Arabic, Linguistic & Radical links in addition to my thoughts on different things, especially Arabic linguistics. Last modified Feb 12, 2002.
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At the onset of the 2nd Gulf War, I started studying Arabic again. I guess my motivation in the beginning was to read the press, especially the Arabic language press from the Middle East, to get a different viewpoint from the stuff I was reading in the English Language press here in the US. It should be remembered that during the 2nd Gulf War (the first one was between Iran & Iraq, remember?) the US government was admitting publicly that the newspapers and electronic media were being subjected to formal censorship by the Pentagon.
It is now almost 7 years later and I am working on a Ph.D. in Arabic Lingiustics at the University of Michigan. As it turns out Arabic is a difficult language to learn. For one thing there is diglossia (<----my thoughts). I am able to read, out loud, and understand an Arabic language newspaper off the top of my head, without using a dictionary, putting in the i'raab correctly. I can almost read Naguib Mahfouz without using a dictionary, but I am sure I miss a lot of the background cultural icons which add flavor to the protagonists' actions. I have also been able to write 1000-1500 word essays in a couple of hours, for some time now. Now finally after 10 years of full-time effort I can finally claim to be bilingual in Arabic. I have studied the Palestinian dialect for more than three years, the Egyptian dialect here at the University of Michigan for a year, not to mention that I spent a month in Cairo, Egypt studying dialect and FuSHa at ILI. I have also lived in Morocco for five months, studying Classical Arabic, Moroccan Dialect and Islamic Texts. But it was this latest stay in Yemen for most of 2001 that did it for me. Now my strongest dialect is by far San'aani, which is the result of living in Yemen on two different opccasions, this latest time for almost a year. One problem seems to be that Arabs can't believe that I understand Arabic at all and go out of their way to accomodate me by speaking in English. In Morocco people would accomodate me by speaking French which I understand OK, but believe me my Arabic is whole orders of magnitude stronger than my rather rusty French. In Yemen, however, many people do not speak any language but Arabic, and I discovered that I could and was obliged to perform all of my communication needs in Yemeni Arabic. My Arabic has been good enough to teach Modern Standard Arabic here at the University of Michigan, for some time now. For the convenience of my students, I have put up the course description of this class on the Web. (This is an old syllabus from 1998)
So, now, I'm totally obsessed with learning Arabic, and learning the language and culture and also figuring out where Arabic fits into the overall scheme of languages, cultures and ethno-religious identity. I have also become totally obsessed with Computational Linguistics and Natural Language Programming and am actively engaged in putting these two obsessions together. Anyway, as an academic I need a CV instead of a resume, so if you want to check out the state of my academic career, you can check it out in my CV here..