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BellaOnline's Middle Eastern Culture Editor

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Languages of the Middle East


There are four major language groups in the Middle East. Arabic (Afro-Asiatic), Arabic (Afro-Asiatic), Hebrew, Persian (Indo-European) and Turkish (Turkic language) are the four language groups most commonly spoken, with English as the main second language among the middle and upper classes.

Arabic Language
Arabic is the most widely spoken language in the Middle East, being official in 18 Arab countries. These include Algeria, Comoros, Djibouti, Iraq, Israel, Jordon, Kuwait, Libya, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.), and Yemen. It is also spoken in some adjacent areas in neighbouring Middle Eastern non-Arab countries. It is a member of the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic languages.

Arabic, of course, has a large number of distinct dialects, such as Egyptian Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, Leviathan Arabic. Modern Standard Arabic (M.S.A.) is used for publication, international business, and general communication between speakers of different dialects.

Hebrew Language
Hebrew is the official language of Israel, along with Arabic. It is a semitic language of the Afro-Asiatic language family. As the Jewish language, it has two forms: modern Hebrew and classical ancient Hebrew, used for religious purposes. Ancient Hebrew is still studied today, and is not considered a "dead" language. Modern American seminaries, archaeologists, and linguists, along with Jews and students of Judaism and Israel still study and use it today. Ancient Hebrew received a jolt of awareness with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which contain a great portion of the Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible, also known as the Old Testament).

Persian Language
The second-most widely spoken language is Persian. While it is confined to Iran and some border areas in neighboring countries, Iran is one of the region's largest and most populous. It is an Aryan language of the Indo-Aryan branch of the family of Indo-European languages. It is much influenced by Arabic (through Islam) and Aramaic, a pre-cursor to Arabaic

Turkish Language
The third-most widely spoken language, Turkish, is confined to Turkey, which is also a large and populous country. It is a member or the Turkic languages, which have their origins in Central Asia.

Other Middle Eastern Languages
However, there are numerous other languages also spoken in the Middle East. These include Syriac (a form of Aramaic), Armenian, Azerbaijani, Berber, Circassian, smaller Iranian languages, Hebrew, Kurdish, smaller Turkic languages, Greek, and several Modern South Arabian languages.

Urdu is spoken in many Middle Eastern countries, such as Arab states the United Arab Emirates, Israel, and Qatar, which have large numbers of Pakistani and some Indian. immigrants.

There are over 40 dialects used in Afghanistan alone! These include the two official languages of Dari and Pashtu, which together only account for the native tongue of about 85 percent of the population. Dari, the most commonly spoken language in Afghanistan, also called Afghan Persian, is a dialect of Iranian Farsi, or Persian, and differs by at least 25%.

Western Languages
Western languages are also widely spoken in the Middle East, sometimes even as official languages. French is spoken in Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Morocco, Syria, and Tunisia.

English is understood in the larger cities of many Middle Eastern Nations and Russian is used in many of the former Soviet Republics that have traditional ties to the Middle East, such as Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

Greek is used in Cyprus today, and historically was used for official documents, daily speech, and commerce in areas of the Middle East that were under Roman rule approximately two thousand years ago.
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Content copyright © 2013 by Rachel Schaus. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Rachel Schaus. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Rachel Schaus for details.

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