Orthographic equivalent of Arabic "s" in medieval Spanish

Outsider

Senior Member
Portuguese (Portugal)
Here lies the problem. Why pick <c> / <ç>, and not <s> ?
They must have had some reason.
As regards the treatment of the two Arabic /s/s in Spanish borrowings, I have detected three cases.

1) Arab. ? (emphatic /s/) > Medieval Span. <ç> [ts] > Modern Span. <z> [?].
e.g. al-qaSr ????? “the castle” > Alcaçar > Alcázar

2) Arab. ? (non-emphatic /s/) > Span. <s>
e.g. sulTaan ????? “sultan” > sultán

3) Arab. ? (non-emphatic /s/) > Medieval Span. <ç> [ts] > Modern Span. <z> [?].
e.g. Tassa(t) ??? “teacup” > taza
siid ???“lord, sir” > El Çid > El Cid

The problem is how to account for (3).
According to the dictionary of the RAE, Spanish sultán is derived from Turkish. It's of course possible that it reached Spanish via Arabic (but why then does the dictionary not say that), but it's also possible that this word was borrowed at a later period of history than the others. Maybe it's post-medieval...

In short, I am not convinced that sultán is a valid counterexample to my statement.
 
  • cherine

    Moderator
    Arabic (Egypt).
    Cherine, how was the letter Saad <ص> pronounced in Medieval Arabic?
    Sorry for the late reply. Please see here the pronounciation of the letter ص witht the vowels (a-i-u). The second one صِ is (Si).
    çu: açucar (p. 23)
    This word is taken from the Arabic one as-sukkar السكر which is written with a س not a ص .
    Be that as it may, the graphemes "ce", "çe" and "ci", "çi" were phonetically equivalent, as you example clearly shows. And since there was no standard orthography at the time of El Cid, it is not wrong to spell it with "c" rather than "ç".
    I tend to agree with this explanation.
    Here lies the problem. Why pick <c> / <ç>, and not <s> ?
    They must have had some reason.
    If Spanish followed the same way of transliterating foreign words that we follow in Arabic, I think there's no need to look for a reason. People often transliterate foreign or borrowed words freely; i.e. with no fixed rules. You can see many examples of this in the Arabic forum.
    No, Whodunit. Arabic "s" normally became "c/ç" (or "z") in Iberian languages. I have read this from Portuguese philologists, and there are plenty of other examples, such as Sp. alcázar / Port. alcácer from Arab. al-qasr.
    I think I should remind the there are two "s" in Arabic. The "s" of el-cid is the letter sin س , while that of al-qasr is a sad ص which is written and pronounced differently.
    As regards the treatment of the two Arabic /s/s in Spanish borrowings, I have detected three cases.

    1) Arab. ص (emphatic /s/) > Medieval Span. <ç> [ts] > Modern Span. <z> [θ].
    e.g. al-qaSr القصر “the castle” > Alcaçar > Alcázar

    2) Arab. س (non-emphatic /s/) > Span. <s>
    e.g. sulTaan سلطان “sultan” > sultán

    3) Arab. س (non-emphatic /s/) > Medieval Span. <ç> [ts] > Modern Span. <z> [θ].
    e.g. Tassa(t) طسة “teacup” > taza
    siid سيد“lord, sir” > El Çid > El Cid

    The problem is how to account for (3).
    I think (or hope :) ) my suggestion related to the free transliteration can explain this.


    To sum up my point: I don't think we need to worry about the reason of the choice of "c" instead of "s" in the Spanish spelling of the word cid. The important thing in transliterating foreign words is, in my humble opinion, the sound and not the spelling.


    Edit:
    I had posted this in the other thread about El Cid, but I think it fits more in here. Thanks Outsider for opening this thread :)
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I think I should remind the there are two "s" in Arabic. The "s" of el-cid is the letter sin [...], while that of al-qasr is a sad [...] which is written and pronounced differently.
    In Arabic yes, but I don't think that Iberian languages made that distinction when they borrowed words from Arabic.

    I think (or hope :) ) my suggestion related to the free transliteration can explain this.
    If it were free transliteration, I don't think there would be such a clear preference for c/ç in medieval texts.

    P.S. For the benefit of Cherine and other Arabic speakers possibly reading, I should explain that "c" and "ç" are not independent letters in the Romance languages. They are complementary: "c" is normally used before "e" or "i", while "ç" is used before other vowels. Sometimes in medieval texts, though, scribes would use "ç" before all vowels, even "e" and "i". But it is always clear that the two characters stood for a single sound (phoneme).
     

    cherine

    Moderator
    Arabic (Egypt).
    In Arabic yes, but I don't think that Iberian languages made that distinction when they borrowed words from Arabic.
    Excatly. This is why I say that there was no distinction in the Spanish transliteration of the two different Arabic letters/sounds.
    The same phenomenon exists in the other way round: in Arabic there's no distinction between v-f nor b-p.

    If it were free transliteration, I don't think there would be such a clear preference for c/ç in medieval texts.
    I didn't know there's a preference for the c/ç. Do you have an explanation for this preference?
    And one more question, please: did the c/ç become z in modern transcription? or s? or did they remain the same?
    P.S. For the benefit of Cherine and other Arabic speakers possibly reading, I should explain that "c" and "ç" are not independent letters in the Romance languages.
    Yes, I know this (French influence :) ) But I automotically read the ç as (c/s) while I read the c in Spanish words as th (as in "thin"). So, thanks for confirming they're the same.


    One more confirmation needed: Do the c and s sound the same? or are they pronounced differently?
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    I didn't know there's a preference for the c/ç. Do you have an explanation for this preference?
    I have a suspicion, but since it's only a suspicion which I've never confirmed in scholarly work I would love to hear what others have to say about it before biasing the discussion. :eek: ;)

    And one more question, please: did the c/ç become z in modern transcription? or s? or did they remain the same?
    In modern Spanish, "ç" was replaced by "z" before the vowels "a", "o", and "u". Nowadays, it is "c" and "z" which are complementary in this language. But in other Romance languages it is still "c" and "ç".

    In Portuguese, "ç" was replaced by "s" at the begining of a small number of words, such as surda (cf. French çurda).

    One more confirmation needed: Do the c and s sound the same? or are they pronounced differently?
    Nowadays, it depends on the language. Ce and ci sound different from se and si in Italian and European Spanish, but they sound the same in other Romance languages. However, it is usually stated by scholars that they had distinct sounds in all Romance languages for some time in the Middle Ages. In words derived from Latin, they typically have different origins (s from -s-, -ss- or -ns-; c/ç from -c(i)-, -t(i)-).

    See also this discussion. :)
     
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