Friday, April 01, 2011

Dialect pronunciation on Al-Jazeera (a response)

Elias sent me this: "Just a quick note. One of your informants had this to say recently:
"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)..."
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"!"