Modern pronunciation of خ ، ج ، غ ، ش

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Anatoli

Senior Member
Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
Hello all,

Sorry for being a rare guest here. :)

I need to confirm the modern standard pronunciation of the 4 letters: خ ,ج ,غ and ش as [ɣ], [ʤ] or [[ʤ], [x] and [ʃ] (IPA) in MSA, not dialects, if they are different. I know how to pronounce them but these are the ones that have changed from the classical Arabic pronunciation (8th century). If you have any resources (any language) supporting the standard Arabic pronunciation (better using IPA symbols), please let me know.

Separately about letter ج. I know in Levante it's normally [ʒ], not [ʤ] and it's [g] in northern Egypt and southern Yemen. Is it official or only colloquial? I mean, is it a pronunciation advised by scholars, teachers and used in the recitation of Qur'an?

Thanks in advance. :)
 
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  • Anatoli

    Senior Member
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    Pity, so many people viewed, nobody answered. Perhaps using the IPA symbols is a problem.

    Current:
    /dʒ/ English J, (variants: French J, English hard G)
    /ɣ/ as in the Dutch "gaan" [ɣaːn]
    /ʃ/ is English "sh"
    /x/ German "doch"

    There seems to be a difference between the current pronunciation of ج /dʒ/, ش /ʃ/, خ /x/ and غ /ɣ/ with some variants of ج and the pronunciation in the Classical Arabic in the 8th century, which is described as /ɟ/ /ç/, /χ/ and /ʁ/ (the same order).

    Examples of the classical pronunciation (about the 8the century) of ج and ش:
    /ɟ/ dělám (Czech)
    /ç/ dicht (German)

    About the other 2:
    (The last 2 are the most confusing)
    /χ/ Dach (German) (which can be /x/ (voiceless velar fricative) as well
    /χ/ is a voiceless uvular fricative.

    /ʁ/ is French or German R.

    At least, the first 2 seem definitely different from the current standards, please confirm.
     
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    cherine

    Moderator
    Arabic (Egypt).
    Pity, so many people viewed, nobody answered. Perhaps using the IPA symbols is a problem.
    True, Anatoli. I only see squares.
    And one more reason: I didn't (still don't) understand why you think there was a different pronounciation of these letters.

    Regarding the ج it's been discussed in another thread, and I remember that there's a theory/opinion saying that it used to be pronounced like a "g" (like in girl), but in a certain period there was the other pronouncations (j, dj).

    Regarding the خ and ش I don't see what the other pronounciation could be, nor did I ever hear of any.

    As for the غ the only difference I know of (and applies to ع) is that in some countries, they're pronounced deeper from the throat, while in others not.

    I don't know if what I said is of any value at all to you, but maybe if you tell us on which ground you were expecting the differences, people can be of more help.
     

    Anatoli

    Senior Member
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    Thank you, Cherine. :)

    Regarding the خ and ش I don't see what the other pronounciation could be, nor did I ever hear of any.
    I am glad this is obvious and there are probably no variants. I will use these 2 for simplicity.

    I had a bit of an argument with someone. They insist (which is possibly true) that in the Classical Arabic (about the 8th century) these 2 letters were pronounced differently:

    /ɟ/ dělám (Czech), делаю (Russian) (ج)
    /ç/ dicht (German) (ش)

    If you can't see the IPA symbols, you can see the highlighted symbols for Czech/Russian and German.

    A person says these sound have changed in dialects to /dʒ/ (English "j") and /ʃ/ (English "sh"). Hmm, it's obvious that in dialect these letters are pronounced so but I think it's also the current standard way, i.e this pronunciation is NOT dialectal but is also current classical or standard pronunciation. As I don't have a reliable source for this obvious (in my opinion) claim, I am asking if you know a page that describes the standard Arabic pronunciation and the source is considered reliable (whatever it means in your opinion :) )


    About IPA (international phonetic alphabet): one method I know to fix the dipslay- if you have Arial Unicode MS font installed, you can copy text to a text editor
    and change the font to it. I like and use IPA because it unambiguously defines sounds from different languages, you can refer to sounds of one by using another one often without hearing it.
     
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    César Lasso

    Senior Member
    castellano, España
    Hi, Anatoly.

    I never heard that خ , غ and ش could have a different pronunciation in different dialects or in former centuries.

    More complex is the problem of ج, which can be read as (1) /ʒ/ as in 'pleaSure', as (2) /dʒ/ (as in 'Jack') and as /g/ (as in 'Girl'). So I wouldn't be surprised to find that that sound has been subject to an evolution.

    In a sibling language to Arabic (Hebrew, also a semitic language), the equivalent for ج is called gimmel, pronounced with the [g] of 'good' or 'girl'.

    Regards,

    César, QaySar
     

    clevermizo

    Senior Member
    English (USA), Spanish
    I would call Hebrew a cousin and not a sibling :D.

    I'm pretty sure, although I don't have a source, that the reason why ج and ش are described as palatal originally and not post-alveolar is due to reconstructed phonology. In other words, the sounds of ancient times are reconstructed on the basis of:

    1. back-formation from modern dialects
    2. comparison with cognates in other living and extinct semitic languages
    3. rationalization with cognates in the phonology of Proto-Semitic (which itself is reconstructed, of course).

    There may be ancient sources that directly describe the old phonology, but I've never read them.

    For example, the palatalization of [g] has led to the sound [dʒ] or [ʒ] in many languages (the Romance system comes to mind), and so if we posit the original sound in Arabic was [gy] or [ɟ], this nicely ties together all the modern pronunciations, as well as the fact that ج is cognate with the /g/-phoneme in other Semitic languages.

    The assertion that [sh] is a forward realization of the consonant [ç] is, I would assume, made in order to rationalize its cognate status with Proto Semitic [ɬ] and Modern South Arabian [ɬ]. ç could be a palatalized descendant of ɬ, and would also be a necessary (I think) intermediate between ɬ and modern sh. Note that Arabic /sh/ is not cognate with Hebrew /sh/, in fact it is cognate with Hebrew שׂ [s], which has also been posited to have been ɬ. (Note, the ɬ sound is the lateral fricative found in Welsh ll.)

    As to غ and خ being originally post-velar or uvular and in modern times are velar, I would say that this may be a difficult assertion. I don't know how many languages have phonemic distinction between ʁ and ɣ, and honestly I find this difference hard to perceive myself, although I feel like I can physically produce both sounds. Anyway, I can't guess what this last assertion is based on.
     
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    Ayazid

    Senior Member
    Hey
    I think that the pronunciation of ج as a sound similar to our "ď" is still common in Upper Egypt, Sudan and some parts of Yemen :)
     
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    Anatoli

    Senior Member
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    Yes, of course. Thank you, guys for the confirmation of the obvious (that's what I requested - to confirm the obvious, it's a long story why :) )

    I wonder if there are sources about what is considered the standard Arabic pronunciation from an Arab country. If it's not available in English, online and in manageable format, please provide whatever you have - the book name or something, as long is it something "official" and standard. Does something like that exist?
     

    Mahaodeh

    Senior Member
    Arabic, PA and IA.
    I don't believe you need to "reconstruct" the sounds for the 8th century, if you want to know how they were pronounced at the time, attend a tajweed class (but this is not my specialisation so I'll discuss this no further :)).

    It's understood that the ج has changed, but ش غ خ? Not really, I agree with Cherine, I don't even see how!
     

    Anatoli

    Senior Member
    Native: русский (Russian), home country: English
    For some people stating the obvious is not enough, need a fool-proof reference, especially if someone insists that the 8th century Arabic pronunciation is "standard" or "classical" and today's is "dialect".

    The difference between the ancient and current غ and خ is, perhaps too subtle (if Janet Watson is right in her work The Phonology and Morphology of Arabic). A reference from a respectable source (not sure what it could be) as too how ش should be pronounced today may be enough.

    EDIT:
    If you check this file, it's not that simple, as for غ and خ letters, the phonetic symbols are used that describe the ancient pronunciation, not modern: /χ/, not /x/ and /ʁ/, not /ɣ/.

    Sign In
     
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    clevermizo

    Senior Member
    English (USA), Spanish
    I don't believe you need to "reconstruct" the sounds for the 8th century, if you want to know how they were pronounced at the time, attend a tajweed class (but this is not my specialisation so I'll discuss this no further :)).

    It's understood that the ج has changed, but ش غ خ? Not really, I agree with Cherine, I don't even see how!
    Actually the reconstruction of these sounds may predict form previous to the 8th century.

    The reason why linguists feel the need to reconstruct them is because Tajwiid, being a religious concept, cannot be used as the only piece of scientific evidence. In other words, it can be a piece of evidence, but also the inventories of sounds in other related Semitic languages can be used to predict how phonology evolved in Arabic from its ancestors (Proto-Semitic).

    The desire comes because words that have ش in Arabic have cognates in other Semitic languages that use a sound which is very much not [sh]. Thus there is the linguistic impetus to derive the ancestral sound that became [sh] in Arabic.

    Now, whether or not it was always [sh] in Arabic is definitely up for debate, and I personally have no idea and I am fine with accepting that it may have always been [sh], and when it was not [sh] it was probably not Arabic but an ancestral language that we should call by a different name :D.
     

    Mahaodeh

    Senior Member
    Arabic, PA and IA.
    If we are talking about 6th century and before, then I have no idea and there is indeed a high probability. My discussion was about the 8th century when everything was written including very detailed descriptions of how to pronounce letters. I can understand eliminating religious texts, but we are not talking about religion here - we are talking about the way letters are pronounced; and one of the first things about tajweed is that they teach you how letters are pronounced, with verbal descriptions as in "the voice should come out from so and so place and it should be produced by doing so and so and letting the air mo....etc." not as in "say mmmmmm"!

    If the Quran is as classic as Arabic gets (anything that pre-dates that is proto Arabic, am I right?) and if these descriptions are from the 8th century, and since we talking about how these letters were pronounced at that time; then saying that "you need more scientific evidence" is like saying "we want to know how the Jews wrote Hebrew in the 14th Century" then eliminate the copies of the bible as "not scientific!"
     

    Wadi Hanifa

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    My discussion was about the 8th century when everything was written including very detailed descriptions of how to pronounce letters.
    Do you know that these written descriptions you speak of differ substantially from today's "tajweed" AND from our modern conception of "fuS7a"? Examples of this would be ق ض ط and ج. Look for the book I mentioned above; it's an eye-opener.
     

    Mahaodeh

    Senior Member
    Arabic, PA and IA.
    Really? Actually no, I did not know that nor have I ever read the book. Do you know where I can find it, would it be available at مكتبة جرير? Unfortuantely there are not many bookshops in the UAE and libraries have useless books.
     

    Wadi Hanifa

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    For each phoneme, he tries to figure out what the old pronunciation was as described by Sibawayh and his contemporaries, then he compares that to a survey of modern-day variants.
     
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