Monday, January 07, 2013

Is there such a thing as an `Alawite accent?

So I notice that Western media (notice here by way of example:  "Ou sinon qu’il ait un fort accent alaouite.") casually and habitually refer to a `Alawite accent, and the Syrian opposition activists casually talk about a `Alawite accent.  Houari had asked me a question about whether there is such a thing as an `Alawite accent.  I asked people who would know more than me: comrade Bassam Haddad of George Mason University and comrade Dirar of Washington, DC.  Bassam wrote to me (I cite with his permission):  "there isn't a `alawi accent per se, because christians and others from the wadi il-`youn area (and other northern mountainous and coastal areas) for instance speak with a very similar accent. however, there is a particular intonation that has become associated with a "alawi" accent whether or not all `alawis speak like that, or whether non-alawis do too.  the real answer is yes. but in the conventional wisdom, there is a particular intonation has become associated not only with `alewives, but with mukhabarati personality (e.g., "keefak ya habeeeeb" with the second "b" almost barely pronounced). Also, a particular qaaf sound with a ضمّة sound and intonation where lips are kind of puckered. dirar can do this perfectly. but then again, my grandfather talked like that especially when he would go back to our village, Baida, and he's not `alawi. (Baida is in that northern mountainous area near Hama."  And comrade Dirar added:  "it's not complicated enough to require a linguist. it is technically regional, but in reality and practice it is now referred to as alawite accent... alawites themselves refer to the accent as alawite accent, or assume someone is alawite based on his/her accent.  and to bassam's point, even in qurdaha itself, there was a christian family and of course they spoke with the same accent."