Pronunciation of bin Laden's org in the media

orinkh orinkh at CARR.ORG
Wed Mar 5 13:01:06 UTC 2003

If it's possible to beat a dead horse and toot one's own horn at the same
time, I would respectfully refer readers to my article about the vagaries of
Arabic transliteration in the winter 2002 issue of Verbatim, where the
difficulties of pronouncing Arabic words in English are discussed.

Specifically in the two words under discussion, al-qa'ida and Saddam, they
each contain two sounds for which there is no equivalent in standard English:
in the case of al-qa'ida, these are the uvular plosive that we designate by
/q/, and the glottal stop that I have designated by an apostrophe. In the case
of Saddam, there is the emphatic consonant designated by /s/, which we treat
as a standard s, and the doubled consonant /dd/, which in fact we do not
properly double in pronunciation.

Surely the goal in English is simply to pronounce the words in a way that will
be understood by other English speakers; to pronounce them in a way that would
be understood by Arabic speakers would be quite startling to our untrained

Orin Hargraves

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