By Edouard Aldahdah
Posted on December 6th, 2011 in General
Did you know that the Arabic letter qaf‘, which in Latin script is equivalent to the letter Q has at least three different pronunciations in spoken Arabic, depending on the dialect?
One pronunciation of qaf is as [Q] in conformity with classical Arabic, and is used in the dialect of the Druze inhabitants of Mount Lebanon, and the ‘Alawi inhabitants of the coastal mountain chain in Syria, as well by many other groups elsewhere in Arabic speaking countries. For example the would pronounce the Arabian horse strain name Nawwaq as “Nawwaq”, just as you would in English, and as it is spelled in classical Arabic. Similarly, “Saqlawi” would be pronounced exactly as it is written.
Another pronunciation of qaf is as the glottal stop [‘], which is best rendered in latin script by the letter [A]. Most Palestinians, Egyptians, Syrians and Lebanese — including myself — will pronounce it this way. Nawwaq is pronounced “Nawwa’ ” in this case, and Saqlawi becomes “Sa’lawi”.
A third pronunciation of qaf is as the letter [G], and this is the way most (but by no means all) Arabs of Bedouin stock will pronounce it, including a majority of Jordanians, Saudis, other Gulf citizens and some Iraqis and Syrian. Nawwaq is pronounced “Nawwag”, and Saqlawi, “Saglawi”. This third alternative pronunciation is the one most Westerners are familiar with, because it originates the writings of Western travelers to Arabia, who were interfacing with Bedouins.
Now, what much fewer people are aware of, is that the Saqlawi ‘substrain’ of “Jadran” (or “Jidran” or “Jedran, since vowels do not exist in Arabic and can be rendered in English in different ways)” is also an example for this alternative pronunciation of [Q] as [G].
The name of this ‘substrain’ was first written with a [G] instead of a [J] by earlier travelers: e.g., Carlo Guarmani, who spelled it “Gedran”; see also the Seward’s Arabians imported to the USA in 1860, one of which was a “Siklauy-Gidran”; as well as the stallion “Siglavy Gidran”, ancestor of the Gidran breed, imported by Baron Fechtig to the Austro-Hungarian empire in 1816. It was only in later years that the [G] and the [J] became interchangeable in Jidran/Gidran, perhaps under the influence of Arabian horse breeders’ travels to Egypt, whose people pronounce the [J] as a [G] (e.g., “Gamil” instead of “Jamil”).
In reality, the earlier Western spelling of Jidran/Jedran/Jadran as Gidran/Gedran/Gadran was the Bedouin’s way of spelling the name Qidran/Qedran/Qadran in their own dialect. Qadran is actually a rather common (and very ancient) man’s name among Bedouins in Arabia; it now appears that it was also the name of the original owner of that branch of the Saqlawi strain in Arabian horses, that his name had been misspelled as “Jadran” by Westerners all along, and adopted in its misspelled form by modern day Arab horse breeders, from Egypt to the Arabian peninsula.
Indeed, over the years, the ubiquitous spelling of Qadran as “Jadran” has made it very difficult for modern day Arab writers and horsemen to identify who the original “Jadran” was, what his complete name was, which tribe and clan of the ‘Anazah he belonged to, and whether he had any living descendants.
Most recently, Saudi writer Mohammad b. Saud al-Hajiri resolved that enigma, by noting that “Jadran” was a Western misspelling of the Bedouin name Qadran, and in doing so, has located descendants of Qadran, the Bedouin who first owned that world famous branch of the Saqlawi strain.
More on who these are in a later post.