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    Arabic "Al" and star names
    From: Frank Reed
    Date: 2009 Nov 4, 12:36 -0800

    John, you wrote:
    "I can readily see how sliced up languages would be in the middle ages, if 
    this locality is any indication."  
    Linguists call this a dialect chain or a dialect continuum. It's a huge and 
    fascinating subject, and I will restrain myself from getting further 
    off-topic by pointing you here:
    You asked:
    "In Arabic, what does the prefix "Al" mean?   I see that "Alconstantine" would be Constantinople."
    It's the definite article "the". And, go figure, there's a Wikipedia article 
    about it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-
    Because "Al" is usually written attached to the word it's modifying in Arabic, 
    it was sometimes copied over into European texts as if it was part of the 
    word. And this is a good path back to nautical astronomy. We have a lot of 
    modern star names starting with "Al". This is the same process at work. It's 
    just as if someone had read a book about visiting "The City" and had 
    mistakenly read the name of the city as "Thecity". The process of recovering 
    lost science from Arabic sources in the late European Middle Ages and early 
    Renaissance led to some funny mistakes that are still with us. The name "Yad 
    al Jauza" became Bad al Jauza, which is now spelled Betelgeuse, when some 
    scribe miscopied that initial letter. The difference between a written "Y" 
    and "B" in Arabic script is just a little dot.
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