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EDG
2007-Aug-26, 08:03 PM
One of my friends asked me why most of the names of the brighest stars are Arabic, and I wasn't sure why. I know there's a few latin ones (e.g. Sirius, Spica, Arcturus, Antares), but I know way more arabic ones (e.g. Deneb, Aldebaran, Zubenelgenubi, Altair, Vega, Betelgeuse, Rigel).

Are there really more star names that are arabic in origin than latin ones? And why do we retain the arabic ones instead of the latin ones (not that I think there's anything wrong with the arabic names - on the contrary I think they sound much more exotic and interesting!)? I guessed it had something to do with sailors being told arabic star names to navigate?

Neverfly
2007-Aug-26, 08:15 PM
A look at history will show you that much of the modern math and astronomy we use today originated in Arabia.

In fact have you noticed that instead of using roman numerials, we use arabic (the name) numerals?

Ancient astronomy in Arabia was quite scientific and precise. The ancient astronomers named many of the stars and as time passed these names were used on skymaps and navigation charts. They still are used today just as the constellations even though the origin is not modern.

You will also notice that the constellations in the Northern celestial hemisphere contain images and names from mythology (Andromeda, centaur, Euphrates, Cassiopia...) however, in the southern hemisphere the names and images are much less imaginative (pump, octant etc...)

ETA: a link ot two;)
http://usinfo.state.gov/journals/itsv/0807/ijse/pimm_smith.htm
http://mec.sas.upenn.edu/marhaba/resource/astronomy.html

EDG
2007-Aug-26, 08:25 PM
Oh I know the Arabs pretty much invented modern astronomy and maths... I was just wondering why the arabic names were so dominant instead of the latin or greek ones. It sounds like arabic culture was pretty popular/widespread among the intelligentsia of Europe in the 11th-12th centuries, maybe that's why?

01101001
2007-Aug-26, 08:40 PM
When the Eropeans took a time-out for the Dark Ages, the Arabs kept science alive.

Wikipedia: Traditional star names (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditional_Star_Names)


Many individual stars, especially the brightest ones, also have proper traditional star names given to them by ancient cultures. Though all the constellations have Latin names, most of the proper names for individual stars within the constellations are Arabic in origin, because during the European Dark Ages, when Europe lacked interest in science and astronomy, Claudius Ptolemy’s manuscript the Almagest that contained the original Greek and Latin names for stars was temporarily adopted by the Arabs, who translated many of the original Greek and Latin star names into Arabic.

NEOWatcher
2007-Aug-27, 01:03 PM
When the Eropeans...
Aliens from Eros? :shifty:

01101001
2007-Aug-27, 01:12 PM
Aliens from Eros? :shifty:

During the Dark Ages they couldn't find the U.

EDG
2007-Aug-27, 09:43 PM
thanks 01101001, that page pretty much explained most of it :)

BTW, what happened to "Betelgeux" as a name for Alpha Orionis? I remember seeing that in all the astronomy books when I was a kid in the 70s, but now it seems to have been dropped in favour of "Betelgeuse".

Urbane Guerrilla
2007-Aug-28, 05:07 AM
One corrupted transliteration of Arabic is about as good as another, really. I looked in my Burnham's, but it doesn't mention the (something)-al-Jauza that I half remember, just springs right to the translation of "Armpit of the Giant/Arm of the Central One." My earliest introduction to the name in the mid 60s was the -se spelling; I've hardly ever seen the -x.

grant hutchison
2007-Aug-28, 09:27 AM
Ibt al-Jauzah was transliterated many different ways, and then settled down to Betelgeuze, Betelgeuse or Betelgeux. The OED gives examples of the "x" ending from 1938 and 1962, but the "s" stretches back to 1796, being adopted directly from the French Bételgeuse.
The "x" ending isn't a great guide to pronunciation in English, so I imagine it fell out of what favour it had for that reason.

Grant Hutchison

pilgrim
2007-Aug-28, 11:25 AM
In fact have you noticed that instead of using roman numerials, we use arabic (the name) numerals?


There's also another reason for that. Have you ever tried long addition, subtraction, division or multiplication with Roman numerals? None of the convenient writing digits under each other, keeping decimals organised stuff, changing of one character when moving from 498 to 499 and so on. Saw a telly program on it once where they timed people on the same maths problem, one written in Arabic, one in Roman and the writing of Roman solution took about 7 times as long.

Neverfly
2007-Aug-28, 12:41 PM
There's also another reason for that. Have you ever tried long addition, subtraction, division or multiplication with Roman numerals? None of the convenient writing digits under each other, keeping decimals organised stuff, changing of one character when moving from 498 to 499 and so on. Saw a telly program on it once where they timed people on the same maths problem, one written in Arabic, one in Roman and the writing of Roman solution took about 7 times as long.

Can we be sure that the one using roman numerals wasn't from South Carolina?:think:

pilgrim
2007-Aug-28, 01:05 PM
Can we be sure that the one using roman numerals wasn't from South Carolina?:think:

:lol: This is becoming a catch phrase!

John Mendenhall
2007-Aug-28, 01:17 PM
Can we be sure that the one using roman numerals wasn't from South Carolina?:think:

Well shucks, when they said 'Charleston' I thought they meant WV!

(No sniping, now, I was born there!)

mugaliens
2007-Aug-28, 02:08 PM
I thought it was because Alexander the Great had conquered the Persian empire, dying in Babylon, but was originally from Greece (Macedon), and because Romans spoke Latin, the predecessor of the romance languages, particularly French, but only in normal conversation.

Romans actually spoke Greek when discussing philosophy, and the people from the romance language countries (France, Spain, and Italy) wound up conquering the world, navigating by the stars.

grant hutchison
2007-Aug-28, 06:05 PM
I thought it was because Alexander the Great had conquered the Persian empire, dying in Babylon, but was originally from Greece (Macedon), and because Romans spoke Latin, the predecessor of the romance languages, particularly French, but only in normal conversation.

Romans actually spoke Greek when discussing philosophy, and the people from the romance language countries (France, Spain, and Italy) wound up conquering the world, navigating by the stars.So where does the Arabic come in?

Grant Hutchison

Tobin Dax
2007-Aug-28, 06:13 PM
So where does the Arabic come in?

Grant Hutchison

Persia?

grant hutchison
2007-Aug-28, 06:24 PM
Persia?But not until a thousand years after Alexander the Great was there. Alexander was fourth century BCE; the Arabs didn't pitch up until the seventh century CE. So Alexander's Hellenistic empire in Persia was interacting with Aramaic speakers, who had star names of their own, different from both Greek and Arabic.

Grant Hutchison

mugaliens
2007-Aug-28, 07:33 PM
But not until a thousand years after Alexander the Great was there. Alexander was fourth century BCE; the Arabs didn't pitch up until the seventh century CE. So Alexander's Hellenistic empire in Persia was interacting with Aramaic speakers, who had star names of their own, different from both Greek and Arabic.

Grant Hutchison

Some history of Arabic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic#History), including location (Persia) and dates (8th century BC).

Both Arabic and Aramaic belong to the Central Semitic languages (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Semitic_languages).

It's like how the Spanish can read much of French. The pronunciations are very different, but the language structure and most words are very close if not the same.

From Wiki's entry on Aramaic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aramaic_language): One possible source for the Arabic alphabet is Nabataean Aramaic script.

grant hutchison
2007-Aug-28, 07:42 PM
Some history of Arabic (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic#History), including location (Persia) and dates (8th century BC).But not at the same time:
The earliest Proto-Arabic, or Ancient North Arabian, texts are the Hasaean inscriptions of eastern Saudi Arabia, from the 8th century BC, written not in the modern Arabic alphabet, nor in its Nabataean ancestor, but in variants of the epigraphic South Arabian musnad. These are followed by 6th-century BC Lihyanite texts from southeastern Saudi Arabia and the Thamudic texts found throughout Arabia and the Sinai, and not in reality connected with Thamud. Later come the Safaitic inscriptions beginning in the 1st century BC, and the many Arabic personal names attested in Nabataean inscriptions (which are, however, written in Aramaic). From about the 2nd century BC, a few inscriptions from Qaryat al-Faw (near Sulayyil) reveal a dialect which is no longer considered "Proto-Arabic", but Pre-Classical Arabic.Arabic didn't spread effectively outside the Arabian Peninsula until after the death of Mohammed.

Grant Hutchison

The_Radiation_Specialist
2007-Aug-28, 08:24 PM
Careful not to confuse the language of Arabic for the Arab race. Many scientists wrote their papers in Arabic but were not originally Arab.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ulugh_Beg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biruni

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omar_Khayy%C3%A1m

grant hutchison
2007-Aug-28, 08:35 PM
Careful not to confuse the language of Arabic for the Arab race. Many scientists wrote their papers in Arabic but were not originally Arab.Indeed. (As a side note, I've actually visited Ulugh Beg's observatory in Samarkand. :))

Notice the dates of all the people you've linked to: edging into the second millennium of the Common Era, when Arabic had become firmly established as an imperial language on the back of the original Islamic expansion out of Arabia. In the kind of history of astronomy 01101001 links to, these are the sort of folk who are held responsible for advancing the tradition of Greek astronomy, and adding all those Arabic star names.

But it seems (I think) that mugaliens is suggesting a different route for these star names: as Aramaic* names that came into Greek along with Babylonian astronomy, and thereafter persisted through the Latin tradition, rather than taking any sort of detour via Arabic writers.

Grant Hutchison

*Edit: Or Akkadian, I suppose, which was Aramaic's predecessor in the region, and also part of the Semitic group. Although Aramaic was established in general use before Alexander arrived, Akkadian was supposedly still the language of scientific discourse.

mugaliens
2007-Aug-28, 11:01 PM
Actually, "The earliest Proto-Arabic, or Ancient North Arabian, texts are the Hasaean inscriptions of eastern Saudi Arabia, from the 8th century BC, written not in the modern Arabic alphabet, nor in its Nabataean ancestor, but in variants of the epigraphic South Arabian musnad. These are followed by 6th-century BC Lihyanite texts from southeastern Saudi Arabia and the Thamudic texts found throughout Arabia and the Sinai."

And: "During the Middle Ages Arabic was also 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."

From Wiki's Arabic entry.

Also, someone mentioned it earlier, that the names began in Greek, were translated to Arabic, and was preserved during the time in Europe where naming stars or having anything to do with them was considered not down to Earth. Later dealings brought the Arabic versions to the rest of the world.

grant hutchison
2007-Aug-28, 11:17 PM
Also, someone mentioned it earlier, that the names began in Greek, were translated to Arabic, and was preserved during the time in Europe where naming stars or having anything to do with them was considered not down to Earth. Later dealings brought the Arabic versions to the rest of the world.OK, good. So I seem to have misinterpreted what you wrote earlier about Alexander the Great, Babylon and Aramaic. :)

Grant Hutchison

mugaliens
2007-Aug-28, 11:28 PM
No worries!

grant hutchison
2007-Aug-28, 11:42 PM
Oh I know the Arabs pretty much invented modern astronomy and maths... I was just wondering why the arabic names were so dominant instead of the latin or greek ones.Well, I spent a bit of time trying to track down what Ptolemy actually called the stars in his original catalogue, and it seems he used almost no names at all, just rather involved descriptions. (Various sources suggest that this was because the Greeks just didn't name individual stars, only whole constellations.)
Here (http://www.geocities.com/astrologysources/classicalgreece/almagest/almageststarcatalogue.htm) is a page by an "astrology historian" that suggests Ptolemy provided names for only nine stars. I was a little doubtful about just accepting that story, especially since the page author gives Latin names and text throughout, rather than providing any original Greek. However, I've since found the rather nifty bit of software Almagest Stars (http://home.comcast.net/~erniew/astro/almagest.html), which displays Ptolemy's stars against a modern star map. You can open one of its referenced, translated catalogue files in a text editor, and scroll through Ptolemy's very long list of descriptive designations which, indeed, contains very few proper names.
So when Ptolemy's catalogue was translated into Arabic, it seems that the translators sometimes rendered Ptolemy's descriptions directly into Arabic (as described in my first link), and sometimes slipped in a traditional Arabic star name (as described here (http://www.physics.csbsju.edu/astro/asp/constellation.faq.html#star_names)).

So it seems that maybe the answer to your question is that Arabic star names dominate simply because the Greeks didn't name many stars. :)

For more bibliography than you'll ever need, take a look at Gary D Thompson's labour of love (http://members.optusnet.com.au/~gtosiris/index1.html). He gives a neat potted history of star naming on this page (http://members.optusnet.com.au/~gtosiris/page11-8a.html).

Grant Hutchison

Hans
2007-Aug-29, 12:49 AM
One trivia note

Where the west took on arabic numbers, the birthplace of those numbers went into darkness and lost the use of said numbers and now uses Hindi numbers from India.

eburacum45
2007-Aug-29, 09:38 AM
Of course the numerical system known as Hindu-Arabic originated in India originally, but was adopted by the Arabs very early on.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Hindu-Arabic_numeral_system#Adoption_by_the_Arabs

Delvo
2007-Aug-29, 11:38 AM
OK, while we're on these languages: How did Aramaic, instead of Hebrew, end up the native language of the Jews?

grant hutchison
2007-Aug-29, 12:19 PM
OK, while we're on these languages: How did Aramaic, instead of Hebrew, end up the native language of the Jews?Imperial Aramaic was imposed by the Babylonian empire, in the years following the "Babylonian captivity".

Grant Hutchison

mugaliens
2007-Aug-30, 02:55 PM
OK, while we're on these languages: How did Aramaic, instead of Hebrew, end up the native language of the Jews?

This link, Aramaic Displacing Hebrew as a spoken language (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hebrew_language#Aramaic_displacing_Hebrew_as_a_spo ken_language) answers that question quite nicely!

Disinfo Agent
2007-Aug-30, 03:02 PM
Careful not to confuse the language of Arabic for the Arab race. Many scientists wrote their papers in Arabic but were not originally Arab.'Arab' (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab) is an ethnicity with complex and multiple definitions, but if you come from any culture where Arabic is the predominant language, then you are most likely an Arab.

grant hutchison
2007-Aug-30, 06:42 PM
'Arab' (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab) is an ethnicity with complex and multiple definitions, but if you come from any culture where Arabic is the predominant language, then you are most likely an Arab.I believe, from the links he provided, that The_Radiation_Specialist was referring to the much wider historical extent of Arabic, from Andalusia to Central Asia.

Grant Hutchison