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Brain Study: Reading Arabic Isn’t Easy

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14 messages over 2 pages: 1
TheGBiBanana
Newbie
United States
Joined 3497 days ago

16 posts - 16 votes
Speaks: English*
Studies: Arabic (classical), Arabic (Iraqi), Arabic (Written)

 
 Message 9 of 14
03 September 2010 at 4:47am | IP Logged 
I can sound out words in Arabic faster than I can sound out words that I don't know in English. Maybe I just like the script too much. I don't buy into this study at all.
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hxa155
Triglot
Newbie
Saudi Arabia
Joined 3420 days ago

7 posts - 7 votes
Speaks: Arabic (classical), Arabic (Gulf)*, EnglishC2

 
 Message 10 of 14
12 September 2010 at 1:56pm | IP Logged 
One of the best things about the Arabic script is that you can read/pronounce or write
any word you want. I find it much better than English in this department because each
letter has only one sound.
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CaucusWolf
Senior Member
United States
Joined 3461 days ago

191 posts - 234 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Arabic (Written), Japanese

 
 Message 11 of 14
12 September 2010 at 7:09pm | IP Logged 
I wouldn't say that it's easy to guess exact pronunciation for every word you don't know. An example would be ايضا=pronounced ayyDan. Without knowing there's an N = ن it's difficult to know the precise pronunciation.(Unless the short vowels are shown like in The Quran.)

Edited by CaucusWolf on 12 September 2010 at 7:10pm

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aldous
Diglot
Groupie
United States
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73 posts - 174 votes 
Speaks: English*, French

 
 Message 12 of 14
14 September 2010 at 5:49am | IP Logged 
I agree with hxa155 about the clarity of Arabic spelling. If you haven't studied Arabic grammar, then just knowing the letters isn't enough to know how to pronounce Arabic. But after you've learned the grammar, you're able to identify when a final alif is meant to be pronounced with an N, even if you don't know the word, because you'll know that that sometimes happens, you'll know it happens with adverbs and indefinite direct objects, and you'll know from context whether the word in question is one of those.

The only exception I can think of offhand is with the past tense of form I verbs. The middle vowel can be one of three possibilities.
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Doitsujin
Diglot
Senior Member
Germany
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Speaks: German*, English

 
 Message 13 of 14
14 September 2010 at 12:42pm | IP Logged 
aldous wrote:
I agree with hxa155 about the clarity of Arabic spelling.

Niels Bohr's once said:
Quote:
If quantum mechanics hasn't profoundly shocked you, you haven't understood it yet.

The Arabic writing system is more complex and more problematic than you think. Adverbs like 'Ayḍan, which are actually indeterminate accusative nouns, follow a clear pattern, however, many other words don't.
Take for instance the passive voice. Even native speakers often have to read a sentence with an initial passive verb twice in order to understand it. There are also many infamous examples of highly ambiguous verbs. Take for example لم يعد which has at least 5 different valid readings (see Cetacea's web site لما / فقد / لم يعد Explained). But even regular verbs can be ambiguous, because the imperfect of forms I, II and IV looks identical without vowel signs.

aldous wrote:
The only exception I can think of offhand is with the past tense of form I verbs. The middle vowel can be one of three possibilities.

The imperfect of form I verbs also has three different vowels. There are actually 6 different combinations possible:

a/u    kataba/yaktubu (كتب)
i/a    shariba/yashrabu (شرب)
a/i    'arafa/ya'rifu (عرف)
a/a    sa'ala/yas'alu (سأل)
a/i~u jalaba/yajlibu or yajlubu (جلب)
u/u    Hasuna/yaHsunu (حسن)


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aldous
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United States
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73 posts - 174 votes 
Speaks: English*, French

 
 Message 14 of 14
14 September 2010 at 5:57pm | IP Logged 
Doitsujin wrote:
The Arabic writing system is more complex and more problematic than you think. Adverbs like 'Ayḍan, which are actually indeterminate accusative nouns, follow a clear pattern, however, many other words don't.
Take for instance the passive voice. Even native speakers often have to read a sentence with an initial passive verb twice in order to understand it. There are also many infamous examples of highly ambiguous verbs. Take for example لم يعد which has at least 5 different valid readings (see Cetacea's web site لما / فقد / لم يعد Explained). But even regular verbs can be ambiguous, because the imperfect of forms I, II and IV looks identical without vowel signs.


You're right about the imperfect form I verb. I wasn't thinking. But in the other cases you mentioned - passive verbs, and the imperfect of forms I, II, and IV - in the Arabic I've read, the publisher always clarified. They put a shadda on the middle consonant of form II verbs, and they put a damma on the first consonant of form IV and passive verbs. But from what you say, it sounds like publishers don't always do that.

Regarding the example of لم يعد, it would have five valid readings if sitting by itself, but once placed in a paragraph some of those readings (probably four of them) will cease to be valid.

In English, we have a series of words that are either nouns or verbs depending on the stress (e.g. prógress, progréss). These are two different words with the same spelling, but I wouldn't call that ambiguous, because in context one can tell which meaning is intended. Every language has situations like this. It doesn't impede communication because context always plays a role in comprehension.

I should clarify that I agree with CaucusWolf that you can't always guess the exact pronunciation of a word you don't know just from seeing it written. I don't know how anyone could disagree with that statement, considering Arabic doesn't write short vowels.

By the way, this morning I read a word that I didn't think of last night, that actually is spelled irregularly: مائة. It's spelled mā'a but it's pronounced mī'a (or mīya in colloquial). Another example is عمرو, pronounced `Amr. The و is silent, and is just there to distinguish `Amr from `Umar, which would otherwise have the same spelling. So Arabic spelling is not perfectly regular.

Edited by aldous on 14 September 2010 at 5:59pm



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