Abu Dhabi seminar explores shared roots of Arabic, Hebrew

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Event discussed how shared heritage can be a foundation for understanding and rapprochement between diverse communities today.

Tuesday 16/02/2021

Dr. Ali bin Tamim, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre. (WAM)

ABU DHABI--Abu Dhabi’s Arabic Language Centre hosted a seminar exploring the common roots of the Arabic, Hebrew and Syriac languages and discussing how their shared heritage can be a foundation for understanding and rapprochement between diverse communities today.

The virtual seminar, titled “The Arabic language and its semitic sisters: A story of understanding and human fraternity” was held to mark the first International Day of Human Fraternity and featured leading academic experts in the field.

Dr. Ali bin Tamim, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre and secretary-general of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, spoke of how Arabic’s linguistic character can serve as a bridge to other cultures and help promote peace and tolerance.

“There is a pressing need for the language of dialogue and understanding, and to reinforce its historical and civilisational role, which provides the necessary tools for communication and rapprochement between people,” said Dr. bin Tamim. “The Middle East is rich in ancient languages, some of which have disappeared, while others are still present in our daily lives, so it was necessary to focus on the common roots of these Semitic languages to emphasise the links between peoples and cultures.”

Other speakers focused on the specific ties between Arabic and Hebrew and Arabic and Syriac, noting that they can all be traced to a Semitic root and point to a long history of co-existence between the peoples.

“What brings together the Arabic and Hebrew languages goes beyond the similarity in many components, grammar and utterances. Also, it is easier for the speaker of any of these two languages to learn the other language more quickly andaccurately than other languages,” said Dr. Brigitte Caland, professor of Hebrew Studies at the University of Beirut.

Caland noted that “Another interesting intersection between the two languages is what is known as ‘Jewish Arabic’, the language of Jewish communities that lived in Arabic-speaking environments, who in order to preserve their own culture, wrote some of their cultural works in the languages they understood in Hebrew letters and not in the original language’s letters.”

The seminar's poster (WAM)

 “All of (this) confirms the intermingling and coexistence of Arabs and Jews since ancient times.”

Dr. Jimmy Daccache, professor of Western Semitic Languages at Yale University, noted how Arabic spread among Syriac-speaking Christians of the East during the Abbasid state, another example of shared linguistic history between two of the world’s major religions.

The event concluded with moderator Dr. Khalil Al Sheikh, a member of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award Scientific Committee, highlighting the importance of the region recognising its linguistic, literary and cultural bonds as a way to forge peace and solidarity.

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