Compatibility with Chrome

August 10th, 2010

If you are using Chrome, don’t forget to change the SANS SERIF font to Tahoma for best viewing of the Lebanese letters:

Go to your wrench, and click options>>under the hood

In web content, click on change font and  language settings and change sans serif to tahoma.


The Lebanese Verbs

July 28th, 2010

Below is a small video I made of a program for conjugating Lebanese verbs. The program is designed in a way that you only have to enter the verb in English in the simple present tense, and the software will give you the meaning of this verb in Lebanese, in the simple past and simple present tenses, and it will also conjugate the verbs with the personal pronouns.

This software is not designed in such a way that all these verbs are entered into the program. Only the meaning of the verb is entered in a database, and an algorithm conjugates these forms. This means that it is a simple translation of word to word, English to Lebanese, to populate the software.

The Lebanese verbs are so uniform, that not even one irregular verb escapes the conjugation logic that it follows. Isn’t that amazing? You have irregular verbs in any language, but in Lebanese, everything seems to be extremely systematic.

P.S. The video is best seen full screen HD 720.


Article By By Michael Frey

April 13th, 2010

You may think you’re speaking Lebanese, but some of your words are really Syriac
By Michael Frey
Special to The Daily Star
Tuesday, November 25, 2008

BEIRUT: Did you speak any Syriac today? If you had an extended conversation in colloquial Lebanese Arabic, chances are you did. Although most languages are governed by rigid grammatical and orthographic rules, they are actually something very vivid, especially in their spoken forms. Spoken languages or dialects pick up vocabulary from other languages, often when the foreign term is more accurate to describe something.

Today, one usually thinks in terms of English and French terms invading the colloquial Arabic spoken by Lebanese, but colloquial itself has borrowings from other languages. One key element of this heritage is the influence of Syriac or Aramaic terms and even grammatical structures on the Lebanese dialect of Arabic.

Aramaic was the lingua franca of the Middle East from about the 12th century BC until the 9th century AD, when the spread of Islam allowed Arabic to take its place. Syriac, an Aramaic dialect originally spoken in the cities of Edessa and Antioch, was the predominant form of Aramaic from the second century AD onward and the only Aramaic dialect which existed in a written form.

According to Mario Kozah, a professor of Syriac language and literature at the American University of Beirut, “Aramaic is a little bit like saying Arabic. When you say Arabic, you could mean Moroccan, Egyptian or Lebanese. In the same way, Aramaic is a general word that includes many different dialects,” he explained.

Some of the most important contacts of Syriac and Arabic took place at Beit al-Hikma (House of Wisdom), a center of science in Baghdad which flourished under the rule of the Abbasid caliph al-Maamun (d. 833). In this center, Greek philosophy was translated into Arabic, under Mamun’s directives.

“This school [Beit al-Hikma] was mainly a translation school where texts would be translated either from Syriac into Arabic or from Greek via Syriac into Arabic,” Kozah said. “The Syriac translators first translated the Greek into a Syriac draft and then from the Syriac draft into Arabic.”

Syriac was selected because it had the technical terminology that aided the translation of Greek philosophy. Syriac and Arabic had a similar vocabulary, which then aided the translation of the Syriac draft into Arabic. But after Arabic established its own philosophical terminology, the translation via Syriac became unnecessary, Kozah explained.

Today, it is difficult to determine exactly how much Syriac is left in what is called Classical Arabic. “They are both Semitic languages, and therefore a word is naturally being shared by these two languages,” Kozah said. “Classical Arabic has been shaped over the centuries and smoothed over and developed in its own right, to such an extent that it isn’t easy to really pick out the Syriac vocabulary in Classical Arabic.”

However, it is easier to catch the influence of the Syriac version of Aramaic in today’s Lebanese colloquial Arabic.

“Whatever it [the Lebanese dialect] picked up, it kept,” and was not formalized like in Classical Arabic, Kozah explained.

Today, it’s not too difficult to pick up Aramaic traces in the Lebanese vocabulary.

Kozah cited the example of “eimata” (or when) as being closer to the Syriac equivalent “emat” than the Classical Arabic expression “mata.”

The word “bobo” (baby) in Lebanese is a Syriac word without an equivalent in Arabic.

The colloquial Lebanese Arabic expression “to be late” is “ta’awa'” which comes from the Syriac “et’aouaq.”

And from the realm of baby or toddler talk, “wawa” (“ouch” or “it hurts”) happens to be quiet close to the Syriac “wawo,” meaning pain. The words for inside and outside, “jawwa” and “barra,” are Syriac too, Kozah said. In Syriac, “jaw” means inside, “bar” outside.

Also, many place-names today in Lebanon are originally Aramaic, while different theories exist about what they really mean, Kozah said. These words mostly describe certain local geographic features that might be invisible today.

Stefan Wild, a German linguist who penned a book about Lebanese place-names, wrote that “the spectrum of Lebanese place-names show us an enthralling and extraordinary vivid picture of yesterday.”

According to Wild, the town of Broummana means “House of the Pomegranate tree,” (Beit al-Rumman), while another interpretation holds that the original meaning is potentially much older, as in Beit al-Rammana, the “house” of the Assyrian god of air, storm and thunder. Turzayya, to name another example, means “Mountain of Cedars.”

Even in Lebanese grammar, traces of Aramaic are still obvious. “Lebanese is not just Arabic without grammar,” Kozah said. “You might think that a certain Lebanese structure [of a sentence] appears ungrammatical if you think about it in Classical Arabic terms. But if you go back to Syriac, you find that this Lebanese sentence is perfectly normal.”

Robert Gabriel, Syriac professor and president of the Association of Syriac Language Friends, agreed, saying that about 50 percent of the Lebanese grammatical structure is due to Syriac influences.

The common Levantine expression is “ijul-uwlad,” meaning “the children came.” In this sentence, the verb “iju,” which precedes the subject “al-uwlad” is in the plural form. In classical Arabic, such a sentence would be wrong, because a verb preceding the subject remains in the singular, even with a plural subject.

“In Syriac, plural goes with plural, masculine goes with masculine, feminine with feminine,” Gabriel said.

Kozah said that in general, the word order in a Syriac sentence is very flexible, whereas in Classical Arabic, the sentence should start with a verb.

“Sometimes, you emphasize something [in Lebanese dialect] by putting it at the beginning of the sentence. You can’t really do that in Classical Arabic; you have to emphasize in a different way,” he said.

Furthermore, the sound of Syriac is preserved in some Lebanese dialects. Hany Touk, a Syriac teacher from Bsharri, explained that the “o” vowel in his village’s dialect is typical of Syriac. He added that the preservation of this sound in the Bsharri dialect is due to Bsharri’s long isolation from the outside world and the relatively low level of interaction with other languages.

Kozah said the “e” vowel in the Lebanese dialect also comes from Syriac. This vowel, called “rboso” in Syriac, is not to be found in the Classical Arabic, he added. This vowel is preserved in the Lebanese pronunciation of “Lebanon,” i.e. “Lebnen” and not “Lubnan” as in Classical Arabic.

Finally, Syriac is still present in Lebanese poetry.

“Some of the Syriac metrical system is still to be found in Lebanese zajal, in Lebanese popular poetry,” Kozah said. “We find the influence there of early Syriac metrical systems.”

Although these examples might suggest that Arabic “borrowed” quiet a bit from Syriac, the two languages had a complex relationship.

“We see very often examples of Arabic taking things further, absorbing them and then developing them,” Kozah said.

He stressed repeatedly that further research needs to be done in the field, where many theories still remain unproven, while citing some encouraging signs of public interest in Syriac.

Kozah said that the language was being taught at AUB, in the beginner’s course that has been growing increasingly popular. Syriac classes are also offered at Universite Saint-Esprit de Kaslik and St. Joseph’s University, while it is a staple Sunday school offering among several Syriac Christian churches: the Chaldean Church, the Assyrian Church and the Syrian Orthodox Church.


Take the truth from the mouth of the children

March 8th, 2010

It is amazing how a child would know something while the adults turn a blind eye.

It is really sad! Listen to that intelligent girl at 2:28


In polyglot Lebanon, one language falls behind: Arabic

March 8th, 2010

I found this article on Yahoo news the other day, and I thought I will share it.

The problem though is not simply about the Arabic language and its fall, it is in framing a structure that preserves both Arabic and Lebanese, and that is my personal opinion.


A mixture of Spanish and French!

February 19th, 2010

I came across a small article on Dakota Student, which was a review of the Lebanese movie Caramel. What struck me as odd and somewhat interesting, is that the writer made a very peculiar remark:

After a while I did realize that subtitles aren’t always the most fun to read, but if you have never heard the Lebanese language spoken, it’s definitely a treat. It’s sounds like a mixture of Spanish and French.

Somewhat interesting!


A unique verb

February 17th, 2010

Did you know that the verb “ija” (came), is a unique verb?

A couple of reasons for its uniqueness is the fact that it is the only verb of its form, that is, made out of 3 letters, with the first letter “i” and last letter “a”. the “j” is unique to this combination. There is no other letter other than the “j” that produces a meaningful verb.

On top of that, its imperative form is also unique. For example, the verb “Harab” (Escaped), becomes “Hrob” in the imperative form, “Baram” (Turned), becomes “Brom”, whereas “Ija” becomes “Taxa”, a totally different word!

So, if you are saying he came yesterday you would say “Ija mberiḣ”, but if you are asking someone to “Come here”, you would say “Taxa la hon”.


Numbers in Words!

February 2nd, 2010

Today, most people that use the Latin letters to write the Lebanese language on the web insert letters in the words they use to substitute for sounds that exist in the Lebanese language and that are lacking in the Latin alphabet. I am mainly writing this post to encourage anyone who want to write Lebanese, to use the Lebanese Latin Letters, and to download and install the keyboard to type them.

The most commonly used substitutions are the “3” for the “x”, the “7” for the “ḣ”, and the “2” for the “`”. This system started on chat rooms in the early 90’s and people just got used to it, and still use it. The problems that this system presents outweigh its convenience by far. The first problem is that it does not allow for proper spelling of words as they are actually pronounced in Lebanese. On the other hand, people are at a loss how to represent the sound of a word using such a system, because it lacks much more in terms inclinations that exist in the Lebanese language.

Because of this, additional numbers were introduced to supplement the primary 3 numbers, but it never gained popularity, and thus, the system remained defunct.

On the other hand, there are no spelling standards when you use such a system, and consequently, you cannot actually search for any information using search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and others. There is a lot of information, but it is scattered all around, and misspelled. This means that you can never find it.

Using the LLL system overcomes all these problems because of its convenience. The LLI has been using this system for years to teach people the proper Lebanese language, and the general public can use this system since all its tools are provided for free. So learn your alphabet, download the keyboard, and start typing.

If you have any questions or inquiries, we’ll be more than glad to help.


Interview with a Dane

December 25th, 2009

This is a link to an interview with a Danish woman that is married to a Lebanese and has been living in Lebanon for the past 7 years. The interview is interesting, but one part of it is a specifically interesting remark about language:

3. What is difficult/easy about learning and speaking the Lebanese language?
Well, after 7 years in Lebanon, I still don’t speak Lebanese fluently. The letters are very different, but once one gets to know some words, it is ok. The Lebanese language is different from Arabic, personally I find it more simple and easy to understand, especially because Lebanese has French and English words blended in, a bit like in Danish.


Finger Spelling in Lebanese (Hajje bi oṡbaxak bil Libnene)

October 14th, 2009

By Maroun Kassab

Hayda l maqaal huwwe tajjribi ta ḣatta ykun fii loġit ṡabiix bil Libneni. Min ahammiyyit ssisteem tabax l LLL, huwwi innu hayda ssisteem mibni xala ssisteem llatiini, yixni, kill l aḣrof l mawjjudiin bil latiini bi nnisbi lal tihjeyi bi ṡṡabiix (fingre spelling), byoṫṫaba`o xala l LLL, lekin fii kam ḣarf zyedi lezim yinzedo, mincen heik, ana xam bi’ṫiriḣ innu yinzedo hal kam icaara xala ssisstem l mawjud ḣeliyyan:

1- iccaara bi ssibbebi mitil ka’annak xam tirsom no’ṫa baxd hal aḣrof, ta ḣatta tfarri’ bein l aḣrof l ḱafiifi, wil aḣrof l esyi
2- na`fe bi ssibbebi ta ḣatta nxabbir xan l hamze

– Ḋ
– Ġ
– Ḣ
– Ḱ
– Ṡ
– Ṫ
– Ż

– ‘ (Hamze)

w hawdi kefyiin ta ḣatta l waaḣad yi’dir yxabbir xan lliġa llibneniyyi bil icaraat.