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Cultural Institutions

Academy of Arabic Language (ALA)

Monday، 20 July 2009 - 12:00 AM

The idea of establishing an Arabic language academy was first introduced late in the nineteenth century with the intent of ensuring that Arabic language keeps up with the concepts of modern civilization, particularly in respect of political terms used in the press. Equivalents for terms transliterated from other tongues were accordingly standardized. The ALA was inaugurated on January 30, 1934.

Prior to the establishment of the ALA, many literary and linguistic associations had taken up as their main goal the development of Arabic language. The most famous was the ALA set up in 1892 along the lines of "L’Academie Francaise". Many attempts were made at reestablishing the ALA in the years 1900, 1907, 1910 and 1917 successively.

The Arabic Language Academy underwent radical changes afterwards. The statute of the ALA was modified many a time. Its membership increased from 20 in 1934 to 30 seven years later and to 40 in 1946. Those whose work contributed enormously to the study of Arabic language and dialects were given the title of "honorary members". Others were given the title of "correspondent members". In 1955, a law was enacted which ruled that the Academy, then operating under the Ministry of Education, be deemed an independent legal person, and that non-Egyptian members should not exceed 12.

The ALA is international in the sense that it has both Arabs and Orientalists as members. ALA’s motto is that knowledge and understanding among countries of the East and West should reign supreme. In addition to linguists and authors, its membership includes physicians, chemists, physicists, mathematicians, lawmakers and other specialists.

Objectives and Activities

The ALA exerts every effort possible to realize its objectives through scientific research as follows:

1935 marks an early attempt at producing a lexicon compiled in cooperation with the Orientalist August Fisher. The result was the publishing of (Al-Mu’jam Al-Kabir) a comprehensive lexicon of the history and development of Arabic, "Al-Mu’jam Al-Wasit", a lexicon of contemporary Arabic, and "Al-Mu’jam Al-Wajiz" a concise lexicon satisfying the basic needs of scholars.

The manuscript of Al-Mu’jam Al-Wajiz was fully developed in 1956, the first volume published in 1971. Al-Mu’jam Al-Wasit was published in two volumes in 1960 and Al-Mu’jam Al-Wajiz in 1980. The ALA has, furthermore, undertaken to publish a series of specialized dictionaries, of terms of the Munificent Qur’an, geography, geology, nuclear physics, electronics, etc.... These dictionaries cover numerous aspects of modern science.

The ALA has meanwhile published the unparalleled Dictionary of Modern Civilization and Art Terms (1980) with a view to maintaining the genius of Arabic language. The dictionary comprises a multitude of terms accurately rendered in Arabic to cope with the needs of the present.

The ALA holds competitions, particularly in poetry and prose, with a view to furthering literary production and scientific research in Egypt and the Arab world.

Seeking to make printing easier, the ALA has allowed the omission of several punctuation marks and the innovation of others in journalese.

Keen on reviving cultural heritage, numerous classics of Arabic literature have been verified by the Academy. A scientific way was also devised allowing for the study of contemporary colloquial Arabic in all its dialects.

The ALA is keen on establishing close links with scientific bodies and communities all over the world. It has, consequently hosted and participated in many conferences held with the aim of developing Arabic language. Strong ties are also maintained with the Arab League and its affiliate cultural bodies and organizations.

The ALA has moreover revised numerous Arabic-written works, both literary and non-literary.

The Arabic Language Academy holds close links with other similar bodies in the Arab world, particularly the Arab Science Academy in Damascus (Syria) set up in 1918. It has also encouraged the establishment of the Baghdad Academy (1947) in Iraq and the Jordanian Academy (1976) in Amman, among many others.

The ALA has called upon other like academies to work towards a union. Hence the establishment in 1971 of the Cairo-based Union of Arabic Language Academies.

The ALA exerts its utmost to enhance cooperation with international bodies and universities concerned with the study and development of Arabic language.

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