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Lesson Transcript


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?
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,
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”


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)