Pronouncing Transliterated ArabicYou will find a number of different spellings for many words. This is mainly due to assumptions in transliteration of the Arabic script that normally does not show short vowels. It also can be due to regional variations. For instance, for "town", the Hippocrene dictionary gives the spelling "balad" for Syrian Arabic and "beled" for the Egyptian version. (Note Egyptian Arabic is often quite different from standard Arabic in both pronunciation and vocabulary).
Most transliterations can be pronounced as written in English but there are a couple of specials:
- 'gh' represents an exaggerated gargling, uvular u-sound (sometimes written as R as it is similar to a French 'r' in 'rue')
- 'kh' as the guttural 'ch' in Scottish 'loch'
- ‘ represents a strong guttural sound
- ’ represents a glottal stop or pause
- h is as in "house", while H is emphatic with a strong explusion of air*
- D, S, T, Z, q, r are "dark" or "emphatic "letters that
sound a little different*. For example "s" sounds like the s in "seen" while
"S" sounds more like the s in "sod" (thanks Randa).
They also "thicken" the vowels. So 'raqS" sounds more like 'rockS'
('k' & 'q' should be used with care - see Mind your Ks and Qs
Also see The Dark S)
- Z is sometimes written th - but it is the th in "the" rather than the th in "this"*
- some schemes transliterate H, D, S, T as lowercase with a line through or a dot under it.*
Where possible, I have included the Arabic script for the word so you can double check.
Arabic script is written right to left. Letter shapes vary according to where they are in the word and the font or handwriting style adopted. (When in doubt count the dots). Some Arabic calligraphy is indeed an art form in itself.
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