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Muslim Contribution to Phonetics Report

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Updated: Aug 14th, 2022

Abstract

An empirical evaluation of previous research indicates a close correlation between the development of the Arabic language and Islam. This paper explores the Muslim contribution to phonetics based on the correlation between religion and language. The link between Islam and Arabic is an essential connection between religion and linguistic development. The culture behind the exclusive use of Arabic in the Islam culture provides the basis for understanding why the religion is synonymous with phonetics. Religion plays a significant role in the acquisition and development of Modern Standard Arabic. The study focuses on secondary data providing information about the development of Arabic phonetics and the Islamic religion. The Islamic religion is attributed as a contributor to the development of Arabic phonetics.

Introduction

Language is an essential tool that is used in human communication. Different elements vary between lingos and may be influenced by other tongues. Successful communication is achieved through the understanding of the various disciplines in language and linguistics. Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that deals with the study of how speech sounds from different parts of the world are produced and classified (Nasution et al., 2019). Therefore, phonetics can be described as the study of speech sounds in human languages. Many factors determine the way speech sounds are produced in different speech.

According to Moraru (2019), as a result of the classification of speech, dissimilar sounds from multiple lingual can be represented using unique symbols which belong to the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). Phonetics is an interdisciplinary science that is developed through various applications.

There are many propagators of a language within a community or region, including culture, trade, and tourism. Religion is a subset of culture and plays a considerable role in propagating language and its components through different regions and domains. One of the religions that have a substantial impact on linguistics is Islam, as it is grounded on the use of Arabic. The Islamic religion requires its followers to learn and use Arabic as the primary language of communication. As a result, the spread of Islam is correlated with the propagation of Arabic (Moraru, 2019). Consequently, the reliance on teaching the Arabic language and cultural integration has made Islam contribute heavily to phonetics. Arabic is synonymous with Islam in the context of linguistic development, and in this case, Islam has played an essential contributory role in phonetics. Although most languages have varying dialects with different phonology, Modern Standard Arabic stands out as one of the languages with standard phonetics that feature slight variations across other groups.

The consonants and vowels determine the sounds in speech of any language. The articulatory phonetics of diverse sounds is determined by three primary phonetic properties: voicing, the way, and the place of articulation. Most Islamic communities provide formal and informal avenues for teaching and learning Islam (Alsayat & Elmitwally, 2020). Through these programs, Arabic sounds are taught to young learners who can develop language skills better than adults. The impact of the Arabic language on phonetics cannot be ignored. There are many languages whose phonetics has been influenced by Arabic, including Swahili from East Africa. As a result, various speech sounds are created and produced due to using Arabic phrases and language.

Methods

In this section, the methods and materials used in this research are outlined and discussed. This is done by drafting the procedures of data collection and then finalizing the methods.

Ethnography

Ethnography was the method used to collect information used for this study; it is an illustrative research method involving a particular group for a given period. It allows one to offer their opinion and analysis based on their self-experience, much like anthropology (Fowler, 2017). Ethnographic analysis is the most comprehensive observational approach for studying people in their natural habitat. This approach allows researchers to adjust to the conditions of their target populations, which may range from an organization to a city or any remote area. When gathering data, geographic restrictions may be a problem.

Ethnographies are community-based rather than individual-based, and they focus on describing current conditions rather than historical events. This research method is set to understand their target audience’s culture, challenges they face, and their motivation.

Ethnography research may last for days or even years as it requires an in-depth analysis and observation. It is subject to many challenges, such as time-consuming and language barriers in its initial stages. This method relies on the researcher’s expertise and ability to adapt, observe, infer and analyze data. The advantage of using ethnography as a research method is that it offers researchers a first-hand experience and a direct link to the cultural practices of a given group (Jamali, 2018). The researcher learns from experience by involving themselves with the group’s daily activities. This method sets out to offer a detailed account of a particular group enabling researchers to explore a number of aspects within the group.

Case Study Research

Islam religion is practiced by over 1.8 billion Muslims across the world. A large number of followers of the faith are in Africa and Asia. As a result of the integration of Islam with the Arabic language, there are over 400 million Arabic speakers worldwide. The spread of Islam is usually linked with the spread of Arabic (Mohamed et al., 2021). As a result of the adventures of the Omani Arabs to the East African coast, many people traded with them. During the interaction between the locals and the traders, there was an exchange of cultural values, including language and religion. Interactions between traders and locals involved introducing Muslim scholars who taught Arabic classes to the locals to understand the basics of the Muslim faith.

The spread of Islam on the East African coast went on for a long time, and more people were learning the language. However, a local vernacular appeared and picked words from both the Bantu dialects spoken at the location and Arabic, which was associated with the Islamic Faith. With time, this vernacular developed to become Swahili. The development of Swahili is attributed to the interaction between the Arab traders and the locals. The integration of Arabic into the local lingo through the Islamic religion played a huge role in shaping the region’s language. Therefore, the impact of Muslim contribution towards developing a new lingua franca with new structures and vocabulary cannot be overlooked. The case study of the integration of Arabic phonetics in the Swahili language is an essential indicator of the impact of Islam. The case study has provided a clear outline of how Islam has impacted.

Results

From the study, it is evident that Islam has contributed substantially to phonetics. From the Ethnographic research, there was a realization of the close ties between Islam religion and Arabic. The adoption of the Muslim faith has led to the growth of the Arabic language. Empirical analysis on the matter indicates that over 90% of Muslims speak a certain level of Arabic. As a result of adopting Arabic and phrases in day-to-day words, many individuals have gained new sounds from the language. Arabic is taught to all Muslim believers; thus, they know the lingua and adopt its phonetics.

The spread of Islam in the world was both a religious and political phenomenon as Muslim leaders wanted to control several regions and spread their faith. Islam also spread due to trade, and some communities converted to religion, such as West and North Africa. The expansion of Islam in the world had a massive impact on several languages, contributing to phonetics. Communities in Western and Northern Africa, Europe, and East Africa adopted some Arabic words and integrated them with their languages. The most significant impact of the spread of Arabic is the creation of Swahili, which is a lingua created from the former, some Bantu dialects, and Portuguese. The adoption of Arabic meant communities integrated their phonetics with Arabic, such as the Swahili speakers. When the Muslim faithful traded or conquered other areas, they were keen on expanding their religion and language. There was an early interest amongst the Muslims in the sounds of their confessional linguistic, Arabic, in which the Quran is written.

Spreading the Islamic faith worldwide meant that those who converted needed to speak Arabic. In Islam, scripture should be read and recited liturgically, which is one of the primary forms of their impact on phonetics. Islam faithful similarly recite the Quran to Prophet Muhammad when an angel bade him perform the Iqra. Reciting the Quran in Arabic has had a significant impact on the phonetics of several languages worldwide. Islamic scholars such as Ibn Jinni state that the variances among speech sounds are identified by producing more. Jinni states that reciting in Arabic has affected some letters, such as /k/ and /q/. When producing a sound from the pharynx, later moving towards the front part of the mouth, various timbres will be produced as a person passes diverse articulation places. Speaking entails sending air from the trachea out to the oral cavity, and this results in speech.

Arabic has had a massive impact on languages worldwide in various ways as different communities have adopted some of the phonetics that arise from it. The adoption of Arabic has had a huge impact description of sounds, such as the sonority hierarchy and emphatic sounds. Arabic has impacted phonetics such that there are mismatches in some sounds, such as /q/ and /t/. Scholars have attributed the mismatch in some phonetics to sound change and ancient linguistics. Sound changes have rendered some phonetics voiceless over the period, while ancient linguistics have been imprecise in their categorization of speech sounds. There are some sounds that Arabic has had little impact on them while others have been the most affected. Vowels are the most affected since they are the weakest of all sounds and also sonorous. These are examples of how the spread of Islam has had a substantial influence on phonetics worldwide. Languages are still evolving, and there is potential for Arabic to have a more significant effect on phonetics in the world.

Discussion

The phonetic treatment of the subject of the word in human heritage has been limited to religious studies that deal with the recitation of the Quran. The old Arabic linguist categorized letters into light, heavy, ugly, beautiful, standard, or dialectical but did not explore more about good harmony, which came to be known as ‘the word.’Over the years, Muslim intellectuals have made notable contributions that are more compatible with the latest linguistic discoveries. One of the most influential Muslim phoneticians was Abul-fatḥ Othman Ibn Jinni. He was industrious and profusely in many different language fields, such as phonology and grammar (Elramli & Maiteq, 2020). In his works on phonetics, Ibn Jinni mentions that to identify the difference in speech sounds, one must first produce them.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there is a close correlation between the spread of Islam and that of the Arabic language. Adopting Arabic phrases through the space of Islamic religion leads to integrating Arabic speech sounds. As the language develops within a community, there is an apparent adoption of the Arabic sounds in their speech in either their vernacular, Arabic language itself, or in new tongues that arise- an example is Swahili. Therefore, the Muslim religion has contributed hugely to phonetics by propagating the Arabic language across different world regions. There are many discussions about linguistics all over with less attention paid to the contributions of the Muslim scholars in the same field, mainly because of bias, misconception, and stigmatization of the Muslim community.

References

Alsayat, A., & Elmitwally, N. (2020). Egyptian Informatics Journal, 21(1), 7-12. Web.

Elramli, Y. & Maiteq, T., 2020. Ibn Jinni’s Phonetics and Phonology. Journal of Academic Research, 15, pp.47-56.

Fowler, K. (2017). Ethnography. In The Oxford handbook of archaeological ceramic analysis.

Jamali, H. R. (2018). Library & Information Science Research, 40(3-4), 201-207. Web.

Mohamed, Y., Hoque, M., Ismail, T. H. S. B., Ibrahim, M. H., Saad, N. M., & Zaidi, N. N. M. (2021). Relationship Between Phonology, Phonetics, & Tajweed: A Literature Review. In 4th International Conference on Sustainable Innovation 2020–Social, Humanity, and Education (ICoSIHESS 2020) (pp. 407-411). Atlantis Press. Web.

Moraru, M. (2019). Multilingua, 38(3), 313-334. Web.

Nasution, S., Fithriani, R., Syahnan, M., Harahap, I., Syafaruddin, S., & Qarni, W. (2019). A Contrastive Analysis of Indonesian and Arabic Phonetics. The Second Annual International Conference on Language and Literature.

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