Name That Language.

A reader writes:

Can you tell what language the man is singing in during the opening credits?

This is the 1966 Soviet movie Aladdin’s Magic Lamp. I am guessing that the language is supposed to be Arabic, but somehow it doesn’t quite sound like it. Also, I can’t think of many Arabic speakers in the USSR. In the movie, most of the “eastern” looking actors were Georgians. Could the language be some kind of Georgian or Caucasus language?

I didn’t know the answer, so I turn it over to the Varied Reader. Anybody recognize it?

Comments

  1. Where are the non-Russian parts?

    Great beards, by the way.

  2. The opening credits have a man speaking, and then another man singing…

  3. Oops, sorry, I left out an important sentence, the actual question! Added now at the top of the blockquote.

  4. It definitely sounds Arabic to me, but what do I know, I’ve only been studying it for twenty years… It’s a dialect that is not immediately familiar to me, but based on the few words I recognize, it could be a version of هاك عيوني (hāk ʕuyūni). Is this the same song? If it is, according to the description, it’s Libyan, so Herr Doktor Benkato might know more.

  5. Also, I can’t think of many Arabic speakers in the USSR.
    One word: Uzbekistan. Also, it’s not like the USSR (and the Eastern bloc in general) wasn’t friendly to the regimes in Egypt, Syria and Libya with all the cultural, military and industrial exchange this entails…

  6. The song sounds Arabic to me, but not the sentence or two whispered beforehand.

  7. >>One word: Uzbekistan.

    I’m confused – isn’t Uzbek a Turkic language? I guess Uzbeks would learn Arabic for religious reasons, but I didn’t think that would be very widespread by 1966, and in any case, I’d think that the Arabic they would know they wouldn’t be fluent in – kinda like American Jews who learn Hebrew in Sunday school…

  8. Среднеазиатские диалекты арабского языка, среднеазиатский арабский язык (араб. العربية الآسيوية الوسطى‎‎) — разновидности арабского языка, находящиеся на грани исчезновения[3] и распространённые среди арабов Афганистана, Таджикистана и Узбекистана. Арабские диалекты Средней Азии сильно отличаются от остальных известных разновидностей арабского языка и образовывают самостоятельную группу диалектов[4].
    Среднеазиатские диалекты арабского языка
    Страны:
    Афганистан, Узбекистан, Таджикистан
    Общее число говорящих:
    Афганистан: 5000[1]
    Таджикистан: 1000[1]
    Узбекистан: 700[2]
    Статус:
    на грани исчезновения

  9. Could the first whispered word be some form of “Shahrazad”?

  10. George Gibbard says:

    The article
    https://www.academia.edu/10319772/On_the_Relationship_of_the_Central_Asian_Arabic_Dialects
    has a map of where Arabic is still spoken in enclaves in Central Asia, including six villages in Uzbekistan.

    As for the movie, I’m going to guess ‘fake Arabic’, although I do hope someone comes along and proves me wrong. The voiceover, it seems to me, says:
    ʃahrazādu s-sammāħ (gender error)
    fa-sákadat (verb not in almaany.com; unfortunately my Wehr is in storage)
    “anīl kalāmī l-mumāħa” (I don’t know if the first word is the imperfect of nāla, but the last word would be the participle of verb not in almaany.com)
    wa-fi l-luʁat (‘and in the language’, but: pronunciation of tā marbūtʶah as t is non-classical for a pausal form, and so far as I know is only reported for the central Arabian peninsula, not for instance South Khorasan, where we find e.g. aǧ-ǧarye ‘the village’ from CA al-qaryat-, in the Seeger article linked to. Meanwhile a classical non-pausal form should have the case ending -i.)
    ʔālæt (“she said”, but q > ʔ is characteristic instead of places like the Levant, Lower Egypt and Malta)
    “baláʁanī ayyu al-mælæ (here some sound not transcribed?) gusāyi” (the first word is ‘has reached me’, with the classical ending -a; ʔayyu is ‘which(ever)’ but for classical Arabic we should have ʔayyu l-, for a vernacular ayy al- or ayy il-, so this also suggests someone is faking it).

  11. George Gibbard says:

    OOPS, I meant to say “pronunciation of tā marbūtʶah as t is non-classical for a pausal form, and FOR A NON-CONSTRUCT STATE FORM, so far as I know is only reported for the central Arabian peninsula”

  12. George Gibbard says:

    Although, a construct state will not be in pause, so I guess I was somehow right the first time.

  13. George Gibbard says:

    Also, in “in the language, she said…”, “in” should be bi- father than fī.

  14. The song sounds Arabic to me, but not the sentence or two whispered beforehand.
    As for the movie, I’m going to guess ‘fake Arabic
    Wrong. It’s good Arabic (as for what variety, that’s a long discussion). The whispered part ends with بلغني أيها الملك السعيد [balaġanī ayyuhā ‘l-maliku s-saʕīd]which is the standard introduction Shahrazad uses in her stories in 1001 Nights. I can’t hear the rest all too well, but it’s definitely أدرك شهرزاد الصباح فسكتت عن الكلام المباح [adrakat šahrazād is-sabāḥ fa-sakatat ʕan il-kalām il-mubāḥ] missing the first word. The middle part is tricky, I would normally expect something like “and in the night X she said”, but it does indeed sound like [fil-luġa]… Anyhoo, the whole thing:

    [adrakat] šahrazād is-sabāḥ fa-sakatat ʕan il-kalām il-mubāḥ
    wa fil-??? Ɂālat:
    balaġanī ayyuhā ‘l-maliku s-saʕīd

    Burton’s English translation:

    And Shahrazad perceived the dawn of day and ceased to say her permitted say.
    And ???, she said:
    It hath reached me, O auspicious King

    Note the Ɂ in [Ɂālat], it’s one of them dialects which have Ɂ as the reflex of [qāf] which is mostly Maghrib and Egypt through Lebanon. Doesn’t sound Maghribi to me… Also, Wehr online.
    I’m confused – isn’t Uzbek a Turkic language?
    The link leads to a wiki article on Uzbekistan Arabic.

  15. George Gibbard says:

    Thank you, Bulbul. Clearly I need to study more. I wonder why I was hearing bs as ms.

  16. marie-lucie says:

    Thank you, Bulbul!

  17. Thanks, Bulbul! Now that you’ve transcribed it, it does sound like Arabic…
    What’s at the end of il-mubāḥ? It sounds like something follows the ḥ.

  18. George Gibbard says:

    > (as for what variety, that’s a long discussion)

    I wish you would discuss.

  19. George Gibbard says:

    Also (contra to what SFReader submitted) the Seeger article seems to say (contra to the spin Wikipedia puts on the article) that Central Asian Arabic (if one includes South Khorasan Arabic) is not a family of dialects, but reflects three separate migrations at different times from presumably Iraq:
    “Iɴɢʜᴀᴍ 2005 thus concludes that “the Arabic dialects of eastern Iran seperated from the main block [this means not “the main block of Central Asian Arabic”, as the Wikipedia author seems to assume, but “the main block of Arabic”] more recently than those of Afghanistan and Central Asia”. This would mean that BA [Bukhara and Afghanistan] represents the oldest dialect type, whilst Q[Qashqadarya in Uzbekistan] is a younger and X[Khorasan in Iran], so to speak, the most modern offshoot of Central Asian Arabic.” Here “oldest” means “immigrated to Central Asia from Iraq longest ago”, and “offshoot of Central Asian Arabic” has to really be interpreted as “Central Asian offshoot of Arabic”. Of the list of features shared by Central Asian Arabic dialects, most are found in dialects further west, and many indeed in places such as Sudan. An interesting exception is “The formation of compound verbs following a Persian-Tadjik model: amir sava “to do a command = to order””, shared by all dialects Seeger examines.

  20. George,
    Clearly I need to study more. I wonder why I was hearing bs as ms.
    We’ve all been there. I still have a notebook that I used back in 1995 for my first attempts to decipher a news broadcast in MSA. Didn’t get a single word right. Didn’t even get the word boundaries right.

    Y,
    What’s at the end of il-mubāḥ? It sounds like something follows the ḥ.
    That is an excellent question. First, note the difference between this speaker and, say, this one (the passage starts at 11:01). The latter is your standard way of pronouncing Classical Arabic / MSA, something you’d hear on TV. The former, however, is typical of oral performance in Classical Arabic like Classical Poetry or the Qur’an. Here, the performers sort of draw out the pharyngealization (a secondary articulation) in the pause in certain phonetic environments (I’m not sure which ones, but preceding [a] sound definitely counts) and this is what you hear. My favorite example is the qāf in the first two verses of Surah 113.

  21. bulbul: Here, the performers sort of draw out the pharyngealization (a secondary articulation) in the pause in certain phonetic environments

    Sometimes on French television I hear the word “merci”, when followed by a pause, getting prolonged by a “whispered kh” (I don’t know what else to call it). Is this an example of “secondary articulation” ? In the contexts I have heard that, I would call the effect one of mildly melodramatic self-deprecation.

  22. It’s called phrase-final vowel devoicing (e.g. here). It’s very common, and from my little knowledge I’d say it’s not very marked pragmatically. I think it’s game for any phrase ending with -i. I’ve heard a French speaker named Nathalie introduce herself in English with that same effect.

  23. Bulbul, thanks a lot! In the quran.com examples, it’s also striking how much the /a/ is backed following a pharyngeal consonant.

  24. That’s a voiceless palatal fricative, Stu – like in German ich or at the start of English ‘human’. I got pulled up by a French friend for using that in ‘oui’, so perhaps it’s considered careless, or maybe it sounded like an affectation coming from a non-native. It’s somewhere between common and normal in my experience though.

  25. Or better yet: what Y said. I never made the connection between the oui/merci fricative and the ‘pas du tout’ (etc) one (see Y’s link).

  26. I got pulled up by a French friend for using that in ‘oui’

    That’s weird, because I’ve heard lots of French people using it. I wonder what the objection was?

  27. Probably: “you are a scollard [or a foreigner], you should speak scollardly”.

  28. Also, some minimal fluency is needed before you speak a foreign language in a certain manner. I used to try to curse in French. But after a few “ce putain de …”, non-fluent, unnatural, and unconfident about the gender (I think the gender of “putain” follows the real noun, but I’m not sure), I feel myself laughable already and never cursed again, except for small tags like “Putain !” or “Merde !”.

  29. marie-lucie says:

    French final devoicing in oui, pas du tout, etc:

    I don’t remember hearing this (or pronouncing it!), and I don’t have other speakers around me at the moment, but I am not completely surprised.

    French (especially in somewhat formal speech) tends to have tense articulation, and after an utterance-final vowel the tension needs to be released, which results in the “hhh”-like perceived sound. If the speaker keeps the mouth parts in the same position as for the high vowel (i or ou), the “hhh” comes out as a voiceless palatal or velar fricative.

  30. marie-lucie says:

    Breffni: That’s a voiceless palatal fricative, Stu – like in German ich or at the start of English ‘human’. I got pulled up by a French friend for using that in ‘oui’

    My guess is that your fricative was too strongly so! and therefore did not sound French.

    On the other hand, it is difficult for my anglophone friends (even those very fluent in French) to pronounce the final sound in words like soleil, which is a voiced palatal fricative. They pronounce it like the English “approximative” /j/ in diphthongs such as the /ej/ in day, which can be described as a very weak version of the initial of you (itself a little weaker than the one in soleil).

  31. marie-lucie: My guess is that your fricative was too strongly so! and therefore did not sound French

    Quite likely; that or simple overuse. Thanks for the tip on ‘soleil’ etc.; I’m pretty sure I don’t have any frication in there, but that’s all going to change now! It’ll be like the great donnait – donné revolution of ’89.

  32. The song is definitely in standard Arabic. I can’t make anything of the first line, but the rest is:

    عيوني ليلي في الآفاق لاح
    وعيوني ليلي في الآفاق لاح
    فاسقنيها الرغا الطير ولاح
    أمان أمان آه يا ليلي

    The trouble is that, even by the rather lax standards of song-writing, it doesn’t make a lot of sense:

    My eyes, my night in the horizons loomed
    And my eyes, my night in the horizons loomed
    So give it to me to drink, the ??? the bird and it loomed
    La la la, oh my night

    Perhaps that first line that I’m missing is vital to understanding it. Or perhaps the budget didn’t stretch to hiring a songwriter.

  33. Thanks, I’d been wondering about the song!

  34. I just assumed the song was a recording they’d snagged somewhere.

  35. David Marjanović says:

    French prepausal [ç], common in Paris, occurs not only with [i], [y] and of course [j] (see below), but even with [e]: I’ve heard it loudly and clearly with portemonnaie (…where the use of [e] instead of [ɛ] is itself rather newfangled). It doesn’t really begin after the vowel, but during it; the voice stops earlier than the friction.

    The English ay sound clearly does not contain any consonant, approximant or otherwise; it’s a diphthong, [e̞ɪ̯] (a bit more open throughout than the [ei̯] you can find in Mandarin). I used to take the French sound at the end of soleil, gentil, Versailles, Marseille as [j], but I’ll need to pay more attention to find out if it’s actually the voiced fricative [ʝ]; there are reasons to suspect that my native /j/ is actually a nasalized [ʝ̃].

    On a strictly phonetic level, there are languages that allow diphthongs in [i̯] or [ɪ̯], and there are other languages that allow [j] to close a syllable. English, German and Mandarin belong to the first type, the Slavic languages and apparently French to the second. Only the Maastricht dialect “of Dutch” is reported to allow both (and have minimal pairs between them).

  36. If you know or can dig up any minimal pairs, please share!

  37. marie-lucie says:

    David:

    portemonnaie (…where the use of [e] instead of [ɛ] is itself rather newfangled)

    Unfortunately (in my opinion), the use of [e] instead of [ɛ] in so-called “Parisian” French is NOT newfangled. The French vowel inventory has been diminishing for years, and the mid vowels have been steadily reducing with the contrast [e/ɛ] becoming allophonic rather than phonemic: [e] in open (CV) syllables, [ɛ] in closed (CVC) syllables. I think that part of it is due to the in-migration of Southerners to the North, especially Paris, their large numbers in the teaching profession everywhere, and the fact that even those people not in regular contact with them here Southern-influenced speech among radio and TV personnel. But this can’t be the only cause.

    As for la monnaie ‘currency, small change’, la paie ‘pay(check)’ and similar words, some of them have verbal or other counterparts in which the phoneme /j/ occurs in some forms and regularization has extended the pronunciation to all forms. That is probably what you have heard. For instance, with the verb payer ‘to pay’, the Standard present forms paie(s), paient, traditionally [pɛ], are often pronounced as if written paye- [pɛj] (I use both pronunciations myself, depending on the level of formality I observe). The [j] is also found in the past participle payé and the noun payeur ‘payer’. Monnaie has the derivatives monnayer ‘to monetize’ and faux-monnayeur ‘money forger’.

    I used to take the French sound at the end of soleil, gentil, Versailles, Marseille as [j], but I’ll need to pay more attention to find out if it’s actually the voiced fricative [ʝ]

    It is indeed a voiced fricative (same as in payer etc), but it does not occur in the masculine form gentil (pronounced as if “genti”) ‘nice, friendly, Gentile’, only in the feminine form gentille. The exception is le gentilhomme ‘nobleman’ (pronounced as if “gentillomme”), which shows that it must have occurred in earlier stages of French.

    Nowadays, words ending in -Cil are awkward: depending on how common they are, they tend to end in [i] (like le persil ‘parsley’ or le fusil ‘rifle’) or (through spelling pronunciation) in [il] (like le chenil ‘dog house (for many dogs), dog shelter’ or le fenil ‘hay house’). As with gentil/gentille, derivatives of these words have -ill- pronounced with [j]: persiller ‘to add small bits of parsley to (a food)’, fusiller ‘to kill (a person) by firing squad’.

  38. David Marjanović says:

    If you know or can dig up any minimal pairs, please share!

    Well. The claim and a source are here. What isn’t there is the actual example, or any other special characters. It says “see image”, but no image exists.

    I have a pdf of the whole thing. That pdf no longer exists online, and it’s miscoded anyway: “\k{Ü\ [k{ÜD] ‘billiard cue’ vs. \k{Üj\ [k{Üj] ‘cow.PLURAL’”. I think I remember that the version I saw long ago had ø instead of .

    it does not occur in the masculine form gentil (pronounced as if “genti”) ‘nice, friendly, Gentile’, only in the feminine form gentille

    The German Wiktionary says the /j/ does appear in the masculine form when it’s followed by a vowel. Between prevocalic [j] and prepausal [ç], it makes sense that I hadn’t noticed the form that ends in [i]…

  39. Gussenhoven’s paper’s online at his website. The commenting system won’t let me post with links at the moment, but the quote is:

    Thus /deː/ [deːʲ] ‘that (one)’ does not rhyme with /beːj/ ‘offer-1SG’, and neither does /køː/ [køːʲ] ‘billiard cue’ with /køːj/ ‘cow’ (pl.). (There is no rhyme */oːβ̰/ to rival the similarly diphthongal /oː/.)

  40. marie-lucie says:

    David: The German Wiktionary says the /j/ does appear in the masculine form when it’s followed by a vowel. Between prevocalic [j] and prepausal [ç], it makes sense that I hadn’t noticed the form that ends in [i]…

    I checked the TLFI, which says this happens with a liaison, as in un gentil enfant ‘nice (boy) child’ pronounced as if une gentille enfant (the latter possible if referring to a little girl), but the attestation of this liaison rule is quite old and now probably obsolete. I think that most if not all people nowadays would just ignore the l and pronounce the adjective as ending in i, just as in un joli enfant ‘a pretty child’.

    This example is one among several cases of awkward and now largely unused liaisons, others being for instance un long hiver ‘a long winter’ formerly pronounced as if un lonk hiver but nowadays avoided in favour of un hiver très long, or the phrase in the Marseillaise qu’un sang impur… ‘let an impure (enemy) blood …’, which my mother learned in school as qu’un sank impur but that people of my generation (and later ones) learned without the liaison.

  41. This example is one among several cases of awkward and now largely unused liaisons, others being for instance un long hiver ‘a long winter’ formerly pronounced as if un lonk hiver but nowadays avoided in favour of un hiver très long, or the phrase in the Marseillaise qu’un sang impur… ‘let an impure (enemy) blood …’, which my mother learned in school as qu’un sank impur but that people of my generation (and later ones) learned without the liaison.

    Fascinating, thanks for sharing that!

  42. David Marjanović says:

    …You know what? Affrication is so pervasive in northern French nowadays that I’ve probably never heard gentil either with [i] or with [ij], only with some kind of syllabic [çʝ] or something.

    The same happens to u, as in the interjection ô putain where it’s more or less just a voiceless whistle [çʷ] anymore.

    several cases of awkward and now largely unused liaisons

    Old French word-final devoicing! 🙂 I didn’t know it survived for so long in other words than quand.

  43. marie-lucie says:

    David: Of course you must know un grand homme, un grand arbre, etc with /t/ as the liaison consonant.

  44. David Marjanović says:

    I didn’t, and now I wonder why. ~:-| I’ll be in Paris in February.

    It’s possible that I learned this before I figured out that /d/ is supposed to be actually voiced in French, so I didn’t pay attention whenever I heard it.

  45. marie-lucie says:

    Grand for the masculine form is actually a relatively modern spelling: OF had grant as the masculine form, but the word was respelled later by analogy with the feminine grande. But the feminine form must have been grand (with final d pronounced): witness the archaic forms grand-mère ‘grandmother’, grand-messe ‘high mass (in church)’ and grand-rue ‘main street’ (all with silent d). These words used to be spelled grand’mère, grand’messe and grand’rue (as I learned them) in the erroneous belief that the adjective part of these words had once ended in schwa, and were changed to the current spelling a few decades ago.

    That the feminine did not originally end with schwa is due to the fact that the Latin ancestor was grande, a 3rd declension word which did not vary according to gender. Most French final schwas come from the Latin 1st declension ending -a which was usually associated with the feminine gender.

  46. marie-lucie says:

    Grand-oncle ‘great-uncle’ also has the original /t/ of the masculine form.

  47. David Marjanović says:

    the Latin ancestor was grande, a 3rd declension word which did not vary according to gender

    Well, it did, but not in a way relevant to French: grandis m/f nominative, grandem m/f accusative, grande n nom/acc.

    Many villages still have a main street spelled Grand’Rue.

  48. marie-lucie says:

    David: grande: indeed, but I understand that final -m was lost long before OF came along.

    Grand’Rue : In most villages, such a minor change in spelling would not be worth the trouble of changing the street sign.

  49. I was having a discussion on another site recently about gender-marking, and how there are a lot of adjectives for which the masculine and feminine forms were identical in Latin, but are distinguished in French. Occitano-Romance seems similar in this regard, though not quite as innovative (Catalan distinguishes pairs like dolç/dolça, fort/forta and verd/verda like French, but uses epicene forms for grande, excel·lent and intel·ligent), though even Ibero-Romance shows a little innovation (compare Spanish inglés/inglesa with Italian anglese). It seems to correlate with propensity for final vowel deletion – that is, if we ignore Romanian.

  50. Although I just now recall that Catalan distinguishes some pairs that even French doesn’t, like trist/trista.

  51. marie-lucie says:

    Catalan forms: perhaps those epicene forms are “learned” ones, kept close to the Latin originals.
    .
    Italian “English” is inglese, and the country Inghilterra

  52. David Marjanović says:

    I understand that final -m was lost long before OF came along

    Yes; this is what made even the m/f and the n forms identical in the accusative/oblique.

  53. But dulcis, fortis, viridis, tristis are all 3rd declension too, with a common m/f form in all cases. How did OF end up with a voicing contrast for grant while adding (analogical?) -a in other cases?

  54. “Analogy operates irregularly to produce [higher-level] regularity.” —H.E. Sturtevant, ca. 1945

  55. marie-lucie says:

    dulcis, fortis, viridis, tristis are all 3rd declension too

    I am not sure. They all have a middle cluster, different from that of grand- (viridis lost its middle vowel early, hence virdis). Etienne, can you help again?

  56. Just so, but my imagination fails to come up with a sense in which /grant/~/grand/ is more regular than, e.g., /grand/~/grande/. Obviously because I don’t know OF.

  57. (Previous comment was in response to JC).

    @M-L, the clusters in virde(m) and grande(m) are both /-Rd-/, but of course the nasal might make a difference. Or even the /a/ before it.

  58. marie-lucie says:

    Lars: Yes, nasals do not always behave like “R” which is more likely to apply only to r and l. But I don’t want to speculate – Etienne is the expert here.

  59. You called?

    I admit it is unclear to me why French has an analogically built feminine form GRANDE (instead of *GRANTE) versus VERTE. Will look it up if I find the time. The forms DOUCE and FORTE are not a problem: they had masculine forms whose final stops were never voiced, as consonant clusters whose first element was a liquid and the second a stop were not voiced intervocalically. As for TRISTE: its form is anomalous (we’d expect a form *TRÎTE) and thus it is a learned or semi-learned form.

  60. What stage in the history of French do those forms represent? (And are they orthographic, phonemic or phonetic? Inquiring minds want to know).

    Marie-Lucie said yesterday that the feminine had to have been /grand/ without a schwa, back when there were schwas.

  61. marie-lucie says:

    Lars, I defer to Etienne’s expertise.

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