Hossam Abouzahr at the Atlantic Council:
Many warn that Standard Arabic, or Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), is on the decline, and some are happy to see it go. However, it is important to note the factors driving this decline, and what this means for the region.
Arabs often see MSA’s decline as the failure of their nations to uphold the legacy of Arabic, the language of the Qur’an and Islam. Though some rejoice in the strengthening of vernaculars, the so-called colloquials or dialects, as a sign of local identities gaining prominence, the withdrawal of MSA is in fact a warning about the weakening social infrastructure and declining education system.
Before going further, it is worth asking whether MSA truly is on the decline. Unfortunately, there are not clear statistics one way or the other, and generally what people are looking at are individual indicators. MSA is typically used in pan-Arab media, formal situations such as political speeches, religious sermons and texts, and literature. When people speak of the decline of MSA, they generally refer to decline in literature, literacy, and increasing predilections to use dialects or foreign languages instead of MSA.