Arabic Grammar – 6

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►II.2. THE ALPHABET

With the dots, the Arabic letters are 28. Originally these letters all stood for consonants.

In the table below:

  • The first column to the left shows the Arabic letters in their separate or independent forms. There are no upper and lower cases for Arabic letters.
  • The second column shows the Arabic names for the letters. These names have no etymologies in Arabic. They are just corruptions of the original Aramaic names.
  • The third column shows the symbols that I am going to be using to transliterate Arabic words. These symbols are mostly the same as the equivalent symbols in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).
  • The fourth column shows the sounds of the letters in Modern Standard Arabic. Those are not officially defined but represent common pronunciations.

Note: you can hear audio samples of most of the Arabic consonant sounds on this Wikipedia page.

Letter Name Transliteration MSA sound (IPA)
أ ʔalifuṋ أَلِفٌ ʔ ʔ

glottal stop

ا ʔ⋅
ب bȃʔuṋ باءٌ b b

voiced bilabial stop

ت tȃʔuṋ تاءٌ t t

voiceless dental stop

ة ⋅t
ث θȃʔuṋ ثاءٌ θ θ

voiceless interdental fricative

ج ǵȋmuṋ جِيْمٌ ǵ d͡ʒ

voiced post-alveolar affricate

ح ħȃʔuṋ حاءٌ ħ ħ

voiceless pharyngeal fricative

خ xȃʔuṋ خاءٌ x x

voiceless velar fricative

د dȃluṋ دالٌ d d

voiced dental stop

ذ ðȃluṋ ذالٌ ð ð

voiced interdental fricative

ر rȃʔuṋ راءٌ r r

voiced alveolar trill

ز zȃyuṋ زايٌ z z

voiced alveolar fricative

س sȋnuṋ سِيْنٌ s s

voiceless alveolar sibilant

ش šȋnuṋ شِيْنٌ š ʃ

voiceless post-alveolar sibilant

ص ṣȃduṋ صادٌ

pharyngealized voiceless alveolar sibilant

ض ḍȃduṋ ضادٌ

pharyngealized voiced dental stop

ط ṭȃʔuṋ طاءٌ

pharyngealized voiceless dental stop

ظ ð̣ȃʔuṋ ظاءٌ ð̣ ðˁ

pharyngealized voiced interdental fricative

ع ʕaynuṋ عَيْنٌ ʕ ʕ

voiced pharyngeal fricative

غ ɣaynuṋ غَيْنٌ ɣ ɣ

voiced velar fricative

ف fȃʔuṋ فاءٌ f f

voiceless labiodental fricative

ق qȃfuṋ قافٌ q q

voiced uvular stop

ك kȃfuṋ كافٌ k k

voiceless velar stop

ل lȃmuṋ لامٌ l l

voiced alveolar lateral approximant

م mȋmuṋ مِيْمٌ m m

voiced bilabial nasal

ن nȗnuṋ نُوْنٌ n n

voiced dental nasal

ه hȃʔuṋ هاءٌ h h

voiceless laryngeal fricative

و wȃwuṋ واوٌ w w

voiced labio-velar approximant

ي yȃʔuṋ ياءٌ y j

voiced palatal approximant

ى ⋅y

Note

The letter أ may also be written ئ , ؤ or ء depending on its position in the word and the vowels surrounding it. Since the distribution of these different written forms is governed by automatic rules, there is no need to transliterate them with different symbols. All of them will be transliterated ʔ.

The order of the Arabic letters in the above table is modern. Formerly, the letters had an order similar to other Canaanite-derived alphabets:

أ ب ج د هـ و ز ح ط ي ك ل م ن س ع ف ص ق ر ش ت
ث خ ذ ض ظ غ

►II.2.A. DOT TERMINOLOGY

In Classical Arabic literature the adjective muʕǵamuṋ مُعْجَمٌ describes the dotted letters غ ظ ض ش ز ذ خ . The adjective muhmaluṋ مُهْمَلٌ describes their dotless counterparts ع ط ص س ر د ح . The adjective muwaħħaduṋ مُوَحَّدٌ describes the letter ب , muθannaṋ min fawqiṋ مُثَنًّىْ مِنْ فَوْقٍ describes the letter ت , muθannaṋ min taħtiṋ مُثَنًّىْ مِنْ تَحْتٍ describes the letter ي , and muθallaθuṋ مُثَلَّثٌ describes the letter ث .

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