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 sounds (IPA)
أ ʔalifuṋ أَلِفٌ ʔ ʔ
glottal stop
ب bȃʔuṋ بَاْءٌ b b
voiced bilabial stop
as in “bat”
ت tȃʔuṋ تَاْءٌ t t
voiceless dental stop
as in “tap”
ث θȃʔuṋ ثَاْءٌ θ θ
voiceless interdental fricative
as in “thumb”
ج ǵȋmuṋ جِيْمٌ ǵ d͡ʒ
voiced post-alveolar affricate
as in “jar”
ح ħȃʔuṋ حَاْءٌ ħ ħ
voiceless pharyngeal fricative
خ xȃʔuṋ خَاْءٌ x x
voiceless velar fricative
د dȃluṋ دَاْلٌ d d
voiced dental stop
as in “dark”
ذ ðȃluṋ ذَاْلٌ ð ð
voiced interdental fricative
as in “this”
ر rȃʔuṋ رَاْءٌ r r
voiced alveolar trill
ز zȃyuṋ زَاْيٌ z z
voiced alveolar fricative
as in “zoo”
س sȋnuṋ سِيْنٌ s s
voiceless alveolar sibilant
as in “sad”
ش šȋnuṋ شِيْنٌ š ʃ
voiceless post-alveolar sibilant
as in “she”
ص ṣȃduṋ صَاْدٌ
pharyngealized voiceless alveolar sibilant
ض ḍȃduṋ ضَاْدٌ
pharyngealized voiced dental stop
ط ṭȃʔuṋ طَاْءٌ
pharyngealized voiceless dental stop
ظ ð̣ȃʔuṋ ظَاْءٌ ð̣ ðˁ
pharyngealized voiced interdental fricative
ع ʕaynuṋ عَيْنٌ ʕ ʕ
voiced pharyngeal fricative
غ ɣaynuṋ غَيْنٌ ɣ ɣ
voiced velar fricative
ف fȃʔuṋ فَاْءٌ f f
voiceless labiodental fricative
as in “fan”
ق qȃfuṋ قَاْفٌ q q
voiced uvular stop
ك kȃfuṋ كَاْفٌ k k
voiceless velar stop
as in “kite”
ل lȃmuṋ لَاْمٌ l l
voiced alveolar lateral approximant
as in “leg”
م mȋmuṋ مِيْمٌ m m
voiced bilabial nasal
as in “man”
ن nȗnuṋ نُوْنٌ n n
voiced dental nasal
as in “nose”
هـ hȃʔuṋ هَاْءٌ h h
voiceless laryngeal fricative
as in “hat”
و wȃwuṋ وَاْوٌ w w
voiced labio-velar approximant
as in “wool”
ي yȃʔuṋ يَاْءٌ y j
voiced palatal approximant
as in “yes”

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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