Pronunciation of bin Laden's org in the media

A. Maberry maberry at U.WASHINGTON.EDU
Thu Feb 27 19:24:54 UTC 2003

In Arabic it is (romanized) al-Q[macron]a'idah, where ' is, as Wright's
Grammar puts it "[ayin] the Heb. [ayn], is a strong (but to [most]
Europeans, as well as Turks and Persians, unpronounceable) guttural ...
It is described as produced by a smart compression of the upper part of
the windpipe and forcible emission of the breath. It is wrong to treat it,
in any of the Semitic languages, as a mere vowel letter ..."
The "q" is a "strongly articulated gutteral 'k'"

So, al-KA'ida is probably closest to Arabic, al-KAIda next closest. I've
seen the name of the organization represented as Al-Qaeda which might give
rise to the incorrect pronunciation al-KEIda.

maberry at

On Thu, 27 Feb 2003, Lesa Dill wrote:

> I figured it was a triphthong.  Since English doesn't have them (??maybe)
> anymore, some level it to the diphthong [ai] and others to the monophthong
> [e].  Anybody know Arabic?
> Dave wrote:
> > I wonder if anyone has wondered at the near 50/50 split
> > that I've noticed in the media re: the pronunciation of
> > Osama bin Laden's organization.  Some people say "alkaida"
> > and some "alkeida" (roughly phonetic notation).  I've seen,
> > of course, broadcasters "mispronounce" foreign names before,
> > but this is the first time I've seen a case where it seems
> > almost a coin-toss how a given announcer/politician/etc
> > will say it.  I believe I recall a case where ABC's George
> > Stefanopoulos said it both ways within the space of a
> > couple minutes.
> >
> > I wonder whether there may be a pragmatic dimension to some
> > of these cases: that is, some of these people may think (as I
> > do) that "alkaida" is closer to the true Arabic pronunciation,
> > but may be deliberately pronouncing it the other way in
> > order to show a kind of passive contempt for them.
> >
> > Anyone else have thoughts on this?
> >
> > Dave

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