Arabic belongs to the Afroasiatic language family and is a Semitic language of the Arabo-Canaanite subgroup – therefore closely related to Hebrew or Phoenician.
With approximately 290 million speakers (of Modern Standard Arabic), it ranks in sixth place among the world’s major languages. In today's form, Modern Standard Arabic happens to be an official language of 27 states. Only English and French score higher. As the Arabic world is very large, it is not surprising that a large number of Arabic dialects have developed – counting all these, the number of Arabic speakers rises to an estimated 420 million. Arabic is the language of the Holy Quran, poetry and literature as well as an official UN language. As a liturgical language of Islam, it is used by an astonishing 1.6 billion Muslims.
Complicated language of complicated society
Arabic is a so-called sociolinguistic language, which means that from a purely linguistic view it's actually a group of familiar languages. For cultural (e.g. religious) or socioeconomic reasons it is considered as one language, though, despite that there are branches of Arabic that are mutually unintelligible. Arabic can be sub-classified as follows: Classical Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic and Colloquial Arabic. Obviously there's also a large number of dialects.
Classical Arabic (or Quranic Arabic) is used as the language of prayer and recitation throughout the Islamic world. Modern Standard Arabic, a constituted version of the language, is, though intelligible, much distinct from the spoken variants of Arabic dialects (with no observable boundaries or rules). The official constituted form of Arabic actually co-exist in common usage with various Arabic dialects while covering different social situations.
The language of culture
Because of Muslim expansion in the past, Arabic has influenced a lot of the world's languages, including Indian languages such as Urdu (which is in fact a Muslim influenced version of Hindi – that was actually also previously influenced by Arabic), Punjabi or Bengali. Also Roman languages, mainly Spanish, Catalan or Portuguese, borrowed many expressions from Arabic in the middle ages, when the Muslim world represented the cultural and scientific drive in then decimated Europe.
The Arabic alphabet has twenty-eight (28) letters. Arabic differs from Latin languages in that it is written right to left, but sequences of digits, such as telephone numbers, read from left to right.
أ ب ت ث ج ح خ د ذ ر ز س ش ص ض ط ظ ع غ ف ق ك ل م ن ه و ي