The Bible and Modern Standard Arabic

E347 | What are the origins of the Arabic language, and what are its foundational texts? Most writers of lexicons of the Arabic language center the Arabian peninsula and the Quran. In this episode, we discuss an alternative narrative put forth in the nineteenth century by an Arab Christian writer, Buṭrus al-Bustānī. Rana Issa explores the passages in al-Bustānī's lexicon of the Arabic language, Muḥīṭ al-Muḥīṭ, in which he offers biblical origins for many Arabic words. Though his lexicon drew on conventional methodologies, it offered a history of Arabic tied closely to Christianity and the Levant. Issa explains how al-Bustānī contributed to Christianizing the Syro-Lebanese national identity, and the Arabic language, in the wake of the Mount Lebanon Civil War. See more at Rana Issa is Assistant Professor of Translation Studies at the American University of Beirut. Her research interests include Arabic literary and linguistic history, translation studies and philology, the Nahda, the Bible and other foundational texts Shireen Hamza is a doctoral student in the History of Science department at Harvard University. Her research focuses broadly on the history of science and medicine in the Islamicate Middle Ages, especially in the Indian Ocean World. CREDITS  
Episode No. 347 
Release Date: 15 February 2018
 Recording Location: Cambridge, MA
 Audio editing by Shireen Hamza
 Music: Grandelavoix; Album: Cypriot Vespers 
Images and bibliography courtesy of Rana Issa available at

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