The Moon And The Sun: Arabic letters and the definite article "AL".
As some requested, I've decided to do a little post here about the Solar and Lunar letters which make out the body of the Arabic abjad or alphabet. So, hopefully no grammar for today!
For those who wonder or new to the concept, what we are about to talk about here is: Two groups of letters, and each group do react in a different manner to the definition article AL الـ. The names "solar" and "lunar" might have some history behind them but I'm not sure of any and all I have in my mind right now is theories, which I'll keep to myself for the time being as they don't really serve much of a purpose here. I'll try also to provide an audio, and I hope it is clear enough, just to see the differences before and after adding the definite article AL.
Arabic: الحروف القمرية (al-ħurúf al-qamariyyah). I'm starting with this set of letters because these are the norm. When these letters start a word and this gets defined with "AL" الـ nothing drastic happens; Both "L" of "AL" and the lunar letter is spelled out clearly (and if there is a word preceding, the Alif of "AL" succumbs to the last vowel of the preceding word, always).
The lunar letters set is composed of 14 letters in total; that's half of the Arabic alphabet:
أ ب ج ح خ ع غ ف ق ك م هـ و ي
Now, here is a sample list of words, starting with each letter. The word will be displayed twice, once with and once without the definite article "AL", and so will be the reading recitation in the audio below. Feel free to download the audio and play it as you follow the words if you like. I hope the audio is clear though. It has been recorded by my smartphone:
- أ: أرنب - الأرنب (arnab - al-arnab: rabbit - the rabbit).
- ب: بُخار - البُخار (buxár - al-buxár: vapor - the vapor).
- ج: جميل - الجميل (jamíl - al-jamíl: beautiful - the beautiful).
- ح: حوت - الحوت (ħút - al-ħút: whale - the whale).
- خ: خَفّاش - الخَفّاش (xaffáš - al-xaffáš: bat - the bat).
- ع: عَشيرَة - العشيرة (3ašírah - al-3ašírah: clan - the clan).
- غ: غُبار - الغُبار (ğubár - al-ğubár: dust - the dust).
- ف: فصيح - الفصيح (facíħ - al-facíħ: eloquent - the eloquent). speech
- ق: قَمَر - القَمَر (qamar - al-qamar: moon - the moon).
- ك: كَلِمة - الكَلِمَة (kalimah - al-kalimah: word - the word).
- م: مِعْمار - المِعْمار (mi3már - al-mi3már: architect - the architect).
- هـ: هَواء - الهواء (hawá' - al-hawá': air - the air).
- و: وَرَق - الوَرَق (waraq - al-waraq: paper - the paper).
- ي: ياقوت - الياقوت (yáqút - al-yáqút: ruby - the ruby).
If I have the time I would have provided more than one word for each letter but I hope this list would do for the set of Lunar letters.
Arabic: الحروف الشمسية (al-ħurúf al-šamsiyyah). This set of letters is probably the one that does the havoc on learners mostly because of the change that they impose on the word when it is defined with "AL". When any of these letters come at the beginning of a word, and then word gets defined with "AL," then the "L" sound of "AL" phonetically disappears and it is merged with the word's beginning, cause this letter to get Shaddah (i.e. being doubled). This doubling act shows as a stress, but not on accent as it is with most of European language (the concept of stress is mostly not applicable in Arabic) but it is to spell the double-letter longer than it normally is, as if speaking two separate syllables (VC-CV) following each other. This happens naturally when a native speaks and as children we didn't really think about why it is the way it is. Now as I am on Duolingo, I realized the matter is not as simple as I thought and non-Arabs really wonder why this is happening. The phonetic explanation for this is, I presume, the following: Unlike the case with lunar letters, the distance or the movement of the tongue inside the mouth between the position for "L" and a solar letter is not so smooth, and to ease the flow of the speech, this merge of "L" into the solar letter occurs and hence the tongue wouldn't have to be making some hard move inside the mouth or a "long" distance between one position and another, cutting the time required for that, and keeping the flow of phonemes ongoing. This is how imagine it at least. As I said, it is something that comes naturally to natives as we speak.
Anyway, as we saw above, the Lunar set takes half of the alphabet, and so, the Solar set takes the other half of the alphabet:
ت ث د ذ ر ز س ش ص ض ط ظ ل ن
And now with a sample list of words that start with each letter, and each once with and once without the definite article "AL" to see the difference. Like above, the audio follows and if you like, feel free to download the audio and follow the recitation if that helps you:
- ت: تِبْر - التِّبر (tibr - at-tibr: gold dust - the gold dust).
- ث: ثَوْب - الثَّوْب (þawb - aþ-þawb: dress - the dress).
- د: دَليل - الدَّليل (dalíl - ad-dalíl: guide - the guide).
- ذ: ذَنَب - الذَّنَب (ðanab - að-ðanab: tail - the tail).
- ر: رَبيع - الرَّبيع (rabí3 - ar-rabí3: spring - the spring).
- ز: زَئير - الزَّئير (za'ír - az-za'ír: roar - the roar).
- س: سَراب - السَّراب (saráb - as-saráb: mirage - the mirage).
- ش: شَمْس - الشَّمْس (šams - aš-šams: sun - the sun).
- ص: صَيْف - الصَّيْف (cayf - ac-cayf: summer - the summer).
- ض: ضَباب - الضَّباب (đabáb - ađ-đabáb: fog - the fog).
- ط: طِفْل - الطِّفْل (ŧifl - aŧ-ŧifl: child - the child).
- ظ: ظِرْبان - الظِّرْبان (ďirbán - aď-ďirbán: skunk - the skunk).
- ل: لُعاب - اللُّعاب (lu3áb - al-lu3áb: saliva - the saliva).
- ن: ناقوس - النّاقوس (náqús - an-náqús: bell - the bell). classical. also جَرَس
Well, this is my list for the solar letter words and I tried to be a bit "innovative" if I can call myself so, trying to give out words that I didn't mention much before in my previous posts just to increase the arsenal of vocabulary as much as possible, so hopefully this adds something to the stock.
Notice here that in Lunar or Solar letters, the spelling of the word does not change. People who are reading this and are familiar to the Maltese language, probably get the idea of how the definite article in Maltese changes with the change of the first letter in the word, this is essentially because Maltese is somewhat a dialect of Arabic (with European influence) and it is written in Latin alphabet, and thus such change in writing must be noted accordingly. In Arabic, and using the Arabic script, no change occurs in the spelling or anything except in the diacritics (adding Shaddah), but the body of the word and the definite article are not changed. Again, it is something that occurs naturally to the native when speaking so even without Shaddah on the first letter of the word, things are quite clear.
Well, I hope this sort of short post is beneficial for you guys and hope it clears the issue of the lunar and solar letters, once and for all. Too bad such posts can't be made "sticky" in the forum, but well, if you like this post, try to share it so the benefit spreads to learners as much as possible. Feel free to copy and download the audio. All I ask for is the credit. Thank you!
As for me now, it's time to prepare for my bedtime! Good Night! تصبحون بخير
Thank you for this "lesson" . Forgive me my rudeness, I believe you made a little mistake in the text, In the section "Solar letters" .. 6th and 5th last line (written in cursive) I think you mean :
....and hence the tongue wouldn't have to be making some hard move inside the mouth or a "long" distance....
(I believe you mistakenly used twice “move” while second should read "mouth") Please do not feel offended, just trying to help you a little as kind of return for your efforts to help us which we greatly appreciate.
Amazing. Thank you so much. You are very good in explaining topics. Might it be possible, if you can spare some time, to go on with posts about very beginner grammar topics? One could be the order of the letters, from strong to weak, who can carry the Hamza, or something similar.