Tuesday, June 15

'The', Sun & Moon Letters

The, El-

In Arabic, there is one word for 'the', the definite article. This word is ال 'el-' and is used in front of both male and female words. It is attached at the beginning of the word and forms one word. For example:

مدرس — mudarris — teacher
المدرس — el-mudarris — the teacher*
بنت — bent - girl
البنت — el-bent — the girl

Sun Letters

If a word begins with a Sun Letter, then the 'l' of the 'el-' assimilates to that letter. For example, if a word begins with ش 'sh', then the ال 'el-' will be pronounced like 'esh-', like in the word الشمس  'esh-shams' meaning the Sun, which this concept is named after. Remember, that even though it is pronounced differently, it is still spelled with ال in Arabic.

There are two ways to easily remember the Sun Letters, or 'el-7orouf el-shamseyya'   الحروف الشمسية  as they are called in Arabic.:

1) Memorize. The 14 Sun Letters are;

ﻥ ,ﻝ ,ﻅ ,ﻁ ,ﺽ ,ﺹ ,ﺵ ,ﺱ ,ﺯ ,ﺭ ,ﺫ ,ﺩ ,ﺙ ,ﺕ

n, l, Z, T, D, S, sh, s, z, r, z, d, s, t

In Egyptian Arabic, ج (g) and ك (k) also act the same as Sun Letters.

2) Think about how you are pronouncing the letters. If you pronounce it with the tip of your tongue touching the roof of your mouth, then it's a sun letter. The letters ج and ك do not follow this rule, but in Egyptian Arabic treat them as sun letters.

All other letters are called Moon Letters, or 'el-7orouf el 2amareyya'  الحروف القمرية


الناس — el-naas — the people
الطفل — eT-Tifl - the children
 الكلمة — ek-kelma — the word
الزيت — ez-zeit - the oil
الضهر — eD-Duhr - the noon
اللون — el-loun — the colour
الكرسي — ek-kursi — the chair 

* I write the el with a hyphen '-' attached to the word in the Latin alphabet just to avoid confusion and emphasise that we are using the definite article, rather than writing a word beginning with the letters 'el'. It would be just as correct to omit the hyphen and write simply 'elmudarris'. Either way, it is pronounced as one word.

I have written all letters with an Egyptian accent. In formal Arabic, ث is pronounced as a soft 'th' as in think. ذ is prounced similarly to a hard 'th' as in 'this' and is often transcribed as 'dh'. In Egypt, they are pronounced 's' and 'z' respectively.

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