رجاء

I was giving an impromptu Turkish lesson to an American which a native speaker happened to overhear. I had uttered the common phrase “rica ederim”, and was corrected with “reca ederim”.

Naturally my curiosity was piqued, so I scrambled to various Turkish and Arabic dictionaries and have confirmed the following information:

  • In Arabic it is most certainly رَجَاء (rajaa2), not رِجَاء (rijaa2)
  • In Tajikistan the word is spelt “раҷо”, with the same pronunciation as “rajo” in Uzbekistan. We can assume that Iranians and Afghanistanis also pronounce this word in accordance with the fat7a of the original Arabic.
  • But officially in Turkey and Azerbaijan it is “rica”, not reca/rəca. The latter spelling is for those who, principally for religious reasons, are familiar with the original Arabic spelling.

The question which remains, however, is why this word is pronounced “rica” in Turkey and Azerbaijan! As near as I can tell, it has to do with the assumption that if a word written “consonant, consonant, alif, consonant”, then the vowel between the first two consonants must be “i”, thus: XiXaaX, as in “kitaab”, “7innaa2”, “kiraa2”, etc.

This explanation makes sense if we assume (as I do) that there were many Ottoman Turks who understood the basic concepts of Arabic grammar (as I do) but really had no practical use for the language and hence mainly made use of it for loan words in other languages (as I do). Thus, only a few pedants (such as myself and my interlocutor mentioned above) would have even cared enough to check the actual 7arakaat (the sort of people who, even in the early Republican era, made a point of pronouncing the ع).

Further evidence is provided by the word “filan”, which in Arabic is actually “fulaan” (famously the source of the Spanish “Fulano”), although in this case the word has another realisation: “falan”, which is the result of Turkic vowel harmony, rather than overzealous adherence to Arabic patterns.

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