Professor Somech
Photo: Michal Rosh Ben-Ami

Arabic language academy inaugurated

Academy for study of Arabic language in Israel opened this week in Akko. Comprised of 15 members including Prof. Sasson Somech who discusses peculiarities of special version of Arabic birthed in Israel

Ever wonder about the linguistic evolution of certain slang? Here's an example: When cell phones began to be prevalent, Israelis began referring to them as a "pelephone," after the Israeli telecommunications company that sold them.


In Arabic, since the letter P is non-existent and is thus pronounced as a B, Israeli-Arabs began referring to the new communication tool as a "belephone." In this manner, a new word was born in the Arabic language.


In order to study the linguistic evolution of Israeli Arabic, a new Arabic language academy was founded this past week in Akko.


Tel Aviv University Professor Sasson Somech, along with 15 others, were appointed members of the new language institute during a ceremony this past Tuesday.


The idea for an Israeli Arabic language academy emerged from a cadre of intellectuals from Haifa and Nazareth that sought to create an institution that would guide the Arabic language in Israel and would be a compass for it like "a ship sailing in stormy waters."


The new institute will be comprised of 23 members – although to date only 15 have been nominated – a third of which will be women.


Professor Sasson told Ynet in an interview that "for everything that is new, like a brand new electric appliance or a legal or bureaucratic procedure – Arabic speakers in Israel quickly adopt its Hebrew name."


"Generally speaking, the Hebrew or foreign language word that people use in Israel is transferred to Arabic. So, for example, words such as 'frigidaire' (French: refrigerator) or "puncture" were created in Arabic."


But, just as in the above example, because of the lack of a P in Arabic, the word "puncture" became "bancher" in the singular form and "benacher" in the plural form in Arabic.


Inter-Arab comprehension

So, that may very well make for good dinner conversation, but why set up a language academy to study the subject?


According to Sasson, the main reason is that in Israel there is no way to communicate with Arab academies in the rest of the world.


"An additional reason is the feeling that the Arabic language in Israel has problems that are specific to it because of its contact with the Hebrew language," Sasson says.


One example is that many Israeli Arabic-speakers use Hebrew grammar structures even when they are speaking in Arabic. This contributes to decline in the knowledge of grammatically correct Arabic.


Additionally, various technical terms such as Hebrew medical terms for diseases as well as Hebrew computing and Internet nomenclature have become ensconced in Israel's Arabic-speaking minority's vocabulary. Because of this, an Israeli-Arab who uses words that have passed from Hebrew to Arabic may not be well understood when he speaks with another Arab from Syria or Yemen.


Professor Sasson and his colleagues are quick to point out that they do not believe in disconnecting or isolating Arabic from Hebrew. "The idea is to give (the) Arabic (that's spoken in Israel) some 'self-confidence.'"


פרסום ראשון: 12.23.07, 07:29
 new comment
This will delete your current comment