Solar Letters
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Solar Letters
Sun letters (red) and moon letters (black)

In Arabic and Maltese, the consonants are divided into two groups, called the sun letters or solar letters (Arabic: ? ?ur?f shamsiyyah) and moon letters or lunar letters (? ?ur?f qamariyyah), based on whether they assimilate the letter l?m (? l)[1] of a preceding Arabic definite article al- (), which is an important general rule used in Arabic grammar. Phonetically, sun letters are ones pronounced as coronal consonants, and moon letters are ones pronounced as other consonants.

These names come from the fact that the word for 'the sun', al-shams, pronounced ash-shams, assimilates the l?m, while the word for 'the moon', al-qamar, does not.

Rule

When followed by a sun letter, the 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-N?l, but an-N?l.

When the Arabic definite article (?) is followed by a moon letter, no assimilation takes place.

The sun letters represent the coronal consonants according to the phonology of Classical Arabic, and the moon letters represent all others. The sun and moon letters are as follows:

Sun letters ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
t th d dh r z s sh ? ? ? ? l n
Moon letters ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?
' b j ? kh ? gh f q k m h w y

J?m

The letter ? j?m is pronounced differently depending on the region of the speaker. In many regions it represents a coronal consonant such as or . However, in Classical Arabic, it represented a palatalized voiced velar plosive // or a voiced palatal plosive (and a contemporary pronunciation as or is retained in Egypt, Sudan and southern Yemen / Oman). As a result, it was classified as a moon letter and it never assimilates the article. Maltese ? /d/ is also considered a moon consonant while its voiceless counterpart ? is a sun consonant.

Maltese

The sun (konsonanti xemxin) and moon (konsonanti qamrin) letters are as follows:

Sun letters ? d n r s t x ? z
, ,
Moon letters b f ? g g? h ? j k l m p q v w
/?:/ silent ,

If a word starts with any of the moon letters, the definite article il- stays the same and does not assimilate, while with the sun letters it assimilates accordingly to to: i?-, id-, in-, ir-, is-, it-, ix-, i?-, iz-. It is also worth mentioning that words starting with vowels, and the letters g?, and h get the definite article l- (minus the initial i). When the definite article comes exactly after a word ending in a vowel, the initial <i> of the article always drops, as in "dak ir-ra?el ra r-ra?el" (that man saw the man). When a word starts with two consonants, the definite article used is l-, but an i is attached at the beginning of the word: skola > l-iskola and ?vezja > l-I?vezja.[2]

Orthography

In the written language, the al- is retained regardless of how it is pronounced.[1] When full diacritics are used, assimilation may be expressed by putting a shaddah on the consonant after the l?m. Non-assimilation may be expressed by placing a suk?n over the l?m.

Most modern-written Arabic names (including personal names and geographical Arabic names) do not follow the consonant assimilation rule or the shaddah when latinized in Latin-spelled languages. Sometimes the sun and moon rules are not followed in casual speech.

E.g. personal name: ? - Al-Rahman instead of "Ar-Ra?m?n";

geographical name: - Al-Jumhuriyah Al-Tunisiyah instead of "al-Jumh?r?yatu 't-T?nis?yah".

Examples
Sun letters Moon letters
ash-shams 'the sun' al-qamar 'the moon'
ath-thiqah 'the confidence' al-murj?n 'the coral'
Sun/Solar Letters
? ?ur?f shams?yah
Moon/Lunar Letters
? ?ur?f qamar?yah
Letter IPA "l?m" assimilated to definite article "al"

along with shaddah ()

Examples Letter IPA "l?m" NOT Assimilated to definite article "al"

(?)

Examples
?

t

-

'at-t...

at-t?n(u)

= the fig

?

'

- ,

al-'a.../ al-'u...; al-'i...

?

al-'akh(u)

= the brother

al-'udhun(u)

= the ear

al-'ibr?q(u)

= the jug

?

th

-

ath-th...

ath-tha'lab(u)

= the fox

?

b

-

al-b...

al-bayt(u)

= the house

?

d

-?

'ad-d...

ad-dubb(u)

= the bear

?

j

-

al-j...

al-jawz(u)

= the walnut

?

dh

-?

adh-dh...

adh-dhakar(u)

= the man, male

?

?

-

al-?...

al-?ajj(u)

=the Hajj pilgrimage

?

r

-?

ar-r...

ar-Rabb(u)

= the Lord (Allah)

?

kh

-

al-kh...

al-khawkh(u)

=the peach

?

z

-?

az-z...

az-zanbaq(u)

= the lily

?

?

-

al-'a.../ al-'u.../ al-'i...

al-'aql(u)

= the mind

al-'ush·b(u)

= the grass

al-'id(u)

= the holiday/ festival

?

s

-

as-s...

?

as-sam?w?t(u)

= the Heavens/ firmament, skies

?

gh

-

al-gh...

?

al-ghar?m(u)

= the love, warmth, romantic

?

sh

-

ash-sh...

ash-shar·q(u)

= the east

?

f

-

al-f...

al-fik·r(u)

= the thought

?

?

-

a?-?...

a?-?a?·r?'(u)

= the desert

?

q

-

al-q...

al-qir·d(u)

= the monkey

?

?

-

a?-?...

?

a?-?ab?b(u)

= the fog

?

k

-

al-k...

al-kawkab(u)

= the planet

?

?

-

a?-?...

?

a?-hir(u)

= the pure

?

m

-

al-m...

al-mat·?af(u)

= the museum

?

?

-

a?-?...

a?-?uh·r(u)

= the noon

?

w

-?

al-w...

?

al-wafiyy(u)

= the faithful

?

l

-

al-l...

al-lawn(u)

= the colour

?

y

-

al-y...

?

al-y?ns?n(u)

= the anise

?

n

-

an-n...

?

an-nis?'(u)

= the women

?

h

-

al-h...

?

al-haw?'(u)

= the air, kiss of life

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.
  2. ^ Aidan. "The Definite Article in Maltese".

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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