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الثقافة العامة

Discussion in 'العربية (Arabic)' started by eac, Feb 6, 2008.

  1. eac Senior Member

    USA, English
    I was reading a paper online called "Islamic Education in Syria" and I read this:

    Syrian students at the university level are dismissive of the saqafa al-`amma or general culture class, in which students learn Ba`thist ideology. When I was a student at the University of Damascus in the 1980s, this class was universally referred to as “sakhafa” or silliness class.

    I am familiar with the word sakhafa (although I think we would spell it sakhaafa) but I can't find saqafa. Is this a word used only in Syria? Also why is it not as-saqafa al-'amma? (This could be a case of the author of the paper remembering the name of the class wrong of course!)
  2. clevermizo Moderator

    St. Louis, MO
    English (USA), Spanish
    The word is ثقافة thaqaafa meaning "culture". The pronunciation saqaafa can be found in some dialects, such as Syrian. Some speakers in my experience are careful to pronounce th in words such as this (perhaps "higher vocabulary" or borrowings from MSA), but in the general lexicon the phonemes th ث and dh ذ of the urban dialects are pronounced as s and z respectively.

    Also I think it should be الثقافة العامة ath-thaqaafa(tu) l-3aamma. If this is pronounced in Syrian dialect, I believe it would be is-sa2aafe il-3aamme or perhaps with q, is-saqaafe il-3aamme.

    It is because of the pronunciation of ث as that the joke about it being sa5aafe works.
  3. Josh_ Senior Member

    the phrontistery
    U.S., English
    In the Egyptian dialect the word ثقافة (thaqaafa) is pronounced as saqaafa. I guess it must be the same in the Syrian dialect.

    Edit: Clevermizo beat me to it.
  4. eac Senior Member

    USA, English
    Thanks to both of you.
  5. Mahaodeh Senior Member

    Arabic and English
    The differece between الثقافة العامة and ثقافة العامة is that the first is "general education/culture" while the second is "the education/culture of the people" (i.e. pop culture). In the first case, العامة is صفة to الثقافة and the word would mean "general", The word is the feminine form of عام; while the second is مضاف إليه and the word is not the feminine of عام, it is a stand alone noun meaning "the people in general", "the masses" or "عوام الناس"; note that اللهجة العاميّة is referring to the second meaning not the first.
  6. clevermizo Moderator

    St. Louis, MO
    English (USA), Spanish
    Ahh. Thanks! That makes sense now. The original refers must be مضاف إليه because of the transliteration. Otherwise, commonly the transliteration might be "al-thaqafa". It also makes the joke: سخافة العامة funnier as well (the people's silliness, rather than general silliness).
  7. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Urbana-Champaign, IL
    Am. English, Pal. Arabic (See profile)
    I don't think that this is an iDaafa (and I don't think that's what Mahaodeh was saying, either). I am certain it is الثقافة العامة, which is evidenced by the translation used in the original text. It's just that when you say الثقافة العامة (with no words preceding it) in relaxed conversation, the first أ is dropped and as ث and س are "sun letters," the ل of the article is replaced with a second ث or س, so it comes out (assuming a س pronunciation) as "s-saqaafe l-3aamme," which in rapid speech can be reduced to just "saqaafe l-3aamme." I assume that the author of the article was trying to render the colloquial pronunciation of the MSA title. ثقافة العامة would be a really odd title for a course and would certainly not be translated as "general culture."

    By the way, in Palestinian Arabic we say "(i)th-thaqaafe 'l-3aamme." We often pronounce ث as "t" (but not as "s") and ق as "2," but not in this case. The following would all sound really strange:


    I would even venture to say that the italicized pronunciations simply do not occur in Palestinian Arabic. I've certainly never heard them, and this is not an uncommon word. We also say "muthaqqaf," etc.
  8. clevermizo Moderator

    St. Louis, MO
    English (USA), Spanish

    Thanks for confirming some pronunciation norms.:D I believe in the south (Israel/Palestine, Jordan) it is more common to pronounce MSA borrowings containing ث as th while in the north (Syria/Leb.) it becomes s. Would you more likely say mathalan or masalan? thiqa or siqa/si2a? madrase thanawiyye or madrase sanawiyye?

    Back on topic, I guess the other clue I didn't think of that this is not iDaafa is the lack of -t: saqaafet il-3aamme, it is clearly written in the excerpt "saqafa al-`amma" without any t.
  9. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Urbana-Champaign, IL
    Am. English, Pal. Arabic (See profile)
    I (like most people I know) say mathalan, thiqa, and thaanawiyye*, but matalan and tanawiyye* (and occasionally masalan) are also relatively common. Other variants occur either rarely or not at all.

    *Some people also pronounce this word thanawiyye (with a th and a short a), but taanawiyye (with a t and a long a) is not common in my experience.

    It might interest you to know that in Sakhnin, the northern Israeli Arab city my dad's family is from, ث is regularly pronounced th in all words (so they say thneen, thuum, ba3ath, etc.).

    Incidentally, I don't know how I feel about the term "MSA borrowings," but I guess that's a topic for another thread. :)
    Yes, good point.
  10. clevermizo Moderator

    St. Louis, MO
    English (USA), Spanish
    It is a topic for another thread, but I just wanted to make a quick comment. I don't like calling it this either, but I don't know if "higher vocabulary" is better. The phenomenon is words which have been borrowed straight from fuS7a without passing through the dialectal phonology entirely, or which have some how been made more faSii7. This is different from many rural dialects in the Levant which have retained th, dh, q natively. In the urban dialects of Syria and Lebanon, I guess we can say th and dh have been lost entirely, and so when a word such as mathalan is used, the approximation is made with s. Here thaqaafa becomes saqaafe. Thiqa becomes siqa, and so forth. In my experience in Amman speech, th and dh are still very common, but it depends on one's provenance whether they are pronounced in all words from which they come etymologically, or just in "higher" lexical items.
  11. elroy

    elroy Motley mod

    Urbana-Champaign, IL
    Am. English, Pal. Arabic (See profile)
    (Thanks for your "quick" comment ;) but I'll refrain from addressing it so as to stay on-topic. Perhaps we can continue this conversation by PM.)

    It occurs to me that another reason for the absence of the article could be that the Arabic expression, embedded in an English text, is directly preceded by "the":
    As a fluent Arabic-English code-switcher :D, I find "the الثقافة العامة" very unnatural, so perhaps the writer subconsciously transliterated the expression as he would have probably said it if he were code-switching in speech.

    And speaking of code-switching "rules," you wouldn't use "faSii7" in your sentence, Clevermizo. It would have to be "faSi7iin." :D
  12. Mahaodeh Senior Member

    Arabic and English
    I'm sorry if I didn't make myself clear: I was just mentioning the difference between the two expressions and I was not implying that the author means "pop culture" or anything similar.

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