English Spelling of the Glottal Stop and Voiced Pharyngeal Fricative in Arabic Personal Names by Educated Arabs on Facebook

Arabic personal names, educated Arabs, glottal stop, hamza, voiced pharyngeal fricative, spelling problems, English spelling variants, English transliteration, social media.


January 15, 2023


A sample of 560 Arab Facebook users consisting of students, faculty, schoolteachers, and other professionals with different proficiency levels in English was selected. The study analyzed how Arabic personal names on Facebook to find out how names with the glottal stop (hamza) [ʔ] and/or voiced pharyngeal fricative [ʕ] in initial, medial and final positions, with different Arabic short and long vowels before and after them are spelled; whether there are variations in their spelling; causes of spelling variations, and the spelling strategies used. Results showed that 63% of the names have an initial hamza; 10% have a medial hamza; 24% have a final hamza. 65% have one variant and 29% have two variants. Names with the highest occurrences are Eman (26); Ibrahim (18); Alaa & Ismail (17) each; and Asma (16). In some names there is a cluster of 2-3 vowels (Waeel, Ismaiel, Ismaeel, Ismaeil, Doaa Duaa). The voiced pharyngeal fricative [ʕ] in all names was substituted by a vowel as this phoneme/grapheme does not exist in English. Thus both [ʔ] and [ʕ] are represented by vowels and pronounced the same in English. 64.5% have an initial [ʕ], 30% have a medial [ʕ] and 5% have a final [ʕ]. 85% of the names with [ʕ] have one variant and 13.5% have two variants. اسماعيل has the highest number of variants (Esmail/Ismail, Ismael, Esmaiel/Ismaeil, Ismaeel) because [ʕ] ع is preceded and followed by long vowels. Some names with final [ʔ] and [ʕ] and followed by a long vowel were spelled with a single -a or double -aa. In Asma, Wafa, Haifa and Sana, [ʕ] was deleted because the spelling matches how the name is pronounced in the local dialect. In Abduh, Amro Enayah Waed, transferred the Arabic spelling system was transferred to English. [ʕ] was deleted is some names (Menem, Yakoub, Gomma) and the vowel was retained to facilitate pronunciation. An apostrophe was added in Ro’aa, Asma’a to split the vowel cluster. The study gives recommendations to help EFL students spell names with phonemes/graphemes that do not exist in English accurately and to help English speakers pronounce the English version correctly.