Tlaib (name)


Senior Member
American English
An American politician who has become famous in the last couple of years is named "Rashida Tlaib". She was born here, but her parents and husband came from Palestine.

Americans talking about political news all pronounce her name as if it were spelled "Talib", with the A and L in her last name reversed from the way it's written, so this spelling and pronunciation can't both be right. The simplest explanation would be that the letters A and L got written in the wrong order when her husband Fayez Tlaib (or someone earlier in his family) first needed to have that name recorded by people who use Roman letters. Is that what happened?

If not, this leads me to separate questions for the parts before and after the L:

After the L, is there supposed to be the diphthong "ai", as it's written, or just the monophthong "i", as they pronounce it? (And why would a diphthong that's common in English get replaced with a monophthong by American speakers? That kind of thing is usually done to sounds that people find difficult to pronounce, not sounds that are common & easy for them.)

And before the L, is there a vowel sound? (If so, it really should be represented by a letter in the romanization, even if it's not in Arabic.) And if there isn't, does the L lateralize the preceding T, as it would in some English accents (such as Ian McKellan's and Judy Dench's) and Central American languages like Nahuatl? (That's one sound at the end, a voiceless lateral affricate, the same thing that often ends up as a "c" in words like "Aztec" and "Olmec".) I haven't heard of Arabic having such a "tl" cluster before, but I don't know what else to think about the lack of a written vowel even in the romanization.
  • wriight

    Senior Member
    English (US) / Arabic (Lebanon)
    Complicating matters greatly is the fact that, while "taleeb" in English likely arises from a misreading of tlaib as talib, it's actually a totally-possible reading of her name in Arabic -- طليب. I found at least one video in Arabic pronouncing her name as طَلِيب ṭalīb, even though the English transliteration suggests طلَيْب ṭlayb.

    I haven't heard her pronouncing her own name, so I suppose there's no way to know for sure. However, I'll trust that this...
    The simplest explanation would be that the letters A and L got written in the wrong order when her husband Fayez Tlaib (or someone earlier in his family) first needed to have that name recorded by people who use Roman letters.
    ...didn't happen, meaning whoever decided on the English transliteration was cognizant enough to avoid typo-ing it and they consciously chose to write it as Tlaib.

    In that case, we're assuming that the transliteration is accurate: it then follows that the common "taleeb" and "tahlib" pronunciations are incorrect, and the most-correct renditions are (1) to read it as written (as /tleɪb/, that is) or (2) to attempt to say "tlibe" using the vowel of "bright": /tlʌɪb/.
    (In English varieties that don't exhibit Canadian raising anywhere, "using the vowel of 'bright'" is meaningless/indistinct, so just tlibe /tlaɪb/ will do)

    I haven't heard of Arabic having such a "tl" cluster before

    The 'original' form of her name is probably the cluster-less ṭulayb /tˤu.ˈlajb/, but this form would only be used today in Modern Standard Arabic (the artificial, elevated register of the language used for media and such), if at all: in the few Arabic news reports I've found, they go with one of the 'common' pronunciations even though they're reporting in MSA. As a name, however, this original form would be transliterated tulaib or tulayb.

    You may know that Arabic's in a state of diglossia, where two very different forms of the language coexist and are used in different situations by the speech community. Existing alongside Modern Standard Arabic is the contemporary Arabic language, which varies from region to region on a dialect continuum. In many dialects, including Palestinian, a general trend is to have deleted any short vowels when they're unstressed & in a position like the u in ṭulayb. That's the reason for the tl cluster, as it results in ṭlayb */tˤlajb/.

    Pharyngealization also tends to spread within a word, here to the adjacent /a/ vowel, so the resultant pronunciation is /tˤlαjb/. This is one appropriate pronunciation of her name, suited to 'affected' dialectal speech (like, formal-ish but still colloquial), and it's approximated as (2) above.

    In Palestinian Arabic and other dialects, original */aj/ diphthongs have also generally collapsed to an /e̞ː/ monophthong, resulting in /tˤle̞ːb/. This is the common pronunciation of her name, and it's approximated as (1) above.

    A neat coincidence is that the "ai" in Tlaib is *meant* to represent the /tˤlαjb/ pronunciation, but reading it as English gives you a valid approximation of the /tˤle̞ːb/ pronunciation instead.


    Senior Member
    That may be how it's pronounced by Americans but that's not how it's pronounced in Arabic. The name Tlaib is very obviously طلَيب and is pronounced as wriight has said. I hope I won't offend when I suggest that America has never struck me as a country which is overly concerned with pronouncing names correctly.


    Senior Member
    Tlaib seems to be a dimiunitive of Talab " an order" .In this case, the accurate pronunciation would be "Tulaib".But, Tlaib is surely the dialectal pronunciation.