thoughts on language

I just read about the realisation that some documents in the possession of a family in Cape Town are important and were written in Afrikaans using Arabic script. This is the 3rd time that I have come into contact with Arabic script beng used to write languages besides Arabic (apparently such writings are known as ajami) – in Morocco in the Jewish Museum in Casablanca, there are Hebrew documents written in Arabic script; and along the Kenyan coast, Kiswahili was first written in Arabic script, before missionaries began using Latin script to write it down.

leso/khanga in the British Museum collection. The saying printed on the cloth is in Kiswahili written in Arabic script.

This prompted me to reflect on the difference between script and language. And to think of Arabic as script as well as language much like Latin is a kind of script. And to see the characters of Arabic as able to be used to write down words from any language, much as you could (try to) write down Arabic (the language) using Latin script a la Alhamdulillah as opposed to الحمد لله

The script is separate from the language. The one being the vessel by which the other reaches shore- or not.

**The reason I care about this is because I like languages and I like history and I hope to study history at some point so I will have to be cognizant of language and its nuances.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. eyegawker says:

    Very interesting and thoughtful. I wonder how much of the original message is lost in the translation. Most things, I find at least, are from a Western point of view so I feel like sometimes the message can be skewed towards that perspective

    1. Wangũi says:

      So true- translation is an art all in itself

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