The Arabic script
The Arabic alphabet consists of 28 letters representing consonants. In addition there are three vowel signs which are used in writing both short and long vowels. Moreover, there are various other orthographic signs that are explained in the following chapters.
The 28 letters are written from right to left. When writing words, the letters are connected (joined) together from both sides, except in the case of six letters, which can only be joined from the right side.
These letters are numbered 1, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 27 in the table below and are marked with an asterisk (*). It is important to remember that these letters cannot be connected to the following letter (i.e. on their left side).
Most of the letters are written in slightly different forms depending on their location in the word: initially, medially, finally or standing alone.
There are no capital letters.
Arabic grammarians use three different names for the alphabet:
لْأَبْجَدِيَّةُ _ أَلْحُرُوف \ al-h uruufu l-_abgjadiyyatu
لْهِجَائِيَّةُ _ أَلْحُرُوف al-huru¯fu l-hig˘a¯_iyyatu
The transliteration of the Arabic alphabet given below is based on the Latin alphabet, but some of the letters have an extra sign indicating some special feature of the Arabic pronunciation of the letter in
The _alif ( ا), which is the first letter, has so far not been given any transliteration, because its sound value varies
Alphabet table and transliteration
Writing letters in different positions
above each letter is presented as it appears in different positions in connected writing when using a computer or as written by hand.
1. Alif ا This first letter has no pronunciation of its own. One of its main functions is to act as a bearer for the sign hamzah, discussed separately in next post. _Alif is also used as a long vowel/a¯ /
2. Ba ب /b/ A voiced bilabial stop as the /b/ in English ‘habit’.
3. Ta ت /t/ An unaspirated voiceless dental stop as the t in English ‘stop’. Never pronounced as American English tt as in ‘letter’.
4. Tsa ث /t / A voiceless interdental fricative as th in English ‘thick’,
5. Jiiım ج /g˘ / A voiced palato-alveolar affricate. In reality, this letter has three different pronunciations depending on the dialectal background of the speaker:
(a) In Classical Arabic and the Gulf area, as well as in many other places in the Arab world, it is pronounced as a voiced palato-alveolar affricate as the j in ‘judge’, ‘journey’, or the g
in Italian ‘giorno’.
(b) In Lower Egypt (Cairo, Alexandria) it is pronounced as a voiced velar stop as the g in English ‘great’.
(c) In North Africa and the Levant it is pronounced as a voiced palato-alveolar fricative /zˇ / as the s in English ‘pleasure’, and as j in French ‘jour’.
6.Ha ح /h / This consonant has no equivalent in European languages. It is pronounced in the pharynx by breathing with strong friction and no uvular vibration or scrape, so that it sounds
like a loud whispering from the throat. It must be kept distinct from the sounds of خ /h (7) and .. ه /h/ (26).
7. kHa خ /h/ This consonant occurs in many languages. It is a voiceless postvelar (before or after /i/) or uvular (before or after /a/ or /u/) fricative, quite similar to the so-called ach-Laut in German ‘Nacht’ or Scottish ‘loch’ or the Spanish j in ‘mujer’, but in Arabic it has a stronger, rasping sound.
8. Da l د /d/ A voiced dental stop as the d in English ‘leader’.
9. Dza¯ l ذ /d/ A voiced interdental fricative, as the th in English ‘either’.
10. Ra¯ _ ر /r/ A voiced alveolar trill, which differs from English r in that it is a rolled sound or trill, pronounced as a rapid succession of flaps of the tongue, similar to Scottish r in ‘radical’ or Italian r in ‘parlare’ or Spanish rr in ‘perro’.
11. Zayn ز /z/ A voiced alveolar sibilant, as the z in English ‘gazelle’.
12. Siın س /s/ A voiceless alveolar sibilant as the s in English ‘state’
13. Shiın ش /sˇ/ A voiceless palato-alveolar sibilant as the sh in English ‘shave’, ‘push’.
14. Shad ص /s Belongs to the group of emphatic consonants. The emphatic consonants are pronounced with more emphasis and further back in the mouth than their non-emphatic (plain) counterparts. In pronouncing them the body and root of the tongue are (simultaneously) drawn back towards the rear wall of the throat (pharynx), and also the tip of the tongue is slightly retracted. Hence the emphatic consonants are also called pharyngealized consonants. ص /s / is thus the emphatic or pharyngealized counterpart of the plain alveolar س /s/ (12) and sounds somewhat similar to the s in English ‘son’ or ‘assumption’. For the retracting and lowering effect of the emphatic consonants on the adjacent vowels,
15. Dhad ض /d/ It is also an emphatic consonant, classified as a pharyngealized voiced alveolar stop. Arab phoneticians and reciters of the Quran recommend it is pronounced as a counter-
16. Tha ط /t / An emphatic consonant, classified as a pharyngealized voiceless alveolar stop. It is the counterpart of ت /t/ (3), and similar to the sound /t/ at the beginning of the English word ‘tall’.
1 17. Dzha ظ /d/ An emphatic consonant, classified as a pharyngealized voiced interdental fricative. It is the emphatic counterpart of ذ /d, In some dialects it is pronounced as ض /d . In some other dialects it is pronounced as pharyngealized ز /z/ (11).
18. Ayn ع /_/ This consonant has no equivalent in European languages. It is defined as a voiced emphatic (pharyngealized) laryngeal fricative, which is pronounced by pressing the root of the tongue against the back wall of the pharynx (upper part of the throat) and letting the pressed air stream from the throat pass through the pharynx with some vibration. In a way it is the voiced counterpart of ح /h / It sounds as if you are swallowing your tongue or being strangled.
19. G˙ ayn غ /g˙ / A voiced postvelar (before or after /i/) or uvular (before or after /a/ or /u/) fricative, a gargling sound, produced by pronouncing the خ /h/ and activating the vocal folds,
similar to Parisian French r in ‘Paris’ and ‘rouge’ but with more scraping.
20. Fa ف /f/ A voiceless labiodental fricative as the f in English ‘fast’.
21. Qa¯ f ق /q/ This has no equivalent in European languages. It is a voiceless postvelar or uvular stop, pronounced by closing the back of the tongue against the uvula as if it were to be swallowed. It is like خ /h/ without vibration. This sound should not be confused with ك /k/ e.g. قَلْب qalb, ‘heart’, but كَلْب kalb ‘dog’
22. Ka¯ f ك /k/ An unaspirated voiceless velar stop as the k of English skate’.
2 2 3. Lam ل /l/ A voiced alveolar lateral as the l in English ‘let’.
24. Mım م /m/ A voiced bilabial nasal as the m in English ‘moon’.
25 Nun ن /n/ A voiced alveolar nasal as the n in English ‘nine’.
26Ha ه ) /h/ A voiceless glottal fricative as the h in English head’.
Note: This letter has another function when it occurs at the end of a word with two superscript dots: ة
ة ... Then it is prono unced exactly like ت /t/ (3) and is called ta marbutah
27Wa¯w و /w/ A voiced bilabial semivowel, as the w in English ‘well’.
28 Ya ي /y/ A voiced alveo-palatal semivowel, as the y in English