sound,

and they added two more dots above the letter and that makes a "/ʒə/" ["juh"], like the french "J".

Arabic also has no letter for "/g/", the hard G sound, so Persian took the letter "ک" for ["kuh"], the "K" sound,

and they added an extra line above it, and that represents "/g/", the hard G sound.

And some of the other letters represent slightly different sounds, too.

For example, the letter "waw" in Arabic becomes "vav" in...uh... Persian.

*audible chuckling*

I almost said Hebrew there because the letter is also called "vav" in modern Hebrew.

Because of the use of this modified Arabic script,

people who can't read it just take one look at it and because it looks the same,

they think that it's Arabic or they think that it's the same as Arabic,

but anyone who is able to read the script, or even just know the letters,

they'll quickly realise that this is not Arabic, because you see letters that you don't find in Arabic,

And also, of course, the words are different.

Probably not all of the words are different.

That's because Persian has a whole lot of Arabic loanwords in it,

that stretch all the way back to the Islamic conquest of Persia.

In literary Persian, as much as 40% of the vocabulary is of Arabic origin,

but in colloquial speech the percentage of Arabic words is much lower.

So even though lots of words have been adopted from Arabic into Persian,

the structure of those arabic words has not been adopted.

They're simply adopted as vocabulary as they are.

And then they are treated as Persian words once they're adopted.

Basically, the words that are borrowed are not broken down into the roots,

which is how they would be treated in Arabic.

And the loan words have also adapted to the phonology of the Persian language. So now they often sound quite different.

Here are some example loanwords: "good morning" in Arabic is "SabaH al-khayr", good morning in Persian is "Sobh bekheir".

Hello in Persian is "Salaam" [/sɜläm/] which comes from "Salaam" [/sɜle̞m/] in Arabic

So you notice that the second "a" sounds a little bit like an "o" in English kind of like "Shalom" [/ʃɜlo̞m/], actually.

The Arabic word for "name" is "Ism". In Persian, it's "Esm". So, just the first vowel is different.

In Arabic, the word for "travel" isafar". In Persian, it's "safár".

In Arabic, the word for "teaching" is "ta'ayin'liim". In Persian, it's "ta'aliim".

So you'll notice that the "ayin" sound from Arabic kind of disappears and becomes a simple glottal stop.

The Arabic word for "without" is "biduun". In Persian, it's "beduuneh".

The Arabic word for "history" is "taariikh", the Persian word is "tariikh".

So, just the first "a" vowel seems shorter.

The Arabic word for first is "awwal", but in Persian, it's "avval"

So there we have the "waw" becoming pronounced like a "vav".

There are also Persian loanwords that have entered the Arabic language, though not as many.

There are some in Standard Arabic but there are more in some of the Arabic dialects that are located near Iran,

Especially in the Iraqi Arabic.

But, Persian words in Arabic are harder to identify because when they're borrowed into Arabic,

they're taken apart and their root is placed into Arabic templates to make new Arab-ised words.

Persian and Arabic are different languages that are not mutually intelligible,

but my understanding is that native speakers hear the other language,

and they recognise quite a few of the words that they hear,

but they don't get the overall message.

Is it easy for a Persian speaker to learn Arabic and vice versa?

Well, the large amount of shared vocabulary will definitely help,

in the same way that an English speaker learning French has an automatic advantage because of all the shared vocabulary.

That is especially helpful for receptive skills.

Of course, you still have the challenge of learning how to produce correct sentences in the grammar of the other language.

Thank you for watching the Langfocus Channel, I hope that was helpful.

Leave your comments down below and have a nice day.

♫♫ English Subtitles by @dangeredwolf <3 ♫♫


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