What does the cow say in Lebanon? – the Arabic language

It is said that “Arabic language is like a beautiful woman who needs no makeup to look as elegant as a swan in the Lebanese Bnachii lake”. In Al-Dhad language, where harmony and beauty are both present in Calligraphy, Semantics and Phonetic Distinction, what on earth do animals say? Salah explains it all.

There are so many languages that depend on Onomatopoeia to name the sounds of animals. This could be very clear in Germanic languages such us English, German and Dutch, as well as other tongues that are spoken in the northern part of Europe, where the term that refers to the sound of a cow for instance is actually the same sound made by this animal. Other similar examples include sounds made by cats, dogs, bees, ducks and many other familiar animals that could be seen wherever we go. But, have you ever wondered whether this may also apply to the Arab world?

Lebanon, a natural elegance with an oriental twist

Lebanon is one of the Arabic countries where you can see people really proud of their mother tongue. Who among us doesn’t hear of the musical masterpieces made by Fairuz, Sabah and a wide range of artistic figures who become an everlasting landmark in the Lebanese culture, civilization and history? Everybody in this country speaks Arabic just like all habitants of Al-Sham region. As this latter is considered as one of the richest regions of livestock wealth due to its generous soil and perfect climate, then it’s not really a bolt from the blue to see Lebanon leading the Middle-East countries in paving the way for businesses to invest in this sector. Livestock wealth in Lebanon is actually extended across the whole country, and cow farms that are spread here and there abroad the Lebanese territory must be the convincing answer for any doubter.

Lebanon visitors may enjoy cows’ mooing when they watch them grazing in the green fields of its virgin nature, while adding more charm to this country’s beauty that could only be imagined by those who have already passed through the green fields, high mountains and pure water streams that make this country a perfect destination for millions of tourists every year, where they can spend their vacations and have a bit of relaxation away from noisy cities. So, how do Lebanese refer to the sounds of their cows, and cattle in general, in their daily life, or even in their dictionary?

Onomatopoeia in the Arabic language

The Arabic language is quite different in this regard from Germanic languages, and other tongues that are spoken all over the world. People in the MENA region are still referring to the sounds of animals with a wide range of terms that have nothing to do with the actual sounds made by these animals. This means that Onomatopoeia is almost lost in the Arabic language; except for few cases like when describing the sound of wind gently touching the tree leaves, as well as the sound of water flowing in streams, in addition to horses’ neighing, frogs’ croaking, cats’ meowing, wolves’ howling, and door creaking. These terms may somehow sound a bit similar to the actual sounds made by these things. Some Arabic linguists say that neglecting Onomatopoeia when it comes to naming these sounds is actually the natural result of maintaining the endurance of the Arabic language over centuries of time – despite some minor changes that are being caused by modern technologies on our daily language. Whereas some other linguists tend to relate this fact to the concretely-archaic mentality of Arabs who always refuse to let go of their traditions, values, principles and even their mother tongue.

The actual sound of the cow needs nothing but a slight movement with our lips; as the sound ‘m’ is one of the first bilabial sounds that babies can articulate at complete ease. However, the term that refers to cows’ mooing in the Arabic language has nothing to do with bilabial sounds. The term ‘KHOWAR’ in Arabic consists of 4 letters, and just the first sound (kh) is a consonant that is articulated on the level of the Uvula, and it is actually one of the hardest sounds that kids may face some frustrating difficulties pronouncing it during their first 4 years; and in several cases, the same problem accompanies them to their schools. So, as you can see, just analyzing a single letter of this term makes it really clear that the term ‘KHOWAR’ has nothing to do with the actual sound made by a cow.

This could also been noticed in hundreds of terminologies including dogs’ barking, lions’ roaring, cocks’ crowing, sheep bleating, rabbits’ squeaking, tigers’ growling, pigs’ snorting and birds’ twitting, in addition of course to a huge number of terms that prove the almost full absence of Onomatopoeia in the Arabic language.

Opinions may vary with regard to the utilization of Onomatopoeia in creating new terms to name the sounds based on their actual vocal structure in the Arabic language. But, what is really unspeakable is the surprising harmony that gathers most linguists from the Arab world, who always say that the Arabic language is like a beautiful woman who needs no makeup to look as elegant as a swan in the Lebanese Bnachii lake. This harmony doesn’t exclude Western linguists as well. Ernest Renan, the French expert of Semitic languages wrote “The Arabic language is the most astonishing event of human history. Unknown during the classical period, it suddenly emerged as a complete language. After this, it did not undergo any noticeable changes, so one cannot define for it an early or a late stage. It is just the same today as it was when it first appeared”.

This story has initially been written in Arabic by the impressive plume of Salah E. Bourebounam, our native Arabian writer. It was then beautiful trans-created and polished by Salah himself. Finally, it was all magically spelt out to you by our lovely Project Manager Katerina. Learn more about our Copywriting and Translation services here.