Friday, January 05, 2007

<g> in Arabic

A belated Eid Mubarak and Happy New Year to all my readers!

This post is brought to you by the letter G - a sound all too common in many languages, including many dialects of Arabic, yet absent from Classical Arabic, leading to a minor quandary for transcribers, and to substantial regional variation. In Morocco, [g] in names is typically written using a kaf ك with three dots (ڭ), as in this sign. In Algeria and Tunisia, it's typically a qaf ق with three dots (ڨ), a choice reflecting the sound shift q > g common in Bedouin dialects, but unfortunately easily confused with the fa with three dots (ڤ) often used elsewhere in the Arab world for [v]. In Egypt, a jim ج is generally used, since classical j is pronounced g in Egyptian dialect. Elsewhere in the Arab world, a kaf with a line on top (گ), as in Persian or Kurdish, is sometimes used. In adapting foreign loanwords, ghayn (eg بلغاريا Bulgaria) or jiim (eg إنجيليزية English) are usual. In a Qatari mall recently, however, I saw yet another system: Osh Kosh B'Gosh was transcribed as أوش كوش بيڠوش, with a ghayn with three dots (Malay ng). I have no idea what country this may be characteristic of - even here it appears rather unusual. Any thoughts?

9 comments:

John Cowan said...

Isn't it great how us Unicode weenies ensured that each and every one of these pointless variations is representable? Wasn't easy, let me tell you. :-)

bulbul said...

lameen,

!كل عام وانت طيب
I'm not sure, but I believe I've seen ڠ used for [g] in some Ajami writings.


john,

we owe you a debt of gratitude. Now if only ڠ would connect left properly...

KNL said...

Mabrouk, hope your eid was restive and festive.:)

Yaser said...

You mentioned that in classical 'arabic [g] was absent. My morrocan teacher mentioned some sort of rule from the classical linguists (he mentioned no name or source) that said basically anything that is read [jamjam] can be read [gamgam]. But there is no distinctive [g] sound for sure in terms of writing. And in terms of phonetics based on Qurayshi dialect, there is no [g] at all! Anyways, I was wondering if you knew the source of that rule? In Farsi, we just have a seperate letter because we need it in our writing, I'm sure you've seen it and it looks like this [گ].

Yaser said...

Oh, and a very late 'Eid Mubaarak!

Anonymous said...

But Haywood et al in their grammar mention IBn Durayd's dictionary permitting /g/ as alternative to /q/.

Fadoua said...

Eid Mabrouk. Interesting the research that you made.

I wounder how did you write the ق with three dots in your post. The same question for other characters (from Morrocan dialect and Kurdish language). Thanks.

Denis said...

ڠ is /g/ in some adjami like in Swahili according to http://kevindonnelly.org.uk/swahili/spelling.php

Lameen Souag الأمين سواق said...

Ah - there are quite a few ex-Zanzibarians in the Gulf, so that might explain it.