Sun and moon letters

In this article, the phonemes are transliterated according to the DIN 31635
Sun letters (red) and moon letters (black)

In literary Arabic and Maltese, the consonants are divided into two groups, called the sun letters (or solar letters) and moon letters (or lunar letters) (Arabic: حروف شمسيةḥurūf šamsiyyah and حروف قمرية ḥurūf qamariyyah, accordingly), based on whether or not they assimilate the (l)[1] of a preceding article. This naming scheme stems from the circumstance that the word for "the sun", aš-šams, assimilates the article, while the word for "the moon", al-qamar, does not.

When followed by a sun letter, the l of the Arabic definite article al- assimilates to the initial consonant of the following noun, resulting in a doubled consonant. For example, for "the Nile", one does not say al-Nīl, but an-Nīl. When the definite article is followed by a moon letter, no assimilation takes place.

Sun letters represented coronal consonants in the classical language. Since the article, al-, ends in a coronal consonant, it lends itself to assimilation with these sounds. The letter ج ǧ has three standard pronunciations: [ɡ], [ʒ] or [d͡ʒ] in accents of Modern Standard Arabic as well as varieties of Arabic today. However, it represented a palatalized voiced velar plosive, /ɡʲ/ or /ɟ/, in the Koranic Arabic. As a result, its sound does not assimilate the article and it is classified as a moon letter.

The 14 sun letters are ﻥ ﻝ ﻅ ﻁ ﺽ ﺹ ﺵ ﺱ ﺯ ﺭ ﺫ ﺩ ﺙ ﺕ; transliterated from left to right t, , d, , r, z, s, š, , , , , l, n.

The 14 moon letters are ه ﻱ ﻭ ﻡ ﻙ ﻕ ﻑ ﻍ ﻉ ﺥ ﺡ ﺝ ﺏ ء; transliterated from left to right ʾ, b, ǧ, , , ʿ, ġ, f, q, k, m, w, y, h.

In the written language, the ال al- is retained regardless of how it is pronounced[1] , though gemination may be expressed by putting an optional šaddah on the following letter.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Abboud, Peter F. et al. (1983). Elementary Modern Standard Arabic 1. Cambridge UP. pp. 123–124. ISBN 0 521 27295 5. 

External links


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