Sunday, September 03, 2006

Tyre or Suur

Suur After an Israeli air raid

While the war in Lebanon is slowly fading away from media prominence after it reached dominance. Those who worked in non-Arab media, especially non-Arabic speakers,or even Arabic speakers, were puzzled by the different spellings, pronos, or even names of Lebanese towns and villages.

The southern port city of “Tyre” stood out as a confusing word, since in Arabic it is called “Suur” alongside another city north of Beirut called “Byblos” or “Jubayl in proper Arabic.

Though I initially thought that this difference had to do with the Biblical usage and references, since the Bible was originally written in Greek, therefore the name Tyre though in English form.

The Semitic name of Tyre,however, is “ Suur” which means a mountain or a peak, in Canaanite. The Greeks, who occupied the area and the rest of the Levant adopted the local name “Suur” into Greek as “Turos” or “Tyros” when the letter u shifted to a y. thus becoming Tyros.

The reason for the shifting of the S, in Suur , into T in Turos, had to do with the difference in pronunciation in different Semitic tongues, of the sounds of S, Th. and T.

Then Tyros when Latinized became Tyrus, which later became Tyre in English.

The interesting thing I found that the Arabic name “ Suur” which has pre-Arabic roots, would have been “Tuur” , same phonetic sound as in Suur, the shift in the letter S ( actually a throttled S in Arabic) has to do with slight differences in carrying over from Canaanite, Aramaic then to Arabic ( the Semitic family).

Tuur, still means Mountain in Arabic and it is mentioned the Quran referring to Mount Sinai, as “Tuur Sinai.
So whether its Tyre or Tuur, these words harkens back to one root. Which is Suur, the official name of the city in Arabic today.

The city of Byblos/Jubayl, follows the same exact etymology as “Suur” in which the original name Jubayl, which means the little Mountain in Arabic ( by adding the sound of YA, in Arabic to a name like Jabal which means mountain, the mountain would become the little mountain interestingly enough, we find the same idea in English when we add the letter Y to a noun, it becomes smaller, such as , Jim/Jimmy, or kitty) was adopted by the Greeks as Byblos, by changing the phonetic sounds of Arabic into Greek ones thus giving rise to a seemingly different name of “ Byblos” which is actually is the same name as Jubayl, however,hellenized.

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