20

For instance in words Iraq and Qashqai? Are there any historical reasons for that?

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4 Answers 4

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There are a small number of words and names used in English that have Q but no U and do not correspond to a "kw" sound:

  • Aqaba
  • Haq
  • Iraq
  • Qasr
  • qat
  • Qatar
  • Qi
  • Qian
  • Qiao
  • Qing
  • Qingdao
  • souq
  • Tariq

... among others

Most of these have a q because they are words or names that come from Arabic, which traditionally uses the letter Q to transcribe a sound that doesn't occur in English: the voiceless uvular stop, which sounds similar to but not quite like the sound of the letter "K", and is the sound usually used when saying these words in English.

A few of these—those starting with "QI", such as "Qi", "Qian", and "Qing"—come from Chinese, where Q is the letter used to transcribe a different sound—the voiceless alveolo-palatal affricate—which sounds similar to but not quite like the sound of the "CH", and is the sound usually used when saying these words in English.

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  • 2
    Heh. After living in China for a year, I kept pronouncing "Qatar" as /tʃæ tɑr/. Back to a /k'/ now though. Never did manage to pronounce the Chinese /t̠͡ɕ/ properly though. No matter how much I tried. I can barely hear the difference. Aug 10, 2010 at 22:20
  • 1
    Also, I prefer to write "Qi" as "Chi", because that is much more commonly used. I don't see why we should write everything Chinese in simplified Pinyin. Aug 10, 2010 at 22:31
  • 3
    @Vincent McNabb re:"Also, I prefer to write 'Qi' as 'Chi', because that is much more commonly used"—it's not in Scrabble ;-)
    – nohat
    Aug 11, 2010 at 5:26
  • 2
    Heh. Well, that settles the argument then :-) It's also interesting to note that beer from Qingdao is called Tsingtao beer on the label, and that beer from Xinjiang is called Sinkiang. Aug 11, 2010 at 5:50
8

The place names that you mention are transliterations from Arabic, and the letter Q is traditionally used in transliterations of Arabic to represent a stop sound which doesn't exist in English.

-1

According to Shopify, the letter Q lends itself to fun branding and design treatments.

Here are a couple of recent product names that use a Q instead of a K:

Leqembi

Storq

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  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Jan 7, 2023 at 20:52
  • This does not apply to the specific examples that appear in the question. It is thus, at most, a supplement to the answer posted by nohat, rather than a stand-alone, complete answer.
    – jsw29
    Jan 8, 2023 at 16:53
-2

I remember from someplace that [older] Q words in English come from Latin words of Etruscan origin, and are always followed by a U. I guess that would probably apply to Romance languages too, but if so, then how come the French say "cinq" instead of "cinque"?

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  • How would French people pronounce cinque, if it would be a French word?
    – apaderno
    Aug 13, 2010 at 19:41
  • I think cinq and coq are exceptions to the rule.
    – gpr
    Feb 14, 2011 at 11:51
  • 1
    Possibly if cinque were a French word, the 'k' wouldn't go away before words like cent. That is, right now cinq cent (500) is pronounced without a 'k'. If if were spelled cinque, you would have to still pronounce the 'k' in cinq cent. Mar 9, 2012 at 18:51

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