Xavier of Buscaraons sent me a link to a brief but interesting post at kaleboel:

Cherif El-Shoubashy, first under-secretary for foreign cultural relations and president of the Cairo International Film Festival, has published a book called something like Long Live Arabic, Down With Sibawayh, Sibawayh being the Persian, Basra-trained linguist who, in al-Kitab, provided Arabic grammar with its tablets of stone. That was back in the eighth century, and El-Shoubashy’s point is that since the written language has changed considerably since then, since first millennium grammar is offputting to students, and since 81% of Muslims don’t speak Arabic anyway, it would be rational to contemplate reform.

I’m guessing the proposal is unlikely to go anywhere; at any rate, there’s more available (if you read Spanish) here.


  1. The politics of this are staggering! You’re probably right: Given the conservative atmosphere, and given the close connection between grammar and exegesis, even less likely to catch on than the Mutamathil font, which simplifies the writing system for computerized display. The fine points of grammar are, as my old prof used to say, hell, but consciousness of the grammatical subtleties also allows modern writers of fusha to evoke a long and rich rhetorical tradition and assume that readers will be able to follow them. The same kind of hazing ritual that Latin, or reciting Chaucer’s General Prologue in the original, was for English schoolboys once upon a time, without which no Byron and Shelley. Modernizing teaching methods while still hewing to tradition would be widely appreciated, though, by modern Muslims, I bet. Sibawayh for Dummies, anyone?

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