Transcription (my first question here ever)

In Richard S. Harrell’s books about Moroccan Arabic, some sounds are transcribed using special characters, which I am not sure that they can be typed here. For example, I believe that Darija would be spelled Dariža or perhaps Da?iža (? = r with a dot underneath).

How do you overcome this challenge? Is there another conventional (or academically acceptable) way to transcribe moroccan arabic phonetic sounds into English?


There are the IPA signs (International Phonetic Alphabet), that have special symbols as well, but not everyone understands/uses them.
In SpeakMoroccan, we tried to make things the most simple possible. Here is our adopted transcription.

For r, as it is different from the English one, we made it clear in those general indications, so that we don’t have to write r with a different symbol.
Now for Dariza, z doesn’t sound to be but a z (like in zebra) and writing Darija with z is just confusing. I think they avoid writing it with j, so that you don’t read it with a “dj” sound, Daridja. But again, in our general indications we made it clear that we use j like in “pleasure”. Besides, this is how you will find most Moroccans (mainly French speakers) transliterating.

I hope this answers your question. If not, then please just ask away! We are here to help :).
If there is an advice I can give you, then it’s that you try to learn the Arabic alphabet. It’s fun, and very rewarding! :slight_smile:
Good luck, and be back with all those questions! :wink:

Thank you so much! This warm and lovely welcoming of newcomers is exactly what made me fall in love with Morocco.

I will certainly take your suggestions into account. I already have two questions:

In Richard S. Harrell’s book, he make a distinction between two z sounds: a soft one like like in the word ‘dezna’ (= we passed) and thicker one like in the word ‘zar’ (= to visit). How do you differentiate between the two in transcription? To further clarify, even in classic arabic there is only one letter for the sound ‘z’. How do Morrocans differentiate between the two distinct sounds in Arabic letters?

My second question pertains to grammtical gender: From Richard S. Harrell’s dictionary I know that the word butterfly in translates to fertitu in Darija. The dictionary even provides the plural form: fertituyat. However, it doesn’t provide the gender, i.e. do you say “fertitu kebir” or “fertitu kebira”?

Baraka llahu fik :slight_smile:

We don’t differentiate them, they are almost close and the pronunciation differences are too slight to be noticed. It’s not like t and T differences.

We do not say fertitu in my region, but that’s a masculine word.
There a small hint for feminine words, they usually end with an a.

Thank you. What word do you use in your region? I know that certain words differ from region to region (and Harrell clearly indicates that the words in his dictionary are common among educated Moroccans in Rabat, Fez and Casablanca). I am curious to know which word you use for butterfly.

I use the MSA word, farasha.
You can guess the gender, huh? :ok:

And do not worry about differences between regions, as long as you know the Darija word, people will understand.

[quote=SimplyMoroccan]I use the MSA word, farasha.
You can guess the gender, huh? :ok:[/quote]
Of course I can guess the gender - it’s feminine, right? :slight_smile:

I understand the MSA stands for Modern Standard Arabic, right?

Thank you so much!

Yes! Very good ;). (I am playing the teacher :hap: )

Yes. When it comes to formal Arabic, it has many names.
Fus7a is the name in Arabic, you need to know that because you’ll come across it a lot.
MSA is Modern Standard Arabic. There is also Classical Arabic, but there is a difference between the two.

Source: Wikipedia.

So all in all, in Arabic countries, the dialectal Arabic spoken in the daily life is different from MSA (standard Arabic) that is used in TV news, newspapers and books.