Saturday, March 19, 2011

Contradictory Congruence

Arabic is one of those languages that, rather than getting easier as you learn more, just becomes harder.  I've been telling my friend here that I'm convinced there's a council of Arab sheikhs who sit in a big room and invent new weird rules or words weekly that exist just to confuse us.  The other day, in colloquial class, I learned that the word that usually means "is not" can sometimes, depending on the context, mean "what is".  Which gives it the exact opposite meaning.  HOWEVER, for that particular expression, it's often used sarcastically, which brings us back to the original meaning of "is not".  So, even if you figure out which one it means, you have to then know whether the person is being sarcastic.  All I could think of while learning this was the word "heik", which essentially means "that's the way things are, so deal with it".

Not two days later, I was in grammar class and discovered a word that can be used two different ways, depending on context:  as an emphatic particle or a diminishing particle.  Apparently this week was the week of contradictory words.  All this absurdity reminded me of what one of my Arabic professors in college told me.  Most Arabic linguists hold that all Arabic words have four meanings:  its main meaning, its opposite, a reference to sex, and camel.  Thus is the life of an Arabic student.

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