A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Jim and Gim and Al Jazeera (Al Gazeera?)

Since Arabic dialects, pronunciations, etc. get mentioned here a lot, let me call your attention to a couple of interesting guest posts over at The Angry Arab (As'ad AbuKhalil), dealing with Al Jazeera's pronunciations; first came this post by contributor Joseph,
I should note that al-Jazeera has insisted, correctly I believe, in not granting the northern and urban Egyptian pronunciation (that is erronesouly claimed as representing all “Egyptian” pronunciation when the majority of Egyptians do not uphold it) of the “jim” as “gim” entrance into its coverage (Jamal ‘Abd al-Nasir to name the most obvious example remains Jamal, and never Gamal), increasingly al-Jazeera insists not only on pronouncing the name of Qadhdhafi as Gadhdhafi or of the head of the Jordanian Mukhabarat as “Raggad” and not ‘Raqqad” but also of insisting on naming Libyan cities as “Briga” and not “Burayqa”. Does this mean that the Egyptian city of Qina should be pronounced on al-Jazeera as “Ina” for example? Why is al-Jazeera conceding on these pronunciations and not on others?"
To this Elias Muhanna (Qifa Nabki) replied:
This observation is problematic in my opinion, for a few reasons. First of all, the "gim" in place of "jim" is not limited solely to northern and urban Egyptian pronunciation but is also present in various other Egyptian dialects from around the country. It is also to be found in Omani, Yemeni, and Central Arabian dialects, and also (in certain linguistic contexts) in some North African dialects.
Furthermore, it is worth noting that there is some linguistic evidence that suggests that /gy/ was actually viewed as the "correct" pronunciation of the letter "jim" during the early Islamic period. (Phonetic descriptions by Sibawayhi and al-Khalil ibn Ahmad suggest that the letter was not pronounced as it is today in Modern Standard Arabic).
Obviously, this has nothing to do with whether or not Aljazeera is justified in deciding what kind of accents to permit... But, someone needs to stick up for the "gim"!"
In the midst of revolutionary upheavals, war and repression, this may seem a trivial discussion, but I thought it worth noting. I'm not, however, going to provoke the wrath of non-Egyptian Arabs by jumping in.

All I'll add is: when Al Jazeera starts calling itself Al Gazeera, that will get my attention.

1 comment:

Hussein Maxos said...

What does it matter if we the Arabs know how Jim is pronounced in northern urban Egypt? Plus it is similarly pronounced in Sudan, Yemen and parts of Arabia!!
Thank you

Hussein Maxos
Damascus, Syria