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Lesson Transcript

Intro

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: How come Arabic has many forms of the same letter?
Explanation
There are 28 letters in the Arabic alphabet. But many learners wonder why letters look different in different parts of a word. It can make the alphabet seem like much more than 28 letters!
That’s due to the cursive nature of Arabic text. Arabic is written from right to left in a cursive style,
Illustration:
اللغة العربية
So, Arabic letters occur in 4 different forms: initial, medial, final, and isolated.
Let's see examples of some letters in their 4 different forms:
Letter : ج/ǧ
Initial: جميل / ǧamil /“beautiful”
Medial: مجلة / maǧallah / “magazine”
Final: ثلج / ṯalǧ /"snow”
Isolated: سراج / siraǧ / "lamp”
Next we have,
Letter : ع/ʿ
Initial: عِلم / ʿilm /“scienze”
Medial: معلم / muʿallim / “teacher”
Final: منعْ / manʿ /“forbidding”
Isolated: ممنوع / mamnūʿ / “forbidden”
Letter : س/s
Initial: سمك / samak /“fish”
Medial: مَسْح / masḥ / “wiping”
Final: هَمَسَ / hams /“he whispered”
Isolated: حَماس / ḥamas / “enthusiasm”
Some letters don't change much from one form to the other. Only the connection part is different. Let’s check out some examples:
Letter : ت/t
Initial: تفاح / tuffaḥ /“apples”
Medial: متاح / mutaḥ / “available”
Final: بيت / bayt /“a house”
Isolated: صوت / ṣawt / “a sound”
Letter : د/d
Initial: دب / dub /“bear”
Medial: قدر / qadar / “fate”
Final: عيد / ʿid /“feast”
Isolated: ورد / ward / “flowers”

Outro

Did you notice the word “Hamas” in the examples? The Palestinian organization “Hamas” actually means “Enthusiasm” in Arabic.
Pretty interesting, right?
If you have any more questions, please leave a comment below!
Bye! إلى اللقاء(ʾilā al-liqaāʾ)

3 Comments

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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
Wednesday at 06:09 AM
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Hi Kylie,


You could use this wikipedia article chart as reference, but it is always to try to look at the Arabic letter and reply on the audio for pronunciation. It gives you a much better idea of how it is supposed to be pronounced :)


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DIN_31635


Nora

Team ArabicPod101.com

Kylie
Wednesday at 10:50 AM
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Hi Nora, I notice some of the letters in the Romanized spellings of the Arabic words have carets or dots above or below them. Are these standard linguistic marks, or are they unique to the romanized versions to indicate a different type of letter sound? The dots seem to apply to back of the throat sounds, for example. Thanks in advance! 👍