The Evolution of Arabic Writing Due to European Influence: The case of punctuation
The spread of foreign languages, especially French, under European colonial rule inspired certain Arabic writers and scholars in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century to look at ways to develop the Arabic language. This happened because they felt that foreign languages had started to overtake Arabic because they were easier to read (ZAKĪ 1901: 2). In this paper, I will discuss the use of punctuation marks in Arabic texts since the mid-nineteenth century as an example of the evolution of Arabic writing due to European influence. I will explain the reasons why punctuation marks were integrated into Arabic texts, quoting Arabic writers and scholars from the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. These include Zaynab Fawwāz, the first writer to address the issue of punctuation marks in Arabic writings (FAWWĀZ 2007: 105-107), and ʾAḥmad Zakī who officially integrated punctuation into the Arabic language (ZAKĪ 1912). I will also explain the opposition that came from conservative scholars who were reluctant to change any aspect of Arabic writing. This is because they believed in the sanctity of Arabic as it is the language of the Qurʾān and it represents Arabic identity. Therefore, one should avoid any “borrowing” from colonial languages in order to preserve Arabic identity (MEYNET 1971: 94).
Keywords: Punctuation, Arabic writing, ʾAḥmad Zakī, printing, Arabic Renaissance / an-Nahḍa al-ʿarabiyya, transmission of knowledge
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