Arabic letters/ alphabet is considered one of the most complete writing systems. It includes most of the sounds that a person can pronounce. Many languages depend on it for writing, such as Sindhi, Urdu, Ottoman, Kurdish, and Malay languages.
The Arabic alphabet consists of 28 and some say 29 letters, and It has endured through many centuries. Currently, It ranks as the second most widely used writing system after the Latin alphabet.
In this article, you will know much about Arabic letters and sounds, their origins, and how you can write and pronounce them.
There are 28 letters in the Arabic language shown in order in this pic below. They are condensed in 8 words أبجد – هوز – حطي – كلمن – سعفص – قرشت – ثخذ – ضظغ .
However, Arabic has 34 sounds categorized into
Silent sounds: they constitute the 28 letters in Arabic from أ to ى (shown in this paradigm)
vocal sounds: they are 6 sounds
1. Duma ( ُ): an apostrophe-like diacritic placed above the consonant letter. For pronouncing it, make your lips rounded
2. Fatha ( َ): is a diagonal line placed above the consonant letter. Pronounce it by separating your lips a little.
3. kasra ( ِ): s a diagonal line placed below the consonant letter. pronounce it like E In English.
4. Alif madd:
When there is a fatha before alif, we stretch the alif for two counts and it is called alif madd.
5. Yaa madd:
When there is a kasra before ya we stretch it for two counts and it is called ya madd.
3. Waaw madd
When there is a damma before wow sakin we stretch it for two counts and it is called wow madd.
Arabic letters are 28 and some scientists see it’s 28, regarding hamza ء as a separate letter. The Arabic letters are put in order according to the principle of parallels and similarities for example the letters ع precedes غ, and خ follows ح.
the system in which alphabets are ordered is invented by Nasr ibn ‘Asim Al Laythi. This systematic order is widely used in the current time whether in dictionaries, indexes, search references, proverbs, or telephone directories.
(أ، ب، ت، ث، ج، ح، خ، د، ذ، ر، ز، س، ش، ص، ض، ط، ظ، ع، غ، ف، ق، ك، ل، م، ن، هـ، و، ي.)
The oldest evidence of Arabic alphabets is traced back to 3000 B.C in the region stretching between Mesopotamia and Egypt. Scientists named the primitive form of the alphabet that emerged in this spot the Canaan alphabet. Today, it’s classified as the mother of ancient alphabets.
Research by archeologists revealed that the population of this region also used another alphabet called Ugarit, an ancient port city in northern Syria, on the outskirts of modern Latakia.
By the 10th and 9th century (B.C), a third alphabet began to spread: The Aramaic, and it's adopted by the Nabataeans kingdom as an official language in the southern levant. With the expansion of the Nabataeans kingdom, its culture has seeped into the regions it invaded, including the north of Hijaz in the first century. Between 4th and 6 the centuries, and due to the commercial influence, a unified form of Arabic alphabet developed that matured into the Current Arabic alphabet.
Arabic letters are written from the right to the left. Each letter takes a specific shape according to its position in the word, whether it’s initial, in the middle, or the end. This table will show you how Arabic letters are written according to their position.
Unlike English, letters in the Arabic alphabet are connected in the word with no gaps that separate them. ( Except for أ, ء, ). As a result, many forms of Arabic calligraphy (fonts) have been developed which are:
One of the widely used fonts in The Arabic region. It’s a relatively recent font invented by Ottomans in 1280. It’s a smooth and easy-to-read font and most letters are diacritical except in the Quranic texts.
Naskh’s style of writing can be traced back to as early as the first century of the Islamic calendar. Naskh is a sans-serif font characterized by its simplicity and high readability- with the lack of hooks at the ends of ascending and descending strokes. It was used for inscribing books.
3. KOOFI خط الكوفي
KOOFI is the oldest type of Arabic calligraphy, and it’s a slightly modified form of the old Nabataean letters. It originated in the late seventh century AD, at the beginning of Islam in the city of Kufa in Iraq, and it is believed that it was widely used about 100 years before the establishment of Kufa.
This font is used for recording the Qur’an in scripture in particular. also used for architectural engraving on the walls of mosques, palaces, and other Islamic structures. This Qur’anic font is characterized by angular, rectilinear letterforms and its horizontal orientation.
For teaching Arabic letters, you should follow those phases
The goal of this step is to enable the students to memorize Arabic letters generally
In this phase, you can classify the Arabic letters into separate groups according to their shape
for example the letters ب ، ت، ث can be grouped. Then write each of those letters on the board and pronounce them clearly and ask students to repeat them subsequently.
Also, Use various practical exercises to fix the shapes of those letters and their pronunciation in the students’ minds. For example, you can write some letters on a piece of paper, pinpoint some letters, and ask students to pronounce them.
The sounds of the letters in Arabic are classified in their pronunciation to:
1.oral cavity letters: they come out of the cavity of the mouth, and they are the three madd letters “alif, waw, yaa” 2.Throatal letters: and the are categorized into 1.Letters that come out of farthest part of the throat. Those are ء and هـــ 2. Letters that come out of the middle of the throat: عـــ ، حـــ 3. Letters that come out from the lower throat: ghain and kha .غــــ ، خـــ 3.The letters that come out of the tongue : They are divided into four sections according to their exit points. 1. The far tongue (aqsal lisan) : ن ، ر 2. The middle tongue (wasatal lisan): ت، ط، د 3. The side tongue (Hafatul lisan)ث ، ذ ، ظ 4. The tip of the tongue (tarful lisan)ص، ز ، س 4. The letters that come out of your lips: either by closing them together or open a slight gap between them. The ب (ba) is emitted between the lips, when they are closed together. The م (meem) is pronounced between the two lips when they're slightly opened. The ف (fa) is emitted from the bottom lip with the tip of the top front incisor teeth. The و (wow) is pronounced when the jaw are more closed.
The consonant Arabic letters are divided into two groups – the Sun letters (حروف شمسية) and Moon letters (حروف قمرية).
This classification is based on whether or not the letter la ل is pronounced or not in the words when they are defined by La ل
Those letters are 14 : (ﻥ ,ﻝ ,ﻅ ,ﻁ ,ﺽ ,ﺹ ,ﺵ ,ﺱ ,ﺯ ,ﺭ ,ﺫ ,ﺩ ,ﺙ ,ﺕ).
Here are examples of some definite words where la ل isn’t heavily pronounced: ، النمل، الصقر، السر، الرحمن، الضحى.
2. Moon letters:
When the la precedes those consonants, it pertains to its distinctive sound and it’s heavily pronounced
Those letters are also 14: (أ / ب / ج / ح / خ / ع / غ / ف / ق / ك / م / ه / و / ي ]
Here are examples of some words where la ل is heavily pronounced: الأرض، البحر، الجمل، العربة، القرية
1- the vowel “o” doesn’t exist in Standard Arabic.
2- the vowel “e” doesn’t exist either
3. The sound “g” like great does not exist in standard Arabic.
4. The letter p does not exist, which is why many Arabs might confuse it with the letter “b” which exists in Arabic and is similar to the p.
Arabic letters are 29 letters including ء. They originated through a cascade of languages that endured centuries before the Arabic alphabet takes hold. Now, the Arabic alphabet is taught widely to all students willing to study Arabic over the world.
In this article, you have known the shapes of those letters and their sounds, what are their exit points, and How can you teach them to students, besides the famous fonts of Arabic calligraphy.
Love this article? Share it with your connections on social media platforms.