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Hi everybody! Nora here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Arabic questions.
The Question
The question for this lesson is: What are “sun” and “moon letters”?
You might have noticed that sometimes you see Arabic words with an al- at the beginning. This al- changes a noun from indefinite to definite, just like the English "the."
But sometimes, even if it says al- in the text, it’s pronounced a-. In this lesson, we’ll discuss why this happens.
To understand this, we have to differentiate between 2 types of letters in Arabic: “Sun letters” and “Moon letters.”
Words that begin with “sun letters” make the al- before it, sound like an a-. Words that start in a “moon letter” allow the al- to be pronounced fully.
First let's take a look at “sun letters.” “Sun letters” are referred to as
ḥurūf šamsiyyah, حُروف شَمسِيَّة
because the letter sh ش at the beginning of the word shams, meaning "sun," is itself a “sun letter.” Having a “sun letter” after the definite al- will result in 2 things:
1- losing the l sound in the al-
2- doubling the initial “sun letter” itself.
“Sun letters” are:
ḏ / ذ
d / د
ḍ / ض
ṣ / ص
ṯ / ث
š / ش
s / س
t / ت
n / ن
l / ل
ṭ / ط
r / ر
z / ز
ẓ / ظ
Let's try to pronounce a word that starts with an al followed by a “sun letter.”
a-ššams / “the sun”
a-ṯṯaliṯ / “the third”
a-llaḥm / “the meat”
Notice how the “sun letter” is doubled, and how the l sound is lost.
Now let's take a look at “moon letters.” “Moon letters” are referred to as ḥurūf qamariyyah, حُروف قَمَرِيَّة because the letter q ق in the beginning of the word qamar, meaning "moon," is itself a “moon letter.”
“Moon letters” allow the al- before them to be pronounced fully as al-.
Here are the “moon letters”:
q / ق
f / ف
ġ / غ
ʿ / ع
h / ه
ḫ / خ
ḥ / ح
ǧ / ج
ī / ي
b / ب
k / ك
m / م
ʾ / ء
ū / و
Let's try to pronounce some words that start with al- followed by a “moon letter.”
al-māʾ/ “the water”
al-kalb /“the dog”
al-ward / “the flowers”
Notice how “moon letters” allow the al to be pronounced fully.


I hope this was helpful.
If you have any more questions, please leave a comment below!
Bye! إلى اللقاء(ʾilā al-liqaāʾ)


Please to leave a comment.
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ArabicPod101.com Verified
Tuesday at 06:30 PM
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What Arabic learning question do you have?

ArabicPod101.com Verified
Thursday at 10:27 PM
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Hi Amanda,

I know, it's challenging to internalize. But so many other languages do that and we just don't notice, and the purpose is always to make pronunciation easier.


Team ArabicPod101.com

Thursday at 06:49 AM
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Why don't the sunletters have the sign about them to indicate they are dubbled? When ready you wouldn't know they are dubbled.

ArabicPod101.com Verified
Friday at 07:48 PM
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Hi Vivian,rnrnWe do not provide Levantine dialect lessons yet :( But you might find many video lessons by Youtubers.rnIt will definitely help to learn the alphabet and the basics with us before you move on to dialects, though!rnrnNorarnTeam ArabicPod101.com

ArabicPod101.com Verified
Friday at 07:46 PM
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Hi Laura,

Well, you have come to the right place! You might want to check our Egyptian Arabic path, since you live in Egypt.

Modern standard Arabic is completely different from Egyptian Arabic as you have seen, because it's a written, not a spoken language.

In the lesson library https://www.arabicpod101.com/lesson-library/absolute-beginner

Type "Egypt" in the search box, and you will find all the Egyptian Arabic series available so far.

Good luck and let us know if you need help!


Team ArabicPod101.com

Laura Augustyn
Wednesday at 01:15 PM
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I would like to learn Egyptian Arabic. I am an ESL teacher in the USA with hopes and dreams of teaching English as a Second Language in Egypt. I would like to know some words and phrases before I return there. Sukran

Friday at 09:25 PM
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I very much would like to learn Arabic with the dialect of Syria can you give me some suggestions or websites