Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) or Modern Written Arabic (MWA), terms used mostly by linguists, is the variety of standardized, literary Arabic that developed in the Arab world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; occasionally, it also refers to spoken Arabic that approximates this written standard. MSA is the language used in literature, academia, print and mass media, law and legislation, though it is generally not spoken as a first language, similar to Contemporary Latin. It is a pluricentric standard language taught throughout the Arab world in formal education, differing significantly from many vernacular varieties of Arabic that are commonly spoken as mother tongues in the area; these are only partially mutually intelligible with both MSA and with each other depending on their proximity in the Arabic dialect continuum.
|Modern Standard Arabic|
|العربية الفصحى |
|Pronunciation||/al ʕaraˈbijja lˈfusˤħaː/, see variations|
Middle East and North Africa
Language of Islam
|Speakers||280 million (L2 only)|
Official language in
Sole official language, Arab majority
Sole official language, Arab minority
Co-official language, Arab majority
Co-official language, Arab minority
Many linguists consider MSA to be distinct from Classical Arabic (CA; اللغة العربية الفصحى التراثية al-Lughah al-ʻArabīyah al-Fuṣḥā at-Turāthīyah) – the written language prior to the mid-19th century – although there is no agreed moment at which CA turned into MSA. There are also no agreed set of linguistic criteria which distinguish CA from MSA, however MSA differs most markedly in that it either synthesizes words from Arabic roots (such as سيارة car or باخرة steamship) or adapts words from foreign languages (such as ورشة workshop or إنترنت Internet) to describe industrial and post-industrial life.
Native speakers of Arabic generally do not distinguish between "Modern Standard Arabic" and "Classical Arabic" as separate languages; they refer to both as al-ʻArabīyah al-Fuṣḥā (العربية الفصحى) meaning "the eloquent Arabic". They consider the two forms to be two historical periods of one language. When the distinction is made, they are referred to as فصحى العصر Fuṣḥā al-ʻAṣr (MSA) and فصحى التراث Fuṣḥā at-Turāth (CA).