Fwd: Modern Poem

Posted in 2011 Journal


This paper analyzes the cultural and linguistic mix of Arabic and English in an unusual anonymous poem that uses both languages simultaneously to create the final product. I conduct a visual and verbal analysis of this contrast to explore questions like: What is the significance of language juxtaposition? What are the connotations inherent within the poem dealing with both languages as separate and joint entities? What are the cultural implications in relation to language and identity issues between English and Arabic and their implications as Aranglish? This paper examines insights into the spreading popularity of code-switching for the new generations of bilinguals. Like Spanglish and other languages mixes, Aranglish is highly popular in the youth culture but there are specific differences that make Aranglish unique. In addition, the paper discusses the linguistic and cultural differences of each language using theorists like Goffman, Hopper and Whorf and how these form a new “emergent” language for exploration.

The rise of the Internet, the spread of the media and the network of airplane flights all resulted in faster, easier and more accessible communication. This is globalization at its most discursive power with the mixing of cultures, ideas and of course languages. Physical and cognitive barriers dissolved through influence and understanding while some remained. Language, here, is any form of communication and its messages; language as visual, written and verbal meaning (Hill). Through this phenomenon, multi-linguistic groups emerged and the mixing of cultures became more prominent:

The case study above, titled “Fwd: Modern Poem” (FMP) is an anonymous work sent as an email forward. Unfortunately, it can only be dated to January 26th, 2008, the time I received it in my inbox. As observed, it is written in a combination of Arabic and English (Aranglish). The poem becomes a visual segment representing some of the language morphing and word fusions occurring today in certain Arab countries. This linguistic juxtaposition (that plays on a visual level) is usually not an official form of writing. English words if entered into the Arabic culture are usually converted and made to fit into the Arabic. Today, these phenomena of juxtaposition and morphing have accelerated and brought with them the new formation of words that emerge every year. These ideas will be discussed later, but it is important to state why this particular case study is of interest. FMP is a concrete example to study. It takes two cultures and languages and places them together in a “documented” fashion. In addition, it takes the genre of Arabic poetry, which is highly structural and places the English within it, which breaks the structure and tradition. These are the main reasons for choosing the poem as a case study, in addition to it being a widely spread, popular poem. Although I do not include this in my paper, this poem has yielded a lot of comments (mostly praise) on blogs and websites featuring the poem.

Thesis Statement And Plans of Analysis

For this paper, I plan to analyze the poem visually, contextually and linguistically, where I argue that the combination of English and Arabic creates a new hybrid form; its own language and culture on different levels transcending the idea of Aranglish.1 The dynamic and innovative ways to communicate in this language fragments certain elements of grammatical structure and draws on the visual and auditory realm to create a new and always changing order. It has both a visual and verbal presence that draws on representational forms and heritage from both languages. From this, I argue that a visual analysis is necessary to make linguistic theory more comprehensive. Visual theory, as visual rhetoric and design analysis, has the potential to improve our understanding of how communication works.

This paper will first introduce the Arabic language, then argue that Aranglish is an emergent language. Whorf’s theory will be used to prove the chain: culture-language-culture where both culture and language repeatedly influence each other, whereupon this results in Hopper’s “emergent grammar,” and in this context emergent language. Then, by using Goffman’s theory on “footing”, “framing” and “embedding,” FMP will be situated within Aranglish. I will discuss how Aranglish is not linked to Goffman’s idealization but instead is a faster and more innovative way of communicating. FMP may be an idealization only for its structural elements. In addition, the features and styles of Arabic poetry will be juxtaposed with those of English poetry to better understand the significance of merging them in FMP. This mix rigidifies English poetry while fragments Arabic poetry due to the structural/non-structural rules of each. Briefly, situating the poem and Aranglish in Roth-Gordon’s theory of indexicality will define Aranglish as a new language that goes beyond fitting into a particular culture, and makes a new culture of its own. Finally, but most importantly, a visual analysis using visual rhetoric2 and design analysis3 will take place throughout the paper. Since a large part of this poem’s significance lies in how the juxtaposition between English and Arabic functions, an important layer of analysis lies in the manner in which they visually relate to each other.

Research Questions

This paper attempts to answer the following questions: what is the significance of language juxtaposition? What are the connotations inherent within the poem dealing with both languages as separate and joint entities? What are the cultural implications in relation to language and identity issues between English and Arabic and their implications as Aranglish?

The Arabic Language: An Introduction

Arabic is a Semitic language read from right to left, and relies heavily on grammar and syntax, rendering it extremely complex and allegorical (“http://www.arabic-language.org”). There are three different sections in Arabic: Classical, Modern Standard and Dialectic Arabic. Arabic, originating in the Gulf region of the Middle East, has gone through different stages of transformation and simplification but its rhythmic and music-like structure are still highly valued in the Arab world. For example, as Roger Allen discusses in An Introduction to Arabic Literature, during the pre-Islamic era poets wrote poetry to the rich and powerful, and the best poems were hung in real gold calligraphy, known as “Al-Moalakat” (The Hanging Ones) every year in the city of Mecca, now part of Saudi Arabia. Allan states that after Islam came, Arabic poetry changed towards different subject matters and stopped idealizing the rich and their idols. However, as Chejne discusses, the Arabic language stayed at the same highly valued status and developed even further during this time compared to pre-Islam; poets tried to find new concepts and forms of expression. The poet is seen as “someone who perceives things that other people cannot. Such a view of the poet encouraged the notion that such people were born, not made and that the poetic gift was the consequence of innate rather than acquired qualities” (Allen 67). Classical Arabic is the most uninfluenced by other languages and most complex form of all, yet the most unifying (“http://www.arabic-language.org/”).

In the book The Arabic Language by Anwar G. Chejne, the author quotes Philip Hitti, a Christian-Lebanese Islamic and Arabic cultural studies scholar, stating:

No people in the world, perhaps, manifest such enthusiastic admiration for literary expression and are so moved by the word, spoken or written, as the Arabs. Hardly any language seems capable of exercising over the minds of its users such irresistible influence as Arabic. Modern audiences in Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo can be stirred to the highest degree by the recital of poems, only vaguely comprehended, and by the delivery of orations in the classical tongue, though it be only partially understood. The rhythm, the rhyme, the music produce on them the effect of what they call “lawful magic” ([in arabic:] sihr halal). (Chejne 5)

Chejne further elaborates on the manner in which Muslims and Arabs as a whole find the Arabic language as a “God-given language, unique in beauty and majesty, and the most eloquent of all languages for expressing thought and emotions” (6). Thus, as later discussed, de-structuring and adding another language to Arabic, especially into Arabic poetry, can be highly controversial if not completely unacceptable to some Arabs.

On the other hand, Modern Standard Arabic is the formal language used in professional and scholarly texts, speeches and events today. It is a unified form of writing used across different Arabic speaking cultures, where the Arabic has become less complex than Classical Arabic. Dialectical Arabic or colloquial Arabic is specific to every culture and it mainly resides in the way one speaks on an everyday basis. It is a simplified form of Arabic embedded within cultural contexts. On the “http://www.arabic-language.org/” website, the writer says that to understand how these three sections in the Arabic language work, one must understand the concept of “diglossia”. As defined by the term’s founder, Charles Ferguson, diglossia (literally meaning ‘two tongues”) conveys a situation where, in addition to the primary dialects of a language, there is a highly codified form that is the vehicle of a large and respected body of literature. In addition to Arabic, an example of diglossia can be found in the co-existence of written Latin with the spoken Romance languages of French, Italian, and Spanish. While Modern Standard Arabic is the definitive form of written Arabic there are many spoken Arabic dialects (“http://www.arabic-language.org/”).

Slang (Dialectic) Arabic: A New Emergent Language

Slang (Dialectic) Arabic

Slang Arabic, or ˜new generation spoken Arabic” is known for its constant dialectic change and emergence of new words by indexing and merging different languages and cultures. It has been happening for years since Islam spread and took the Arabic language to many countries (Chejne). Today, Dialectic Arabic is influenced further by globalization as is the case for many other languages like Spanish and English mixing into Spanglish; an alternate (almost unconscious) way of mixing cultures compared to Esperanto’s direction of creating the ideal language. This is especially true for the Egyptian Arabic dialect. As an English and Arabic Egyptian bilingual, this information is not new to me. I speak slang Egyptian Arabic and code-switch4 between Arabic and English (known as Aranglish or Arablish) when conversing with a group who understands both languages. New Egyptian Arabic words emerge constantly at a rate that is difficult to document or keep-up with unless one is constantly immersed into the culture. An important element to note is that the difference between Aranglish and Spanglish or other similar mixes, is that Aranglish is composed of two different alphabets derived from two different historic roots (Latin and Semitic). Thus, what also becomes interesting is how Aranglish speakers manage to combine these two languages visually in text messages, chat forums and unofficial texts.

In this section, I argue that Aranglish is a new language because it can neither be understood by solely Arabic speakers or only English speakers; and it is emergent because it is constantly changing and redefining itself. It is a young language, has not completely developed, and is at its prime. Given enough time and after many generations, Aranglish may become an official language if it becomes embedded in Modern Standard Arabic, as in FMP. For now, I will support this claim of a new language and culture, through Whorf, Sapir and Hopper’s theories and move onto the poem later on in this paper. By establishing Aranglish as a language, it will create the basis for answering the questions proposed at the beginning. The juxtaposition of Arabic and English within the analysis helps in creating that bond.

Whorf and Sapir

In Whorf’s The Relation of Habitual Thought and Behavior to Language, he argues that language is connected to culture and vice-versa. He also argues that in order to analyze a language “[w]e tend to think in our own language in order to examine the exotic language” (Whorf 138). He quotes Edward Sapir at the beginning of the chapter:

It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language and that language is merely an incidental means of solving specific problems of communication or reflection […] the “real world” is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group. (Whorf 134)

From this, we can deduce that a language is a natural way of conversing that does not require the speaker to consciously relate to another language in order to analyze the other. In addition, a language is defined by its culture, where both culture and language influence each other.

If this is a definition of language, then Aranglish should be defined as one. Aranglish speakers consciously code-switch in a natural way and are aware of cultural implications of both Arabic and English. Words morph and emerge randomly as a person discovers new and more efficient ways to communicate. It becomes akin to a new found playground and a chance to deconstruct the grammar of one language to join it with the other. Two examples are: “harooh abayash” and “harooh abalkin.” “Harooh” means “I am going to X” and is an Egyptian Arabic slang word. In the first example “abayash” means “go beaching” and in the second one “abalkin” means “go balconying.” Abalking and abayash are not Arabic words but in fact are formed from the original English nouns of beach and balcony, and have been morphed into Arabic verbs. The “a” at the beginning is placed in normal Egyptian speech when someone is going to do something in the future. Changing the ending of balcony and beach just gives the word an added meaning and a new linguistic and cultural context that proves the emergence of the new Aranglish language.

Furthermore, if we define language as a form of communication catered for a particular sphere who have to understand the code, then those who do not know the code are excluded and do not know the language. In “harooh abalkin” and “harooh abayash,” neither only English or only Arabic speakers could fully understand the words. Both languages and cultures need to be fully understood in order to understand the phrases and thus one could argue that Aranglish is a language. Bringing this back to Sapir and Whorf, it further proves that “the real world” is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group” and in other words, culture (Whorf 134). By comparing the different characteristics of English, Arabic and Aranglish, the cultural implications become clearer, and the dynamic and diversity of today’s world can be understood.

Furthermore, unity creates the new culture, a culture that can communicate in a different way by using both languages’ linguistic structures simultaneously. This can be highly efficient and communicative.,It is easier to express ideas and certain emotions using both languages together rather than using only one corpus of knowledge and culture. A language has its own limitations: sometimes a word in English better expresses a certain idea than the translation of that word in Arabic. Being able to code switch between the two languages creates a new exploratory field for individuals especially the youth culture. It could be used as a form to affiliate in a certain way, or to look “cool”5 but it can also be seen as a productive and more accurate way of communication.


Dr. Paul Hopper’s “Emergent Grammar” theory, can better highlight the idea that the language is “emergent.” In Hopper’s essay, he quotes James Clifford, saying:

‘Culture is temporal, emergent and disputed.’ I believe the same is true of grammar, which like speech itself must be viewed as a real-time, social phenomenon, and therefore is temporal; its structure is always deferred, always in a process but never arriving, and therefore emergent. (Hopper 3)

Since grammar and culture here are always emergent, then we can argue that if two emergent grammars and cultures are placed together they form a new language. When that new language is being formed, especially when it is subconsciously done over time, the change is multiplied and faster than either grammar or culture change on their own. Therefore, this combination makes an emergent language. The same could be true for other languages. The importance of Hopper’s theory is that it solidifies the idea that a language is constantly changing and shifting, and building onto the old.

To support his ideas, Hopper states that: “Emergent Grammar points to a grammar which is not abstractly formulated and abstractly represented, but always anchored in the specific concrete form of an utterance” (3). Thus, we can only view Aranglish in concrete examples, and this makes the poem an interesting discovery. However, looking at the speech community in Egypt allows us to extract examples like “abalkin” and “abayash” that are part of a large oratory corpus not properly documented as of yet6. Now that we have established the first two steps that Aranglish is an emergent language and culture, we can see how the poem works within this theory and further supports it.

Dialectic, Arabic and the Poem

The Emergent Language of Aranglish always seems transfixed in the verbal, chat forums and informal emails rather than written in official or more formal contexts, until the above poem reached the public7. FMP became a significant document because it transcends the verbal and embeds it in the visual and written. It not only documents the spoken, but as alluded to in the previous paragraphs, the author linked Aranglish to one of the most prestigious, complex and structural forms of Arabic writing: poetry. In other words, the author has taken a classical structure, changed the Arabic to the Modern Standard version AND uses Aranglish as a form of code-switching. Throughout the visual and verbal analysis of this section, Goffman’s theories on “framing,” footing,” and “embedding” tie the poem to the overall argument of this paper. In addition, it reinforces the idea that this is a highly significant change and a complete break from Arabic poetry norms. FMP is highly controversial.

Poetry Versus Verbal Language

Although I link the spoken Arabic to this particular poem, there are major differences to keep in mind. First, poems are carefully constructed forms of art that deal with a segment or a particular theme at a particular moment. They have to be well thought out and rely on rhythm, syntax and structure. Nothing about a poem is unintended, while speech is more spontaneous. Structure, syntax and rhythm are not necessarily important for speaking unless perhaps in a more formal setting like an event or presentation. Verbal conversations also have the unique feature of tone and body language. However, communication is a common goal and trait for both. Therefore, both, spoken and written languages are identity, information and emotional sharing tools. Such a topic is not new but it is necessary to explain the reasoning behind the combination in this paper. Poems act as tangible constructed representations of their social environment and embody these identities within the work. Thus the poem becomes a tool for analysis of the outer world.

Framing, Footing and Embedding

[…] Without access to bodily orientation and tone of voice, it would be easy to run the three segments [of a conversation] into a continuos text and miss the fact that significant shifts in alignment of speaker to hearers were occurring […] what will be called “footing” […] [where he lists that footing is five things:] [p]articipant’s alignment […] a strip of behavior […] a continuum […] For speakers, code switching is usually involved […] the bracketing of a “higher level” phase or episode of interaction is commonly involved. (Goffman 127, 128)

The fragmented quote above from Goffman’s Footing is a selection of key points that will prove that the poem relies heavily on footing in a multitude of ways. First there is the footing of the bilingual aspect, where to understand the poem one has to understand both English and Arabic. Second, there is the footing of the poem visually and textually, where its footing has changed in relation to classical Arabic poetry and even English poetry. In addition, there is the poem’s footing compared to the public’s view of what poetry should and shouldn’t be, as well as how it now functions within the realm of Aranglish. A discussion of these aspects lies in the paragraphs below.

Footing Through the Bilingual Aspect of FMP

By looking at FMP we can observe that a bilingual poem creates a social structure; a subculture of who may have the privilege of understanding what is written. By creating this subculture, the audience is divided: those on the same side as the poem and thus understand both languages and those who are not. There is a visible barrier between the two. Then, there is what I call half-footing: those who understand one of the languages. This half-footing creates a point of unrest and confusion, and the person only understands parts of the poem. They may understand just the outline if they know only Arabic but will probably guess something completely different if they only read the English. This is because the English is less than the Arabic. It is a series of words stacked one above the other in parallel lines. The Arabic on the other hand, are sentence fragments; thus, an Arabic reader may pick up on more, but not the twists and metaphors of the poem. All this is done through observation only, without the necessity of reading the poem. Therefore, already the poem has a stance, a footing in what it is trying to say. Perhaps the anonymity of the poem allows us to analyze it in this fashion and idealize the notion that all these elements could have been intentional. What is important, however, is not what was intended, but what FMP created or caused to be created.

These forms of footing and framing further support the idea that Aranglish is a language, if not an emergent one. Here, it is clearly emergent because the poem is unique. Thus one example of a particular phenomenon, the Aranglish poem, suggests that since it is still only in the casual and has not fully transcended to the formal, it is still in the process of formation. This process of infinite formation and development plays well within Aranglish since it is easy to see the fast development of the Aranglish.

An Analysis of Rhyme, Rhythm and Stops as Footing

The second analysis on footing is that of the structure of poetry. Since FMP is a poem, syntax, rhythm and structure should be analyzed. The outcome of the analysis will create other elements that dictate the poem’s as well as its audience’s footing. For example, those who can draw on any English poetic structures used within FMP and understand the context and those who can understand the Arabic poem structure further subject the sub-culture of Aranglish speakers to an even smaller group. Ideally, one should know both in order for a more rounded analysis and comprehension. One thing is for certain: Arabic poetry is completely different in structure than English poetry.

Arabic poetry unlike English poetry is always highly structural (Chejne). It is very rare to break away from the structure, and if one does (which I had not seen until this poem came to my inbox) then it is highly controversial.

Although a specific source to support this claim was not found, Aarbic poetry is known to have three main characteristics: the gap in the middle of each line, the rhythmic structure and the rhyme at the end of the line. This is the normal footing of an Arabic poem’s structure, where diversity and splendor is seen through the choice of words and the complexity of the rhythm chosen as well as the play in words of the subject matter; the structure is the limiting factor that unifies all Arabic poetry but that allows the audience to focus on language (Chejne). In addition, another element within the norms of Arabic poetry, is that visually, the poem should be left and right justified in each of the two columns. This is more possible to do for Arabic than English where awkward gaps may occur, since Arabic letters are always linked together in a certain way. The closest phenomenon to it in English is cursive handwriting. However, the cursive letters linking points can be as long as the calligrapher or typographer likes within certain rhythmic rules. In other words, the Arabic letters cannot be individual characters and as such, the writer has the capacity to elongate these horizontal links without distorting the letter itself8.Thus, visually the poem is supposed to look like two straight rectangular columns side by side with an equal gap running vertically. This makes the reader concentrate on the words themselves rather than the visual aspect of the poem.

In FMP that structure is, as predicted, broken and a formation of another is composed. These new formations influence the rhythmic structure, the number of visual gaps and two-column structure of the poem.

Rhyme and Rhythm

In FMP, the rhythmic structure and rhyming element rely heavily on the English word. The rhyme is the sound “sion”, which does not exist as a usual ending for an Arabic word. This is already a form of abstraction and de-synthesization of the “normal” Arabic sentence structure. In addition, Arabic poetry must always end in the chosen rhyme or it is seen as a breaking from the norm and an intended emphasis. FMP again breaks from the norms by ending its last word in a non-rhyming word than the rest of the lines in the poem. This word is “conversion” which might look the same but when vocalized, sounds different.

The poet could have code-switched randomly throughout the poem, but he/she decided on creating a new structure. The structure created by placing the English word at the end (since Arabic is read from right to left and it is the only way to read the poem to make meaning) makes the English an important and pivotal element for the poem to function. Thus, footing here is created by breaking away from the norms, and a new stance and perhaps poetic genre is created where English and Arabic meet.

To relate this back to my initial claim, the footing that has emerged in FMP from a combination of poetic structures and languages, further highlights the emergence of a new language. If neither English nor Arabic use this combination of added structural elements, then the outcome of both together is a new language, due to the difference of footing from the originally accepted and understood. As mentioned in the previous paragraphs, the formation of the new language is also due to the language aspect whereupon only a certain group may have complete footing in order to understand.

The Stops

The gap mentioned earlier acts as a brief stop when reading, and usually signifies a reaction, cause or a change within that line. However, in this poem one can observe two stops, the stop of the normative gap and the stop created by the ‘bumping’ of Arabic with English. To clarify, since Arabic is read from right to left, and English is read from left to right, then the stop lies in their borderline, when Arabic meets English, when East meets West, as we can see in the diagram below.

Whether the added stop is conscious or subconscious, the two languages have of course been purposefully composed in this way. The added stop makes the English words even more controversial compared to the classical format due to the visual segmentation, the added stop and the possible conflict between East and West visualized at the vertical borderline created by the structural elements of the poem.

As we have seen in this section, a visual analysis is necessary to dissect and understand the cultural implications of this poem and how we can see an emergent language from it. The book Defining Visual Rhetorics discusses how visual material should be analyzed as rhetorical items that argue a stance, whether implicitly or explicitly. The writers, thus, give the field of visual rhetorics a wide variety of visual material for analysis, making the field more diverse and complex. However, what is not discussed in the book and is of high importance is some of the linguistic works that we analyze today. With the analysis conducted for the poem, so far, a visual exploration was necessary in order to further understand the poem and its argumentative footing and therefore it should probably be considered for future analyses of such works.

Moving Away from the Visual

There are many possibilities if the poem is only looked at visually (Left to right, right to left, Left English, Arabic right to left etc). The diagrams below illustrate a few examples of how the poem may be perceived to be read.

Reading the whole poem from left to right is impossible, and the entire meaning changes due to the grammatical structure of the Arabic language. The root of a word and its accents change according to its position in the text. In addition, certain joining words need to be in a particular order compared to the sentence; the relation between verb, noun, adjective and so on have to be in a particular order and the roots of the words changed slightly according to that order. Below is an example of what occurs when the reading is reversed. In order to “make” meaning, the entire sentence structure in Arabic had to be readjusted then translated. Therefore, this process created a different sentence which is probably not what the poet intended to occur:

Infection is for love sorrow is not on the
[sitting] heart. Oh!

Compare it to the original and translation where the Arabic (which in diagram 2 is the last example) comes first then the English word:

Oh ye heart [sit] not in sorrow
for love is an (infection)

In addition, the grammatical structure is not the only signifier that helps us understand the order in which to read. Since Arabic poetry relies on a rhyming word at the end of every line, then the left side is the only possible way to end each time. The beginnings of the Arabic lines are all starting points for something to happen. Further, the poem is Arabic-heavy rather than English-heavy, and the way to read it will be dictated depending on the grammatical use within the Arabic, since the Arabic has a more grammatical function here. To clarify, the English words here are almost floating. They are not grounded to a particular English grammar. Their only binding is their relation to the poem’s meanings, its juxtaposition to the Arabic, and its relationship to one another in a vertical fashion and the visual significance and stops they create. Therefore, this section eliminates the possibility for multiple reading possibilities, or orders of reading. This is why meaning, whether social or linguistic, is highly important. The next section looks at the meaning of the words in the poem and the cultural implications it holds.

Culture and Juxtaposition

There are several words that describe English and Arabic mixing, such as Aranglish and Arablish which were mentioned before, and both refer to the mix between English and Arabic. The third word and the second form that emerges when Arabic and English is mixed is Arabish. This form is defined by the transliteration of Arabic into Roman letters and Arabic numerals. The word is still in Arabic but it uses the English language as its alphabetic source. An example is the name A7mad instead of Ahmed. The number 7 is of similar shape to an Arabic letter, the pronunciation of which does not exist in the English language.

Although the poem does not contain Arabish, the way Aranglish speakers write is usually in Arabish, especially in text messaging, Facebook, Twitter and other online and phone communication tools. Sometimes Arabish is mixed in with real English words as well. Therefore, the fact that the poem did not use that newly created norm makes the Arabic even more prominent. It is not dialectic Arabic that is being used, but a mixture of Modern Standard and English, creating a new form of Aranglish, which is intended by the poet as a further juxtapositional element between the two languages. Perhaps part of his/her message is to say they are joined but different, where each has its visual identity.

Although this continuous sharing and influence in Aranglish and the embedded use of Arabic and English in the FMP can be linked to Roth-Gordon’s “trafficking,” “enregisterment,” “recontexualization,” and “conversation sampling,”,Aranglish is not composed of only these elements. As we see in the poem, the dominant language in the poem is Arabic, yet the meaning would not be complete without the English. This reliance on either language to create meaning and structure is an image of what Aranglish speakers do within conversations. By recontexualizing and redefining what they truly want to say, English and Arabic lean on each other to create an “ultimate” meaning: a meaning that perhaps would not be possible without the two languages (Roth-Gordon). In other words, since language is a metaphor where a word can carry many cultural identities and images with it (Nietzsche), then using both languages together allows for the possibility of more accurate meanings not just fitting within a particular group as Roth-Gordon connotes. The newly founded meaning would thus be a mixture and combination of both cultures: West and East. This further supports the earlier discussion using Goffman, Whorf and Sapir to support the claim that Aranglish is an emergent language.

The Words

The romantic notion and words of the poem are universal. The romantic genre and meaning of the poem becomes the unifying element that brings both languages and cultures together. This further supports the idea that Aranglish is an emergent language and culture. While the poem does not speak for all usage of the Aranglish language, it is clear that in this example, we find a form of unity. This unity is the new emergent culture where those who read the poem understand how the intricacies of the poem functions. On reading the Arabic and English version, then also reading the English translation, there does not seem to be a particular element that belongs solely to either culture or language.

The poet is addressing someone who just lost a great love. He/she reassures the sorrowful person by saying that love is infectious. The juxtaposition of the normally positive phrase “love is infectious” with the situation creates a certain irony within the poem that is repeated throughout. A few examples of repeated irony are the following, love as a status and love as an exception, some might split and still have a connection, and some might split and never see each other again. The poem states several stages of grief when splitting from a loved one. The theme of a sorrowed heart for that loved one, that they might love another and nothing can heal the heart and strengthen it, is hard to come by at the beginning. It is an internal struggle between sorrow and strength. The poem sometimes seems to end at a high but then coils back into darkness in the end when the poet mentions a dead heart that needs active conversion to a better one. As we can see from this analysis on meaning, the theme is not necessarily new or particular to a certain culture; it is universal.

Since the meaning of the poem is universal, what is of interest here is not the meaning per se but the social implications. The overall unification of the theme makes the two different languages converge into one realm. With the many cultural differences and problems in the world today, the poem unifies these two worlds to a simple yet complex emotion of lost love. It signifies that we all mourn and go through different stages of loss and therefore we are all one. Perhaps this is a far stretch to state that the poet meant to allude to this notion of equality, freedom and unity. For it would turn this romantic poem into a political, but it is perhaps fair to state that it visually unifies and at the same time collides both languages through that extra stop where Arabic and English meet in the poem (see diagram 1).


This paper attempted to argue that Aranglish is an emergent language and culture. FMP acted as an example and support for this argument. It also introduced the notion and importance of a visual rhetorical analysis in some realms within Language Theory. Although this paper touched on several aspects of Aranglish and perhaps bilingual mixes in general, it is but one viewpoint of a highly complex and emergent field.

Based on the visual and verbal analysis, the visual seems to yield more juxtapositional elements and significance of the controversy the poem creates. Had the romantic notion of the poem been in either language and not the other, FMP would have come and passed and might not have gathered such a large audience. It is the visual implications and mixing of the two languages that situates it into the current environment of a hub for new language formation. And it is this that probably made it circulate so widely on the Internet. Going back to the original questions asked at the beginning of the paper: what is the significance of language juxtaposition? What are the connotations inherent within the poem dealing with both languages as separate and joint entities? What are the cultural implications in relation to language and identity issues between English and Arabic and their implications as Aranglish? It is clear that sometimes the verbal does not hold all the information. Written language after all is highly visual and it is this play with the visuals that made FMP interesting to analyze. The cultural implications of such a poem, as well as Aranglish, Arabish and Arablish, is that juxtaposition of language is creating a new culture within the original one. This joins some groups but disjoins others. It creates more division and publics based on linguistic formations, more so than dialectic differences.

Further studies, include but are not limited to, on the street analysis of how Aranglish plays a role and where the dominant emergent culture lies. In addition, it would be interesting to find out how the new words and metamorphosis of Aranglish words emerges. What draws the individual to decide a new word is needed and how does it circulate so fast? The importance and significance of such studies could lead to educational strategies to help these young youth in implementing what they are learning amongst each other into the classroom. Currently, most schools in Egypt for example, focus on one language more than the other. During class discussions, the particular subject will be discussed in one language rather than a mix of these languages together. Through these studies, problems may be identified within the educational system as well, where the core ideas behind the language morphing and merging outside of the classroom may help in understanding the problems and/or solutions. This study is much needed in Egypt where the educational system has entered a decline.


Arabic written in the English alphabet (for English speakers to get a feel of what it would approximately sound like):

  • ‘Ayaatha Al-Kalb La Tahzan fa-‘itha Al-Huub infection
  • Fa-lan najidee akakeer wa tashfeek injection
  • Fa-kam minn Akil fattn madda bil-Huub direction
  • Sa-tunkirhu wa tansahu wa-lan yabka lahu mention
  • Fa-llaa tunathim lahu shaaran wa-la taktib lahu section
  • Wa-la yahzunka menn ba-ak fa-kadd ‘akhtta’t selection
  • Wa-la tubdy lahu ‘asafan wa-la tubdy lahu action
  • Fa-‘in Al-Huub manzalahtun li-baadee al-nassi exception
  • Fa-baadee al-nassi ‘in hajaru fa-llaa huzna wa-la tension
  • Wa-baadee al-nassi ‘in hajaru ya-thunu wa-yibku connection
  • Fa-wassl al-roh lahu fii’l ilk wa-maa ‘ahlahu reaction
  • B-daawat b-khalb dajaa laha ‘athar wa affection
  • Fa-‘in lam yabkha lee shay’un fa-llaa huub wa-la passion
  • Fa-lla ‘asaf allaa dunya laki wa-alayki conversion

Translations (Right to Left):

  • Oh Ye heart sit not in sorrow for love is an (infection)
  • You’ll find not a drug nor a cure by (injection)
  • How many mature clever persons crossed in love’s (direction)
  • She [the heart] will deny and forget them with not even a (mention)
  • So don’t structure him a poem nor even write him a (section)
  • And don’t fall into despair from whom who sold you for you have wrongly made a (selection)
  • Don’t show him regret and don’t show him (action)
  • For love is a status, for some it is an (exception)
  • For some people might abandon so no sadness or (tension)
  • And some people might abandon but there stays and remains a (connection)
  • So it brings the spirit action and yields the best (reaction)
  • With prayers from a dead heart it has an imprint and shows (affection)
  • So if I have nothing left I will have not any love or (passion)
  • So how sad said life is For you and from you there is (conversion)

(Left to Right example:)

  • Infection is for love sorrow is not on the [sitting] heart. Oh!

Works Cited

Allen, Roger. An Introduction to Arabic Literature. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002. Book

Chejne, Anwar. The Arabic Language: Its Role in History. Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1969. Ebook.

Goffman, Erving. Forms of Talk. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1981. Print

Hill, Charles A., and Marguerite Helmers, eds. Defining Visual Rhetorics. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004. Print.

Hopper, Paul. “Emergent Grammar.” Berkeley Linguistic Society 13 (1987): 139-157. Print.

Nietzsche, Friedrich. “On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense.” The Rhetorical Tradition: Reading from Classical Times to the Present. Eds. Patricia Bizzell and Bruce Herzberg. Boston: Bedford. Print

Roth-Gordon, Jennifer. “Conversational Sampling, Race Trafficking, and the Invocation of the Gueto in Brazilian Hip Hop.” Global Linguistic Flows: Hip Hop Cultures, Youth Identities, and the Politics of Language. Eds. H. Samy Alim, Awad Ibrahim, Alastair Pennycook. New York, NY: Routledge, 2009. Print

Unknown author. http://www.arabic-language.org/arabic/history.asp

Whorf, Bejamin L. “The Relation of Habitual Thought and Behavior.” Language Thought and Reality. Ed. John B. Carroll. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The M.I.T. Press, 1966. 134-159. Print

The Purdue OWL. Purdue U Writing Lab, 2010. Web. September 14, 2010.