Hi Maha,

It isn’t clear to me whether the problem you identify is stylistic or terminological. Tarek dislikes MSA – and I agree. Hopefully, this will go the way of RP in English very soon.

Terminological problems are also clear in English, particularly in the Social Sciences, as people fail to agree upon the meanings of things and groups congregate around certain concepts that they define in peculiar ways. Examples are “affordances” in educational technology and “paradigms” in broader discussions of the philosophy of science.

With respect to Arabic, the problem has been recognized for a long time. Originally, it arose from the same mechanisms that drive English terminological chaos – diversity of dialects, diversity of worldviews and philosophical groundings. Later, as the Arabic speakers speaking Arabic stopped becoming producers of science and became – primarily consumers of it – this problem was complicated by literal translation of foreign terms and concepts into Arabic. You can see this in the items you and Tarek have provided above.

One solution is to leave the terminological problem alone and re-focus style as the primary goal. To do this one could read good secular Arabic stylists – Taha Hussein, Al-Manfaluti, Nagib Mahfouz, are several modern ones and begin to develop a voice. Then, rather than reproduce dark English terms, explain concepts as best you can, as if you were explaining yourself to someone who is new to your field or to a non-academic who might be interested.

English speakers, too, need to tone down the terminological BS, especially in the Social Sciences and Humanities. More often than not, this is used to obfuscate, dissimulate, and confuse the reader – or to “impress” – all of which do violence to our main purpose, which is to communicate something that is important to us and that we believe will be important to someone else.