qaff and double-qaff
Posted by adiamondinsunlight on June 24, 2008
Like many Arabic dialects, Lebanese Arabic does not pronounce the “qaff”. In written form, it is represented as a hamza or, more frequently, the number “2”, which is also how hamza’ed initial alifs (basically, any word beginning with an “a” or “i” sound) are written.
This is fine for people who can both speak Arabic and write it using Arabic script, but many younger Lebanese are not fully comfortable with the latter. They have gone to international or foreign-language schools, and if they work in any kind of white-collar position, they tend to do more reading and writing in English or French than in Arabic.
(This is all very interesting, some of you might be thinking, but why on earth is she going on about this?)
As a result of their education and their work, many younger Lebanese do not know whether an “a” or an “i” sound indicates a hamza’ed alif or a qaff. They know how words are pronounced and how they are written in Roman characters (Arabic chat script), but not how they are spelled in Arabic script.
(… still wondering, some of you may be thinking. Here’s the punchline:)
Last week, a Lebanese monk named Yacoub Haddad cleared the first hurdle to sainthood: beatification (not to be confused with beautification, which is what Hizbullah did to downtown after de-camping from it!). The achievement was marked with twenty million billboards and bannera, and a mega-mass on Sunday held just north of Martyrs’ Square. Here’s what last Saturday’s Daily Star had to say about the event:
BEIRUT: A Lebanese priest will take a step toward sainthood on Sunday, when the beatification of Father Yaaqoub Haddad Kabouchi will take place in Beirut’s Martyrs Square.
During his lifetime, Father Haddad – known as Qabouna Yaaqoub in Arabic – founded the Congregation of Franciscan Sisters of the Cross in Lebanon in 1933 as well as numerous hospitals, rest homes and schools throughout the country. (article continues here)
So. The saint-to-be appears to have two qaffs in his name. One of these is not correct.
In Lebanese Arabic, Father Haddad’s name is 2Abouna Ya2oub. The “2” in Ya2oub is a genuine qaff: Yaqoub becomes Jacob in English.
The “2” in 2Abouna is NOT a qaff. “Abou” means “father” in Arabic, and “Abouna” means “our father”. As all the posters, banners and billboards indicate, the title is spelled with an initial alif.
Anthony Elghossain is one of the Daily Star‘s good writers – but he is also young enough to have grown up without much exposure to written Arabic. Whether the error was his or the paper’s editors, it had me grinning as I read the paper at the gym last Saturday morning, half a world away from where I am now :).