FSI Levantine Course: R10-S8

  • Sometimes I hear a word starting in أَع and I think it starts عَ
  • Sometimes I hear a kasra followed by ح and I think that it´s a fat7a. I may even mistake the ح as a ه
  • Derived forms don´t keep their initial helping vowels in amiyya. Especially not in writing. So I may hear something that sounds like انتظروك but it should be written ntaZaruuk, starting with a consonant.
  • Exercise R10 the most helpful exercise so far. Imitation of velarized sounds.
  • It´s interesting that نتائج turns into ¨nataayij¨ in amiyya… But not wholly surprising since hamza often doesn´t survive the trip.

Automatic transformations

  • ¨When a word ends with kasra + any consonant, and has any vowel-initial suffix added beyond that consonant, the kasra is deleted.
    • the feminine version of faahim is faahme. Btw, these are اسماء فاعل
    • With a direct object, ´as´ilit becomes ´as´ilto (weird!)
    • With a direct object, fihim becomes fihmu.
  •  Yeah, so sometimes I think I have adequately deleted that short vowel, but I accidentally left a little bit. No, it needs to be gone gone. Except when the last consonant is ع, it can get a little ambiguous, I´d say. Otherwise, delete it all.
  • These changes can cause a change in stress. For example مملكة, when it becomes his, turns into ¨memLEKto¨ . That stress sounds so wrong, but it´s right.
  • It seems to be that the cluster that takes the stress is almost always either the long vowel or VCC sequence (the V referring to a short vowel) that is closest to the end of the word. But it can´t further from the end of the word than… antepenultimate?
  • How do I justify the initial stress of أعلمك ?  Hm…

Incredibly useful:

  • ¨Three dissimilar consonants might occur in sequence, either within words or across word boundaries; when this happens, Levantine Arabic will normally tend to break up this three-consonant cluster by inserting an /i/ vowel between the first and second of the three consonants.¨
    • مش كتير is pronounced ¨mish ikteer¨. That kasra is a helping vowel, and it´s artificially added (this is something that has confused me for a long time)
  • The helping vowel can never be stressed. So اسمهم is stressed on the hamza waSl, like isimhom.

Final notes

  • Sometimes I overlook the upside-down carat mark over /s/ to indicate ش (certain transliterations, FSI included – maybe it´s IPA??).
  • Ok, I get that alif is dropped from the definite article in amiyya. But why does the ل sometimes receive a kasra seemingly out of nowhere? Here´s the answer, finally, on p. 97: this happens when a word starts w/ two consonants. The three-consonant cluster is broken with the insertion of a helping kasra between C1 and C2… Thus, things like:
    • liktaab
    • liwlaad
    • libwaab
    • liblaad
    • li7buub
    • likbiir
    • lim3allim
    • likbaar
    • libyuut
  • That phenomena can even occur when the cluster spans a word boundary. It´s important to note that said helping kasra is not coming from the definite article. It comes as a solution to a consonant cluster that may occasionally happen to include the lam from a def. article.
    • mnii7il7amdilla
    • ´awwalimbaari7
    • sittisniin
    • kiifil7aal
    • ´ahlilbeet
    • mni´darinruu7
    • biddakitkuun
    • turu´ikbiire
    • mumkinit´ulli
    • libyuutikbiire
    • mishiktiir
    • Tabeebisnaan

More FSI observations

  • Velarized consonants are transliterated with a cedilla.
  • Velarized consonats are the following four: ظ، ط، ض، ص and they affect the subsequent vowel. However, ق also may affect the subsequent vowel!
  • Sometimes a non-geminated ر in the end of a word will be nonetheless trilled, and that´s weird and kind of hard to do.
  • The letter ق may turn into a hard g not only in Bedouin dialects in the Levant, but also in the Persian Gulf region. (Think تخانقوا , which is ¨They fought each other¨ if I remember correctly. Hard g)
  • ق has a ¨distinctive pop to it¨ — in some words but not others.
  • Words like رَغرِغ are very hard to say with any speed because they involve an alternation between the front and far back of the mouth.
  • Pronunciation of velarized consonants tends to include a slight rounding or protrusion of the lips.
  • You may think that velarized consonants only influence subsequent vowels, but no, they can even influence preceding ones. For example, in faTTa7 versus fatta7, the first fat7as rhyme with duh and bed respectively.
  • ¨It is often quite difficult to hear the difference between velarized and non-velarized /uu/ vowels.¨ Ok, so in order of subtleness from most to least subtle, it´s like
    • /uu/
    • /aa/
    • /ii/  – straight up ridiculous sounding, often
  • But the interesting thing is that فاضي is not pronounced ridiculously. Perhaps because the velarized /ii/ is not in a stressed syllable!

LangMedia: Watching TV

Video: http://langmedia.fivecolleges.edu/culturetalk/arab_levant/content/lb_television_z1e.mp4
Transcript: http://langmedia.fivecolleges.edu/culturetalk/arab_levant/content/lb_television_z1e.pdf

  • I gathered from the first listen:
    • The daughter wants to make plans to watch TV with her dad or something, and she´s psyched about it and I bet he is too even if he doesn´t express it so much 😛
  • Second Listen:
    • Indeed, she´s like, what do you want to do tonight dad? And he is very objective like, well, it is possible to go to the theater and see a good film due to the theater´s proximity from our residence. And then she says, no I prefer to stay at home in the evenings, so he adjusts his recommendation and says that one is also able to watch TV.
    • Hahaha this video is pretty endearing to me because of difference in the personalities of the daughter and the dad and how she is sitting close to him, whereas he seems a little bit stuffy or professorial.
    • I think I heard something very useful, usage of يا… يا to mean ¨either…or¨  he said something like, ¨either a concert or [something]¨
    • So yeah, backing up a bit, this is because the daughter was like, but dad, I don´t want to watch politics, prefer to see something fun. So he mentioned watching concerts on TV and stuff. Some particular singer is being discussed who´s about 55 years old, and she still sings (not that surprising, but the daughter seems kinda surprised).
    • Yeah, so there are two formats of televised concerts: indoor made-for-TV performances (perhaps with a studio audience I suppose) or outdoor festival-type concerts that just happen to also be televised.  He says برة for ¨outside¨, thank God I can recognize that amiyya word now. Phew.
    • So yeah the two settle on watching some music on TV in the evening.
  • Third listen:
    • Oh actually, يا was used in an earlier instance too: ¨either in the cinema or [somewhere else]¨ … I only heard it once in that case, and he said أو after cinema, instead of saying يا again. Interesting.
    • Oh, right. The Dad mentioned something about how new films are released on Fridays, right before the daughter kinda shot that idea down on the grounds that she liked to stay at home in the evening (or actually, return home? I think I heard أعود بالبيت, which would be a surprising preposition).

Didn´t actually read the transcript.

IPA symbols


θ = ث
ð = ذ

Go figure… You learn something new every day! While we’re at it, here’s some other symbols I didn’t know, straight from Wikipedia. Note that emphatic consonants (which I marked in bold) are followed by a marker that’s common to all of them, and the long vowels are marked by something special as well:

dˤ = ض
sˤ = ص
tˤ = ط
ðˤ = ظ
 = ج
ħ = ح
ʃ = ش
ɣ = غ
ʕ = ع
ʕ = ء
uː = و as a vowel (long uu)
iː = ي as a vowel (long ii)
aː = ا or ى (long aa)

FSI exercises O30-P14

Got everything right on the last O exercises, alhamdullah. A few points of interest:

  1. Words that end in kasra + ع  are pronounced differently than I thought – in amiyya, anyhow. I thought it was like “ee3” but the preceding vowel actually sounds closer to  “day” . Like the Spanish e when it has an accent mark. Examples: bibaddi3, birabbi3, mshajji3, byitrajja3, bitwaddi3
  2. The whole thing about pronouncing t’s differently in Arabic doesn’t seem to apply so strictly when the ت follows a saakin س . In those cases (and perhaps others), I’m hearing the ت more closely resemble English frontal t.

As for P exercises, they’re easy so far. Sometimes I do still have trouble with غ because I find that I’ve not used enough air to make the spit vibrate back there, or else there’s not enough spit. But if you use enough air, you can make practically any amount of spit vibrate. You can quote me on that.

Sometimes I’m astonished how few of the words I recognize in these exercises. I start to ask myself, “are all of these real Arabic words?!” because sometimes I don’t even recognize the form, which, thankfully, is a rare occurrence in fus7a anymore. But I did just hear مغفور which I think means deceased. It’s a passive participle of form I غفر , which I actually don’t know the meaning of. But form X is to ask forgiveness, as in استغفر الله

Just heard a reminder than form X loses its initial helping vowel in amiyya: staغfar. Also, oh MAN the word لغلغ is hard to say quickly – but it might be an onomatopoeia, so I’m intrigued.

P8 Dictation Drill, 12/15 correct:

  • Added an accent mark mistakenly over the first e in “ee”. It sounded like a dipthong or something and I still don’t know how they indicate that, for instance, fat7a before a long ii.
  • Second error, غاير was the word but I dictated غيِّر (yup, that old problem again)
  • Third error, I thought I heard a doubled lam in غليت but actually it was only one.

Ok, here’s another word that’s very hard to pronounce بيغَرغِر . Is this even real? Watch it turn out to be onomatopoeia for something incredibly poetic and wondrous. Anyway, my issue is that the kasra is so frontal, and the غ is so not-frontal, that I have trouble maneuvering (my tongue I guess?) so quickly from the back to the front, not to mention doing the ر tap after the kasra. I just gotta practice it.

I didn’t know that ر involves lip rounding. That’s interesting.

P14 Dictation Drill, 13/15 correct:

  • First, I dictated غيّب when the word was really غايب… That type of mistake again, argh
  • And then I neglected the hamza at the end of  byighmi’    (I wrote byighmi) . In my defense, I feel like words ending in short vowels are often said in a clipped way that is hard to distinguish from hamza. It’s not like a short vowel is gonna trail off ever, is it?


Shankaboot ep. 48-52

بدنا ننطر means ¨We have to wait¨ (for Yara to add me on Facebook)

  • I would have thought it meant we want to […], so, clearly بد is more versatile than I realized. It can sub in for لازم and, if I´m not mistaken, it can sometimes impart the future tense.
  • My mind would have reached first for nantaZar rather than nanTar. But come to think of it, both exist in fus7a.
  • Yara has a real Facebook account, now I´m waiting too

hala´ mish mabsooTa? means ¨Aren´t you happy now?¨ (as in, I know you are now)

  • the final vowel of mabsooTa rhymes with ¨duh¨ in this case, rather than ¨day¨
  • I didn´t know how to make this construction in amiyya. In fus7a I suppose you´d say ألا تشعرين بسعادة الآن؟

hhhhhh omg… Teta said is hilarious. Also I want to write a song inspired by Lina´s cyber-skills.

كلنا حاضرين هون؟ means ¨Everybody ready?¨

  • The alif in حاضرين does not sound long, it sounds like a plain old fat7a to me.
  • Kilna, rather than kulna. Of course, it´s Lebanon!


  • Man, I can´t describe how quiet or internalized the ´t´ is at the start of the this word. It sounds like somebody just letting a sudden, tiny burst of air through their nostrils to preface ¨nayn¨ . There is certainly no sibilance from the front teeth – it´s just a very soft nasal thing.

fii ´anuun bijbara ´ana tarji3? means ¨Is there a law that forces her to return?¨

  • First things first. ´ana is pretty important to focus on. So, this means أنّها and it sets up the فاعل for ترجع … But I wasn´t sure how to do it in amiyya. I know that inno is that way to say أنّ, which begs the question: how do you attach a subject pronoun? Now I imagine that أنه in amiyya is simply the same: inno. While أنّها in amiyya sounds exactly like the pronoun I. Let´s guess now, how to say أنّهم… Probably something like, ´annon. What is the grammatical term for أنّ? Conjunction.
  • The next matter at hand is that bijbara seemingly uses a kasra instead of the full ي which would be expected at the start of a imperfect, male, 3rd person conjugation.
  • Also note that tarji3 doesn´t start with ب … I´m still sketchy on when to use ب …

Women have civil rights – il-mara ´ila 7´oo´ medeneeyeen

  • So الها is that amiyya way to say لها as in, she has (or, something is for her).
  • حقوق is ridiculous to pronounce in amiyya since both qafs change to hamzas. All I can say is, the first hamza is brief and the second syllable carries the stress.
  • Note that مدنيين is male plural even though rights is nonhuman. I´m 90% sure that in fus7a, this would be حقوق مدنية, but humanness becomes less (or not at all) salient of a grammatical property in amiyya.
  • I had heard recently than ال never happens in amiyya and it´s always merely the lam. But here, guess what, ال is happening before مرأة .

شاطرة ~ Clever one, smart one (f.)

  • Once again, here I am expecting the final vowel to rhyme with ¨day¨ since this is Lebanese dialect. But no, it rhymes with ¨duh¨

Oh damn, episode 52 is the last one they maaaaade 😵😵😵😵

Shankaboot eps. 44-47

  • The ي on the ending of 2nd person female imperfect verbs (e.g. شو عم بتعملي) may be pronounced so it rhymes with “day” rather than “see” … I never noticed that before.
  • I heard a funny expression: اضحكي بلا اسنان , “May you laugh without teeth” . You say it to scold somebody for laughing about something. It sounded more like “D7aki bela snaan,” which is to say mainly that there wasn’t a hamza at the start of the plural word “teeth”. That shouldn’t be surprising, but the resulting word starts with a saakin consonant, which makes it sound quite a bit different. That seems like a defining characteristic of amiyya: words starting with consonant clusters.
  • When the subtitles say “How the world has changed!” I would expect to hear something like كيف تغيّر الدنيا . What I hear is like… “kiif tghayyret had-duni” so perhaps دنيا, like أرض, is grammatically feminine. As for the ending of that word, maybe the alif is just not emphasized that much. Question: if the word ends in an alif, why isn’t it pronounced dun-YAA based on the stress rules? My understanding was that the last long syllable (e.g., a syllable containing a long vowel) usually takes the stress.
  • If somebody says something and you want to rhetorically ask, “What do you mean, ____?” you can just replace those 4 words with شو . Here’s 3 lines of dialogue from the showin which I bolded parts that I find useful:
    • illi aDrab inno shayifni al-mukhrij. What’s worse is that the director saw me.
    • iza shayifik? So what if he saw you?
    • shuu iza shayifni? What do you mean, so what if he saw you (i.e., of course it’s a problem that he saw me perform badly on TV)
  • House of Obedience (بيت الطاعه) is a cultural or religious term that I hadn’t heard of before. I think the show’s treatment of this term speaks to the progressive role that the creators want to occupy. It’s almost worth re-watching the show to catch more of the subtler cultural references.

Shankaboot eps. 33-43

  • In the Lebanese dialect the alif in قادر rhymes with ¨bet¨ not ¨hot¨. This  suggests that the replacement of ق with ء also entails the removal of ق´s influence on the following vowel.
  • As expected, مذيع is pronounced muzee3
  • شو بدي ابلس : What will I wear, what should I wear?
    • Think of it as a variant on شو بدي قللك ¨shoo biddi il-lak¨ (What can I say?/What can I tell you?/I don´t know what to tell you)
    • Occasionally I notice بد being translated with the future tense… I gotta keep an eye out for that.
    • Finally, I guess it´s البس instead of بلبس since the wearing is hypothetical (can I say subjunctive?)
  • انا بحرسه is like ¨I will guard it¨ (I will guard the moped, in this case) . I knew the active participle, حارس (guard), but I don´t think I had heard the verb before.
  • فم (mouth) becomes دم in amiyya. But unlike the word for blood, I suspect this may not have a geminated miim.
    • sakkir damak = Shut your mouth
  • la, maatat min zamaan   =  ¨No, she died a long time ago¨
    • Remember from the McLoughlin mp3´s? متأسفين استاز، العداد خربان – من زمان = We (I) are sorry, sir, the meter is (has been) broken – since a long time. Is it a polite ¨we¨ or what?
  • ´atalto?  is what I heard but actually it was قتلته؟  Trickyyy… Context helped.
  • Biddi fuut 3al7ammaam = I want to go to the bathroom
    • إلى turned into على turned into ع
    • the gemination in حمّام isn´t audible. Not to me anyway.
    • I thought fuut had to do with entering a building or a space – so I guess the phrase for ¨go to the bathroom¨ is not necessarily with the verb ¨to go¨ (I would have guessed biddi ruu7 la-7ammaam.)
  • I think shermuuta (sharmuuTa?) is a curse word, but I forgot what it means.
  • The part where Rommel is like الشعب يريد سكوت النظام (!!!)  I don´t actually have anything to say about it, it´s just awesome
  • I can´t tell exactly what the evil dying kid says at the end of ep. 43, but I thought maybe he was saying, ¨I can go up to my mother¨ (who presumably is already dead) — baadir aTal3 la-immi. Honestly, that is a pretty out-there guess, but hey, I tried.

FSI drills O22,23



Two distinctions that I do notice are:

  • words starting with ´aع tend to have more word-frontal stress and/or an extra syllable
  • ´aع sometimes sounds like two ¨pieces¨, where ع by itself never does. Wait though: Is it really by itself? Or is it vowelled? Well, the transliteration indicates that ع starting a word will be voweled, whereas words beginning with ´aع have a saakin ع