Rootology: Cut It into Pieces

Cuts of Meat by lasard

In our last post, we talked about the complexities of Arabic's root system which gives the language great depth and beauty. Since all Arabic word forms are derived from a particular root, many of them are connected. By investigating roots and their derived forms we can uncover the nuances and subtleties that have enchanted linguists, Arabs and non-Arabs alike, for centuries.

Today we will look at the verb shara7a شرح.

Shara7a is a triliteral root which is commonly used as 'to explain'. However, when we look at the dictionary we see that explanation is really a secondary definition. Hans Wehr defines shara7a first as, "to cut into little pieces". From here we get the word tashri7 تشريح, which means "to dissect".


A Look at Arabic's Root System

In Arabic, all word forms are derived from their respective root, giving the language complexity and beauty.

When I think of a linguistic root, I think back to High School and the SATs. Like many of my peers, I struggled to memorize vocabulary to prepare for the Analogies section. As I labored with flash cards, friends of mine took the short cut, studying the Latin and Greek roots of many English words.

To them, the clusters of letters shared by different words were clues to their meanings. If, by exam day, you hadn't memorized Ichthyology but knew that it was formed by the Greek root words ichthus, meaning fish, and logia, meaning the study of a certain subject, then you could confidently guess its meaning: the study of fish.

Roots like these influence many English words, and play bigger roles in other languages. Latin roots are shared between Spanish, French, and the other Romance languages. But none of these share as  Arabic's and its Semitic cousins' dependence on a root system.

Today, we're going to talk about the root system and how it is the key to deciphering an Arabic word's true and full meaning. 


No More Free University Education in Morocco

Al-Akhawayne University in Ifrane is the Morocco's only public, tuition-charging university. That will change now that the government has decided to start charging wealthy families tuition for university level education. (Photo credit: unaoc)
 This opinion piece by Fatiha Al-Daoudi responds to the Ministry of Higher Education's decision to end Morocco's historic commitment to tuition-free university education. The move, announced at the end of July, met criticism from almost all fronts, forcing Minister of Higher Education Lahcen Daoudi to 'clarify' that only wealthy Moroccan families would be forced to pay.

Here is a translation of the article followed by commentary. The original article was published in Hespress on August 4.

How Free is 'Free' in Morocco's Higher Education?

After the Minister of Education announced the end to free higher education in Morocco, politicians, unions and civil society organizations raised their voices in protest and condemnation of this daring infringement of a sacred right: the right to free higher education. This uproar forced Mr. Daoudi back in front of cameras to announce that middle class and lower class families' would be exempt from new tuition fees. This gave Moroccans cause to mention a phrase used at moments of demagoguery: Mr. Daoudi was forced to eat his words; so thank you, Mr. Minister.

Returning to the topic at hand, a quick glance is all one needs to realize that free education in Morocco is just an illusion. First, preschools and daycare are not and have never been free. Rather, parents pay for this level of education. And as such, because having children has never and will never be limited to the wealthy, the middle and lower classes are forced to tolerate daycare and pre-school tuition because the state refuses to get involved.


Ramadan Brings out Morocco's Morality Police

Muslims around the World are celebrating the holy month of Ramadan, spending their days abstaining from eating and drinking and focusing on nurturing their spiritual connection to God.

Given the spirit of this time, it's not surprising to find this story in Hespress describing a recent police operation in Casablanca to shut down hookah bars in Morocco's largest city. In the current environment, an operation like this bolsters the ruling Islamist Party for Justice and Development's commitment to upholding public morality.

Here is a translation of the article:
Police in Casablanca, as part of a growing campaign against hookah bars during Ramadan, finally carried out raids on a number of cafes that provide sheesha to their customers, leading to the arrest of their clients, many of them female, for questioning.

The cafes' owners deny setting up their establishments up as hookah bars and places for customers to behave immorally, as some claim. An official in Casablanca's city council believes that the police operation targeting hookah bars has been following orders from the federal and regional governments. According to the official, the campaign was not aimed merely at smoking but other activities that are potentially harmful to public morality and health as well.