CHAPTER 6
Culture

Language

Arabic is the national language of Saudi Arabia. Arabic is also the dominant language from Morocco and Mauritania eastward to Iraq, but it is not spoken in these countries exactly as in Saudi Arabia. What these countries share is a rich tradition of literature, religious and historical texts, and official and media information. The Arabs of the pre-Islamic era had a poetic tradition, yet they were not literate—and had no written literature. Nonetheless, Arabic, the language of a relatively tiny number of people in northern Arabia in the seventh century, is today a mother tongue for an estimated 280 million people and a second language for about 250 million people. Arabic has had an extraordinary influence on the Islamic regions and culture, because it was the medium of conquest and faith and it had the capacity for keen description, eloquence, and use in scholarship. Although a limited dialect at the outset of its new state, Arabic became as significant as Latin in creating an entire intellectual domain through the efforts of its grammarians, poets, literary figures (Badeau in Hayes, ed., 1992, 12), religious scholars, and philosophers, and it became an official language.

Arabic is a diglossic language. Diglossia refers to a language that is essentially two languages or occurs in two or more forms. Arabic has a vast vocabulary and complex grammar particular to its historic and modern written, formal forms. It also has a different vocabulary, grammar, and syntax in its oral, colloquial forms, or dialects. The literary, written, and formal Arabic is based on a classical language, fusha, the language of the Qur’an. An updated formal Arabic is used in literature, the media, and formal addresses. Also called fusha (pronounced fus-Ha) in the Arab world is a form of classical Arabic that is given the name Modern Standard Arabic in the

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Saudi Arabia
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • About the Author xi
  • Preface xiii
  • Acknowledgments xvii
  • Chapter 1 - Geography 1
  • Chapter 2 - History 17
  • Chapter 3 - Government and Politics 79
  • Chapter 4 - Economy 137
  • Chapter 5 - Society 175
  • Chapter 6 - Culture 245
  • Chapter 7 - Contemporary Issues 355
  • Glossary 385
  • Facts and Figures 399
  • Major Saudi Arabian Holidays 415
  • Country-Related Organizations 419
  • Annotated Bibliography 445
  • Thematic Index 495
  • Index 519
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