General Question

anartist's avatar

When did the Koran become the Qu’ran, and why?

Asked by anartist (14781points) May 26th, 2011

Does it coincide with some overall greater awareness of Muslim and Middle Eastern cultures [not the same thing] or are there simply fashions in spelling? If so are they started by reporters, statesmen, scholars? “How are you supposed to spell Muammar Gaddafi/Khadafy/Qadhafi?” has been asked here already. I also wonder as the the why of it all.

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23 Answers

MilkyWay's avatar

In Arabic, the sound that Quran begins with doesn’t have an exact equivalent in English.
“Q” is always followed by a “U” in English making the pronounced sound “Qween”. In Arabic, only the first sound of the letter “Q” is present and English speaking people are not used to pronouncing it like that. So some people prefer to write it as they pronounce it, with a “K”.
Also, the spelling Ghaddafi, or any other ways in which it is spelt, can’t sound what it is like in Arabic. There is simply no sound in English to pronounce the first part of his name properly. The nearest you can get to, is Ghadafi.

anartist's avatar

@queenie, I realize the pronunciation is not the same—but how is the Anglization arrived at?
Why does it change over time after a norm seems to have been accepted?

JLeslie's avatar

When Chanukah became Hanukkah. @queenie is right there is no perfect equivalent in English, Arabic, Hebrew, and other languages do not use the same alphabet, so you can soell many words multiple ways. I don’t know when exavtly we started seeing Qu’ran more. I had always spelled Muslim Moslem, until I came to fluther. My guess is the AP or some other journalistic entity decides. They also try to tell media how to pronounce cities and surnames etc.

gasman's avatar

To add to @queenie‘s answer: It seems that the “k” sound—what I think linguists call a velar plosive—is traditionally transliterated from Arabic into English using either a K or Q. There’s an evergreen herb that’s chewed as a mild stimulant, written in Englsih as KAT or KHAT or QAT—all acceptable Scrabble words! In fact there are numerous English “U-less Q words,” most of which are based on Arabic.

According to Wikipedia, the holy book of Islam is The Quran, also transliterated Qur’an, Koran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān. I’ve seen Peking become Beijing and Bombay become Mumbai. For that matter, Moslem used to be a more common Englsih synonym of Muslim. I suppose Quran is an evolving form, too.

MilkyWay's avatar

@anartist I’m afraid I do not know what “Anglization” is :-/

JLeslie's avatar

Anglicization I think. Making a word for English from another language.

morphail's avatar

According to the OED Online, the spelling with Q is only about 100 years younger than the spelling with K. The Q spelling is first attested in 1787. So it’s not because of some modern awareness of Islam or the Middle East.

DominicX's avatar

It’s all about trying to accurately transliterate Arabic, which is difficult.

However, I personally prefer the “q” spelling because Arabic contains both a velar stop (k) and a uvular stop (q). The uvular stop is not the same sound as the /k/ sound. It’s more difficult to make for English speakers and speakers of languages that do not contain it, but the words “Qur’an” and “Qatar” and “Qaddafi”, etc. contain these uvular stop sounds and the letter “q” is usually used to represent that sound.

MilkyWay's avatar

@anartist People from different places and languages have different ways of pronouncing words, and especially when it isn’t your first language, you look for the closest way possible to pronounce it correctly. My guess is that some Arabic speaking people or linguists must have commented on the spelling sometime in the recent past and said that “Quran” was the most appropriate spelling.

JLeslie's avatar

@queenie We even do it with names, which I find odd. Think Christopher Columbus.

anartist's avatar

I have also read that drug as “ghat”

I thought Muslim was the noun for a person and Moslem an adjective used with ‘religion’ which is Islam. Am I wrong?

Apparently, from earlier Qs on here, Bombay was changed by Indians to Mumbai, a name closer to the original language name than the English word “Bombay” which was probably based on the original [Hindi?] name.

MilkyWay's avatar

@JLeslie Haha, yes I see what you mean.

anartist's avatar

You say Italia, I say Italy

JLeslie's avatar

@anartist I think the two words are actually completely interchangable, it is simply different spelling.

DominicX's avatar

@anartist

Moslem/Muslim is an issue of the number of vowels in Arabic. It’s generally described as having three vowels: a, i, and u (with short and long variations). Moslem is actually a more old-fashioned spelling. More modern Arabic transliterations stick to the three-vowel system, so there is no “o” or “e”, hence Muslim, Muhammad, Uman, Umar, Usama, etc.

But if someone could explain why exactly people decide to put “o” and “e” in Arabic words when Arabic has only three vowels, that would be great. I still don’t understand that and I haven’t been able to find much information on the internet about it…

morphail's avatar

@DominicX I think “e” is sometimes used to represent ʿayn, as in “Eid” and “qaeda”.

MilkyWay's avatar

@DominicX As @morphail said, maybe it’s because of the sound “ai” in Arabic.

JLeslie's avatar

@anartist Your Bombay example is similar to Mexico, which for a couple hundred years or so was spelled Méjico when the Spanish got there. Later, I think in the 1900’s they reverted back to the original spelling. I think officially in Spanish now it is to always be spelled as Mexico.

JLeslie's avatar

I think people were just pronouncing the word Mah-slem, and o made sense phonetically. Like Mommy. Yesterday I asked my husband to find my mom’s phone number in my phone, and he tried to tell me it was not there. Then he said, “oh, you spelled it mo-mee, not ma-mee.”

JLeslie's avatar

Actually the Qaeda is not that weird to me. Sure in English we expect the u following Q, but I am used to it now not being there, and in Spanish, although the u is present in q words, it is not pronounced as we do in English. Quince, is kin-say. The ae I kind of think of like the German, pronounce the second vowel. Or, at least that is what I think is the rule in German. Ei is eye, and ie is eeee.

Bagardbilla's avatar

Actually, In the Muslim world there is no such word as (phonetically or spelled equevalent to) ‘Moslem’. As far as I know, that is a western derivation. We refer ourselves as either Muslims or Muselmaans.

JLeslie's avatar

@Bagardbilla I think that is why we finally changed it, to be more true to the actual pronunciation.

Schroedes13's avatar

Moslem is generally a historic references to Muslims. Unfortunately, there is no standardized anglicization of arabic words. That’s why in recent news we’ve seen Ghadafi’s and Bin Laden’s name written in a few different ways. That’s sometimes what happens when you have different languages being translated. Not always perfect, but it’s the system we have to use.

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