Since the start of the World Cup in Qatar, commentators and journalists have alternated between these two terms to designate people from Qatar. But what is the right wording?
Should we call the inhabitants of Qatar Qataris or Qataris? The debate has been raging since the opening of the Football World Cup on Sunday 20 November. Sports commentators were the first to waver between the two terms when referring to footballers from the host country who were playing their first World Cup game against Ecuador this weekend. On Twitter, everyone has also advanced their arguments to explain the difference between the two terms.
Between “Qatari” and “Qatari”, the keyboard of Internet users swings. These two words have recorded peaks in searches since the start of the competition in Qatar. So what is it really? Should we say Qataris or Qataris? Elements of answers with Salam Diab Duranton, university professor in Arabic linguistics and associate researcher at the French Institute of the Near East.
“In the languages of the world, usage takes precedence over analogy”
French institutional documents are formal. The official term recommended to refer to an inhabitant of Qatar in French is “Qatarien”. The name is thus registered in the French decree of November 4, 1993 relating to the terminology of the names of States and capitals of the Official Journal published on January 25, 1994. It is also noted in the Official Bulletin of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (n °106, January-March 2009) or on the site France diplomacy.
However, “Qatari” is regularly used both orally and in writing to designate an inhabitant of Qatar. This word comes straight from an Arabic ending. “It follows the adjective of relationship, that is to say the suffix which marks the noun of relationship”, underlines Professor Salam Diab Duranton. The neighbors of the Qataris, in the United Arab Emirates, are thus called “Emiratis” for example. The ending in “i” emphasizes belonging to the country.
“In Italy, we speak of Italians, in Libya, of Libyans. Grammatical logic would like us to favor the word “Qatari” in French, notes the linguistics specialist. But in the languages of the world, usage takes precedence over the analogy.” Qatari, also used by English speakers, has thus gradually established itself in the language of Molière. Why ? “Probably for phonetic reasons. ‘Qatari’ is more pleasing to the ear than Qatari.” However, usage has not taken precedence over other words such as Saudis or Iraqis.
This is not the first time that such a linguistic dilemma has puzzled football fans. We will remember a match between Bosnia and France in 2011. Thierry Roland, in charge of commentary, sparked a lively debate by calling the players Bosnians and not Bosniaks. The word had however been used with good reason since the Bosnians designate the Muslims of the country, while the Bosnians include all the citizens of Bosnia. Nothing of the sort here since Qatari is the equivalent of Qatarien, and Qatarie of Quatarienne.
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