Off topic: Why Arabic is written from right to left?
Thread poster: Wa'ad Younane

Wa'ad Younane
Local time: 19:24
English to Arabic
+ ...
Jul 20, 2009

Hey guys and girls,

I am a native Arabic speaker, and it only occurred to me today to ask why our language is written from right to left! and why, on the other hand, the numbers in Arabic are written from left to right? Any specific reason?

I can't seem to concentrate on the task before me anymore, this question is stuck in my mind:)



Nesrin  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:24
English to Arabic
+ ...
Why is English written from left to right? Jul 20, 2009

icon_smile.gif Sorry Waad, just being silly, but this is the first that came to my mind when I read the post title, thinking it's probably a non-Arabic speaker asking a silly question.

But I know you're asking a serious question and I'm afraid I don't have the answericon_smile.gif


Dr. Günther orth
Local time: 18:24
Arabic to German
+ ...
Arabic and Latin alphabet - same origin! Jul 20, 2009

The first alphabet of letters (one letter for every single sound, in contrast to syllabary) was invented by the Phoenicians of Ugarit, now in Syria, next to Lattakia, about 1300 BC. It reduced, for the first time, the number of symbols to 28, which is exactly the number of Arab characters today, and only slightly more than the letters we have in Western alphabets. Semitic languages were the first to use the new system, quickly changing the form of most letters, and they were followed by Greek and Latin.
Neither the exact shape of the letters nor the direction of writing was predetermined. Some went left to right, others wrote from right to left. After some time, every people had developed its own way of writing, albeit using the same alphabet in principle. Most Semitic languages chose to write r-to-l.
As to the numbers, they have Indian origin, where they were written l-to-r. The Arabs adopted them, keeping the Indian tradition of l-to-r. What is called “Arabic numbers” in Western languages, is “Arqam hindiya” in Arabic!
Hope I could clarify the matter a little bit…


Local time: 21:54
Why Arabic is written from right to left? Nov 30, 2012

One of my friends long back theorised it like this, which to me seems logical. He said that languages around Middle East like Arabic, Hebrew, etc actually started the convention of "permanent" writing. Long before the widespread use of paper, people used to write / make impressions on leaves, parchments (actually animal skin), cloth and other such materials which did not guarantee long life. Stone seemed to be a good choice for long lasting documentation. And no prizes for guessing that most people are right-handed. To make impressions on stone, usually, a right-handed person would hold the chisel with his left hand and hammer with his left hand. With this arrangement, it is only natural for someone to start writing from far right and keep gradually proceeding towards the left. The other way around is way too inconvenient and risky (you might end up hurting your left hand fingers if you still want to write left-to-right). Stone must have been a material of choice of that era, as also evident through the construction from that age, like pyramids.

I don't claim authenticity of this explanation, but it only seemed plausible and hence the thought of putting it up here.


Russian Federation
Why Arabic is written from right to left? May 19, 2014

That's correct. Stone was the "paper" for writing system of Semitic languages and most of "writers" were right handed ones. But writing system for Greek and Latin was developed later when other soft materials like leather and paper became available. But writing from right-to-left on paper, you could smudge the written text. Thus, it became left-to-right.


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