2

I asked this question on the World Building Stack Exchange yesterday. My question was closed fairly quickly, but people seemed to think that, nevertheless, it was an interesting question, and someone suggested that I ask a related question on this site instead.

I'm building a fictional universe in which there is a female-only quasi-Islamic order of chivalry. Members of this order are divided in three grades:

  1. The highest grade comes with the honorific ma'ali, and this actually forms a part of the recipient's name, e.g. Ma'ali Jane Smith. A recipient of this grade would be granted addressed, and also referred to in the third person, as Ma'ali Jane.
  2. The middle grade comes with the honorific alsayidat. A recipient of this grade would be addressed, and also referred to in the third person, as Alsayidat Jane.
  3. The lowest grade comes with the honorific anisa. A recipient of this grade would be addressed, and also referred to in the third person, as Anisa Jane.

How well does my fictional use of the above honorifics match real-world usage, present and/or past? If it doesn't match, is it at least a plausible adaptation of past or present practices?

  • 1
    You need to use feminine endings consistently: AH or AT. The T is usually silent in modern Arabic, but might be pronounced in very formal usage. – Bert Barrois Mar 27 at 13:06
  • 1
    Even in classical Arabic, the T was silent before a natural pause. In modern, it is generally silent except in run-on phrases such as title+name or noun+possessive. If your fiction is futuristic, I'd use AH consistently: ma`āliyah, al-sayyidah, ānisah. The prefix written AL- assimilates phonetically to S, so the word would be pronounce as-sayyidah. – Bert Barrois Mar 27 at 14:48
  • 1
    @BertBarrois - The assimilating al- prefix in Arabic means 'the' - would it really be used in addressing someone, or would she just be addressed as sayyida Fatima? (She would likely be properly referred to as al-sayyida Fatima, but not called that to her face.) – Jeff Zeitlin Mar 27 at 15:33
  • 1
    @TomHosker - I believe that you've described current usage correctly; my knowledge of Arabic is mostly along the lines of having read about the language, rather than attempts to learn to read and speak it. Also consider the analogous situation in English - you might refer to "the Lord John Smith", but you would call him " Lord John" to his face. – Jeff Zeitlin Mar 27 at 15:58
  • 1
    @TomHosker - That's likely to be contextually dependent, and I don't have enough information on the context; I was merely following your lead in the question. – Jeff Zeitlin Mar 27 at 16:05
5

Regarding ma'ali, you've used it correctly in "Ma'ali Jane Smith". And yes if you bump into her in downtown Dubai you can use ma'ali, but now since you're talking with her directly you'd say ma'aliki Jane (your honor).

Secondly, as @Bert said in the comments, it should be as-sayida instead of al-sayidat. Without boring you too much with the grammar of it all, the t at the end of al-sayidat would be silent unless we're talking in Standard Arabic, and since it seems that you're building a futuristic world, I don't think you need to worry about that. Just stick with as-sayida. Now if you wanna pluralize it, put the t back at the end. as-sayidat (the ladies) is the plural. If you bump into a sayida (notice it doesn't have the as- article here), you'd say sayidati (my lady).

Anisa sounds all good. You'd use anisati while talking with an anisa. Nisa' (نساء if you ever wanna look that up) is the plural, and al-anisa if you wanna use an article.

Do they fit the real-world usages?

Absolutely! Well... I don't think I've ever heard of a sayida these days, but it's usage as an honorific is definitely still used. So don't worry, it won't stick out.

And as a side tip, use almaany.com instead of google translate. It's much more accurate.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    By the way, this sounds like a fun project you're working on. I'd be interested to know more. – bluegrounds Jun 23 at 0:40

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.