Is Arabic the First/Original Language?
Some people claim that Arabic was the original language. Most (but not all) of the people that claim this myth are the religiously biased.
Arabic has never, and will never be the original language. Books may be written, articles may be blogged, and videos may be posted on YouTube. This will not change the facts. Arabic is not the original language.
Perhaps you might say that Allah is the original name of God. If so, Arabic cannot be the second or later language. It must be the first language. If Arabic is not the first language, then the entire statement: “Allah is the original name of God” fails.
To claim Arabic was the first language in the world is debunked by scholars, historians, and linguists. Some Ph.D. holders have falsified history to claim Arabic was the first language, however, they will also claim that the Jews are liars, that Abraham and Ishmael built the Kabaa, and that modern standard/classical Arabic came from Ishmael and Abraham. This is simply false.
We must also ask, which Arabic? Some people grasp at straws and claim that older languages were really a form of Arabic. This, again, is untrue. Arabic is devised of these older languages, not the other way around.
Arabia boasted a wide variety of Semitic languages in antiquity. In the southwest, various Central Semitic languages both belonging to and outside of the Ancient South Arabian family (e.g. Southern Thamudic) were spoken. It is also believed that the ancestors of the Modern South Arabian languages (non-Central Semitic languages) were also spoken in southern Arabia at this time. To the north, in the oases of northern Hejaz, Dadanitic and Taymanitic held some prestige as inscriptional languages. In Najd and parts of western Arabia, a language known to scholars as Thamudic C is attested. In eastern Arabia, inscriptions in a script derived from ASA attest to a language known as Hasaitic. Finally, on the northwestern frontier of Arabia, various languages known to scholars as Thamudic B, Thamudic D, Safaitic, and Hismaic are attested. The last two share important isoglosses with later forms of Arabic, leading scholars to theorize that Safaitic and Hismaic are in fact early forms of Arabic and that they should be considered Old Arabic.
Linguists generally believe that “Old Arabic” (a collection of related dialects that constitute the precursor of Arabic) first emerged around the 1st century CE. Previously, the earliest attestation of Old Arabic was thought to be a single 1st century CE inscription in Sabaic script at Qaryat Al-Faw, in southern present-day Saudi Arabia. However, this inscription does not participate in several of the key innovations of the Arabic language group, such as the conversion of Semitic mimation to nunation in the singular. It is best reassessed as a separate language on the Central Semitic dialect continuum.
It was also thought that Old Arabic coexisted alongside–and then gradually displaced–epigraphic Ancient North Arabian (ANA), which was theorized to have been the regional tongue for many centuries. ANA, despite its name, was considered a very distinct language, and mutually unintelligible, from “Arabic”. Scholars named its variant dialects after the towns where the inscriptions were discovered (Dadanitic, Taymanitic, Hismaic, Safaitic). However, most arguments for a single ANA language or language family were based on the shape of the definite article, a prefixed h-. It has been argued that the h- is an archaism and not a shared innovation, and thus unsuitable for language classification, rendering the hypothesis of an ANA language family untenable.[ Safaitic and Hismaic, previously considered ANA, should be considered Old Arabic due to the fact that they participate in the innovations common to all forms of Arabic.
The earliest attestation of continuous Arabic text in an ancestor of the modern Arabic script are three lines of poetry by a man named Garm(‘)allāhe found in En Avdat, Israel, and dated to around 125 CE. This is followed by the epitaph of the Lakhmid king Mar ‘al-Qays bar ‘Amro, dating to 328 CE, found at Namaraa, Syria. From the 4th to the 6th centuries, the Nabataean script evolves into the Arabic script recognizable from the early Islamic era. There are inscriptions in an undotted, 17-letter Arabic script dating to the 6th century CE, found at four locations in Syria (Zabad, Jabal ‘Usays, Harraan, Umm al-Jimaal). The oldest surviving papyrus in Arabic dates to 643 CE, and it uses dots to produce the modern 28-letter Arabic alphabet. The language of that papyrus and of the Qur’an are referred to by linguists as “Quranic Arabic”, as distinct from its codification soon thereafter into “Classical Arabic”.
Old Hejazi and Classical Arabic
In late pre-Islamic times, a transdialectal and transcommunal variety of Arabic emerged in the Hejaz which continued living its parallel life after literary Arabic had been institutionally standardized in the 2nd and 3rd century of the Hijra, most strongly in Judeo-Christian texts, keeping alive ancient features eliminated from the “learned” tradition (Classical Arabic). This variety and both its classicizing and “lay” iterations have been termed Middle Arabic in the past, but they are thought to continue an Old Higazi register. It is clear that the orthography of the Qur’an was not developed for the standardized form of Classical Arabic; rather, it shows the attempt on the part of writers to record an archaic form of Old Higazi.
In the late 6th century AD, a relatively uniform intertribal “poetic koine” distinct from the spoken vernaculars developed based on the Bedouin dialects of Najd, probably in connection with the court of al-Ḥīra. During the first Islamic century, the majority of Arabic poets and Arabic-writing persons spoke Arabic as their mother tongue. Their texts, although mainly preserved in far later manuscripts, contain traces of non-standardized Classical Arabic elements in morphology and syntax. The standardization of Classical Arabic reached completion around the end of the 8th century. The first comprehensive description of the ʿarabiyya “Arabic”, Sībawayhi’s al–Kitāb, is based first of all upon a corpus of poetic texts, in addition to Qur’an usage and Bedouin informants whom he considered to be reliable speakers of the ʿarabiyya. By the 8th century, knowledge of Classical Arabic had become an essential prerequisite for rising into the higher classes throughout the Islamic world.
Charles Ferguson’s koine theory (Ferguson 1959) claims that the modern Arabic dialects collectively descend from a single military koine that sprang up during the Islamic conquests; this view has been challenged in recent times. Ahmad al-Jallad proposes that there were at least two considerably distinct types of Arabic on the eve of the conquests: Northern and Central (Al-Jallad 2009). The modern dialects emerged from a new contact situation produced following the conquests. Instead of the emergence of a single or multiple koines, the dialects contain several sedimentary layers of borrowed and areal features, which they absorbed at different points in their linguistic histories. According to Veersteegh and Bickerton, colloquial Arabic dialects arose from pidginized Arabic formed from contact between Arabs and conquered peoples. Pidginization and subsequent creolization among Arabs and arabized peoples could explain relative morphological and phonological simplicity of vernacular Arabic compared to Classical and MSA.
Based on historical evidence, Arabic is a newer language than, say, Hebrew (1200 to 586 BCE ). This places Hebrew as being much older than Arabic.
Another article will combat the view that Arabic belongs solely to the Islam of Muhammad and what he called Allah [link].
Note: BC is BCE and equals older. AD is CE and equals newer (generally).