RAMADAN/RAMZAN.

Today is the first day of Ramadan, and Nancy Gandhi reminds us that in the Indian subcontinent it’s known as Ramzan. So I thought I’d explain the d/z variation, for those who (as is quite natural) find it confusing.
The Arabic letter Daad (I’m using D for the sound normally written as d with a dot underneath) represents one of the “emphatic” consonants peculiar to the language; I won’t try to describe their articulation in detail (especially since I have no confidence in my ability to pronounce them correctly), but they involve retraction of the tongue and pharyngealization, and this particular one is so difficult for foreigners to produce that Arabs sometimes call themselves “the people of the (letter) Daad.” In most of the Arab world it is a stop, but in Iraq it is a fricative, like the /th/ of the (but with “emphasis”). Since it was from Iraq that Persia was conquered, the Persians borrowed this letter (like the other voiced fricatives of Arabic) as /z/, and since it was via Persia that the Turks and Indians received Islam (and along with it the Arabic language), words with Arabic D are represented in the Turkic languages and in Hindi/Urdu with z. Thus the names Zia (as in General Zia ul-Haq) for Arabic Dia and Reza for Arabic RiDa, and thus ramazan (Turkish) and ramzan (Hindi/Urdu) for Arabic ramaDaan. And a Ramadan mubarak to all my Muslim readers!

Comments

  1. Thanks, I was wondering!

  2. Subhash Ghosh says:

    What do the Iranians say “RAMZAN” or “RAMADAN”?
    According to you then the Arabic form in English is RAMADAN. Am I right?
    I am not a Muslim, but was always curious about this confusion between RAMZAN and RAMADAN. As a South Asian RAMADAN sounded awfully wrong to me

  3. Subhash Ghosh says:

    What do the Iranians say “RAMZAN” or “RAMADAN”?
    According to you then the Arabic form in English is RAMADAN. Am I right?
    I am not a Muslim, but was always curious about this confusion between RAMZAN and RAMADAN. As a South Asian RAMADAN sounded awfully wrong to me

  4. Yes, we say Ramadan in English, because we got it direct from Arabic. But of course it sounds wrong to you, since you grew up with the -z- form. (The Iranians say ramazan.)

  5. Interesting, but I guess not unexpected, that the Russians should have gotten ??????? through the Turkic/Iranian channel rather than through the European one.

  6. Oh dear. Originally that said “ramazan” in Cyrillic.

  7. assalam-o-alaikum how r u tum ko ur tumaharay ghur waloon ko mary turaf say ramadan mubarak ho ur ALLAH TUM KO UR TUMAHARAY GHUR WALOON KO TUMAM ROZAY RUKHNAY KE TOFIQ ATA FURMAYE (AMIN )TUM MARAY LIYE UR APNAY LIYA ALLAH SAY PRAY KURNA

  8. SUKRIYA–FOR THIS COMPLEX WORDS.

  9. Ibn Arabi says:

    The books of old describe the sound of the above mentioned letter as a lateral fricative. The modern Arab pronunciation is like a D but how would Persians hear a Z if it sounded like a D?
    The sound is made with side(s) of the tongue and upper molars thus eminating from either or both sides of the mouth, such that if one were to press the cheeks, it cannot be articulated.
    This explains why the letter is pronounced Zaad in Persian and not Daad.

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