Arabic, in terms of number of speakers, is the largest living member of the Semitic language family. Classified as Central Semitic, it is closely related to Hebrew and Aramaic and has its roots in a Proto-Semitic common ancestor. Modern Standard Arabic derives from Classical Arabic, the only surviving member of the Old North Arabian dialect group, attested epigraphically since the 6th century. It has been a literary language and the liturgical language of Islam since the 7th century.
Arabic has lent many words to other languages of the Islamic world. It has also borrowed from those languages, as well as Persian and Sanskrit from early contacts with their affiliated regions. During the Middle Ages, Arabic was a major vehicle of culture, especially in science, mathematics and philosophy, with the result that many European languages have also borrowed numerous words from it. Arabic influence is especially strong in Spanish and Portuguese due to both the proximity of European and Arab civilization and 700 years of caliphate government in the Iberian peninsula.
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