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.

This assertion is based on something I read in Israel Wolfenson's book on the history of the Semitic languages. Wolfenson was a professor at Cairo University in the first half of the 20th century, and even adopted a kunya of Abu Tho'ayb أبو ذؤيب which means "Father of a little wolf" derived from his last name.

Kazem Barqanisi affirms this theory

Now, another linguist confirms this finding. He is Kazem Barqanisi, as interviewed by Al Jazeera (in Arabic). He makes a distinction between Farsi and Turkish on one hand, and the Semitic languages on the other, and explains why Farsi and Turkish persisted, while the others got supplanted by Arabic.

Farsi most influenced language

Farsi, he says, is the most language influenced by Arabic by borrowing terms from it. Yet, an Arab can read a Farsi book that has 90% of its content borrowed from Arabic and not understand much, because of the different grammar of the two languages.

Apart from being the language of government, literature and learning, Arabic was also the language of the Quran, and hence religious life and law.

Why Arabic died in Iran

He also mentions that despite Arabic being a second language for the Persian populace for centuries, it has not "stuck" with the population. Not because of nationalistic tendencies, but because of Farsi being an Indo-European language, while Arabic is Semitic.

Purification of Farsi

The nationalistic tendencies in Iran do exist though, ever since the 1930s, with some calling for purification of Farsio from Arabic influence, and replacing terms that are of Arabic origin with new invented terms. Barqanisi says these attempts are doomed to failure.



Great points made. No doubt

Great points made.

No doubt that the presence of Semitic-speaking tribes in the Sinai and the deserts of eastern Egypt, and long millenia-old familiarity that Egypt has had with Semitic-speaking peoples, also fascilitated the change.

It didn't hurt either that Arabic is a very flexible and sophisticated langauge, despite the lesser sophistication of Arabians vis-a-vis their neighbors to the north.

Reposting what I said in an e-mail

You called in some of your messages Egyptian and Berber languages Semitic and I have to say that Semitic is branch that is a member of the larger Afro-Asiatic family and Egyptian and Berber are not Semitic but form sepreate branches of the Afro-Asiatic language familiy :)

So I just wanted to correct you there because saying Egyptian is Semtic is like saying that Persian is Germanic even tough Persian is related to Germanic languages like English the relation is more distant trough the Indo-European language familiy :)''


The persian history and their language goes much farther back than arabic. The great ancient history that persia had nobody knew arabic until 1400 years ago when arabs took over iran for a short period of time and decided to destroy persian culture, language and many great monuments. Sadly they destroyed many ancient sculpture because they said that the sculptures are "HARAAM" among arabs. They killed many people who didn't want to speak arabic and also destroyed many ancient persian books.


Egypt goes back in history far more than Persia, yet they speak Arabic today. The native language (Egyptian then Demotic then Coptic) was Semitic, and hence it was easier for the native Egyptians to change to another Semitic language. That was the point of my article, not the little things that you allude to.

Your comment shows the bias and you display a victimization mentality.

Can you provide evidence that they "killed people who did not want to speak Arabic" as you claim?

Persia was great before the Arabs came, and was still great after that: their culture continued on for centuries, influencing the collective Islamic culture which merged Arabic, Persian and many other languages and cultures.

Egyptian and berber never

Egyptian and berber never been sematic however, yes they are related to the bigger family of afro-asitic languages and egypt in particular unlike berber were heavily affected by their sematic naghbours like levants, canatiess, etc. Because berber was not much affected by semates unlike Egypt their maghrebi dialect is still not understood by arab today.