The Arabic Letter Aleph (أ)

Nora Nasr

Author

Nora Nasr

The Arabic Letter Aleph (أ)

The first letter of the Arabic alphabet is aleph (sometimes written as alif when transliterated) and it is the first letter of the Semitic abjads.

The letter is derived from the word for ‘ox’, and in Modern Standard Arabic, the word means ‘tamed’ or ‘familar’.

All 29 letters of the alphabet are consonants. However, aleph is one of the unusual ones that does not have its own sound.

The vowel above or below aleph determines the sound (see below).

Today I'll show you how to pronounce and write it the letter aleph.

How aleph is written

The letter aleph comes in three varieties: isolated, medial, and final.

The shape to use is determined by the letter's position in the word and the surrounding letters.

Note: Remember that Arabic is written from right to left.

Aleph at the start of a word

Aleph first position

The isolated form is used when alef is the first letter of a word. It is free to the right because there is no letter preceding it, and it is free to the left because it refuses to connect to the letter following it.

An example of this would be ‘the moon’ which is written القمر

Aleph in the middle of a word

The isolated form is used when alef appears in the middle of a word and follows another right connecting letter. It is free to the right because the letter before it refuses to link, and it is free to the left because the letter after it refuses to connect.

An example of this is ‘women’ which is نساء

Aleph at the end of a word

Aleph final position

The final form is frequently used when aleph is the last letter of a word. It has a tail to the right to connect to the letter before it, and there is no tail to the left since there is no letter following it.

An example of this is ‘America’ أمريكا

Arabic short vowels on the letter aleph

The Arabic vowels are fat-ha ( َ ), damma ( ُ ) and kasra ( ِ ).

  • Fat-ha: For example, the word for pain in Arabic, ألم (pronounced alam) has a fat-ha
  • Dhamma: The word for mother, أم (pronounced um) has a dhamma
  • Kasra: Lastly, the Arabic word for ‘spread’ اِنْتَشَرَ‎ (pronounced intišār), has a kasra

Aleph is a lunar letter

Aleph is a lunar letter.

In Arabic, consonants are classified as sun letters (also sometimes called solar letters) or moon letters or (also sometimes called lunar letters) based on whether the definite article (اَل) assimilates the preceding Arabic letter.

These names are derived from the fact that the term for 'the sun,' (الشَّمْس) al-shams, pronounced ash-shams, assimilates the shin into the article, whereas al-qamar (القمر) does not.

Are you interested in learning more about the Arabic language? Join thousands of students from all over the world and start learning today.

Join now and start speaking Arabic today!

Create your account now and join thousands of other Arabic learners from around the world.