Various articles on language topics

Whistled Languages Around The World


There are over 70 languages in the world with just whistled sounds. They are spread around the world, from The French Pyrenees, the Canary Islands, Turkey, the foothills of the Himalayas, and the Amazon Basin.

They are usually used in areas where there are hills and valleys, or forests, where the normal human speech does not spread readily.

The following articles explore more this fascinating topic:

Hindi words of Arabic origin



Having worked with many people from India and Pakistan in the 1990s, I was often fascinated by words that sounded Arabic in origin. When asking about the meaning, they were indeed Arabic. And I could detect more words in the few Hindi Bollywood movies that I have seen as well.

Arabic influence on Hindi may have been via several avenues. One was via Farsi (Persian) as an intermediate, having been the language of the court for the Mughal emperors. Another was through Muslim scholars using these words from Arabic texts and they made their way into the vernacular.

Maltese poem: Mejju gie, May has arrived - a translation by an Arabic speaker



In a previous article, I attempted a translation of the oldest know literary work in Maltese, Il-Cantilena, without looking up any translations, and relying only on my knowledge of Arabic as a native speaker of both classical and a North African dialect (Egyptian). I was largely successful.

Seventh Century Quranic Manuscript at Birmingham's Mingana Collection


My friend Ralph Janke who is from Germany and lives here in Waterloo, pointed me to a very interesting project that he worked on.

The project is funded by the European Union, and therefore uses open source and open data formats.

Alphonse Mingana: Assyrian Orientalist

Wardija: Arabic translation of a modern Maltese poem


This is a poem by a contemporary Maltese poet, Ġakbu (James).

He posted the poem in a previous article on the oldest Maltese literary work, Il-Cantilena. I translated the Cantilena into English using only my knowledge of Arabic and trying to decipher the old orthography and the modern orthography of Maltese.This was a nice mental challenge, and an experiment in culture, history and of course, linguistics.

Il-Cantilena of Malta: How much can a modern day Arab decipher from the oldest Maltese literature?



Also known as Il-Kantilena ...

In a previous article on Arab heritage in Malta, I touched upon how the Maltese language (Ilsan Malti) is definitely derived from Arabic, and more specifically, from the North African dialect of Arabic.

A visitor to the site raised a nice challenge which was very interesting to me: He started on the off note and having his comment titled "Maltest are not arab", and by saying:

Why is tobacco called Dohány in Hungarian and not Tütün?


When I visited Hungary in the summer, the language was totally alien to any other language I am remotely familiar with. Being from the Finno-Ugric group, it is remotely related to Finnish, and little else.

From the signs in the airplane, I learned that the word "dohány" means "smoke", i.e. tobacco. This was confirmed from shops, and even the name of a street in the Jewish section of the city.

Arabic replaced Semitic languages and not others: Farsi as an example


Some time ago, I wrote about why Egypt speaks Arabic and not Egyptian. In it, I touched on why Arabic replaced other Semitic languages in West Asia and North America.

Why Arabic replaced other languages

The reason is that Syriac, Amazigh, Coptic and other Semitic languages were similar enough to Arabic to assimilate or be supplanted by it.


Subscribe to RSS - Linguistics