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Transliteration

In the Arabic language, there are a number of letters that do not have a
corresponding equivalent in the English language. As a result the sound or
pronunciation of those letters would be unfamiliar to the English reader who has
not come across them before. Some of them may easily be pronounced by the
English reader, whereas s/he would find others difficult to pronounce, unless he
has already been exposed to the sounds of the Arabic alphabet.
The Arabic consonant characters are given below along with their equivalent
English characters or sounds.

b = ‫ب‬ z = ‫ز‬ f = ‫ف‬
t = ‫ت‬ s = ‫س‬ q = ‫ق‬
th = ‫ث‬ sh = ‫ش‬ k = ‫ك‬
j = ‫ج‬ s} = ‫ص‬ l = ‫ل‬
h} = ‫ح‬ d} = ‫ض‬ m = ‫م‬
kh = ‫خ‬ t} = ‫ط‬ n = ‫ن‬
d = ‫د‬ dh = ‫ظ‬ h = ‫ﻩ‬
c
dh = ‫ذ‬ = ‫ع‬ w = ‫و‬
r = ‫ر‬ gh = ‫غ‬ y = ‫ي‬

The Arabic vowel characters are
Short a = ´ i = ِ u = ُ
Long a> = ‫ا‬ i> = ‫ي‬ u> = ‫و‬

This presentation is an effort to describe the sounds of these letters, and or explain
how their sounds are generated, hoping that the reader may obtain some idea about
those particular characters, when they appear in some Arabic terms used in this
work.
To distinguish these letters, either a combination of two letters are used or, in the
case of the majority of the difficult letters, a normal Latin letter is used in
association with a dot below it or a line or diacritic above as shown in the table
above. Furthermore there are a couple of letters in the Arabic alphabet which are
indicated using the symbols ’ and c.
Beginning with the easy ones, there is the letter that is symbolized as:
th, which sounds like the th in the word ‘three’. The other letter is symbolized as:
dh, which sounds like the th in the word ‘there’.
As for the difficult ones, they are as follows:
H{ or h}
The sound of this letter resembles the sound of ‘strong, breathy’ H. The sound
for h} is generated from the proximity of the throat that the normal h is, but from
an area slightly further up the throat, with more tension in the local throat muscle,
with the back end of the tongue closing in against the roof of the throat
immediately before the uvula.
Kh or kh
The sound for this is perhaps somewhere between of that of ‘h’ and ‘k’, as far as
the location of mouth where it is generated is concerned. It is generated at the
back of the mouth, by pressing the back end of the tongue against the soft palate
whilst forcing the air through in the outward direction, causing the uvula to
vibrate.
Example of the sound of kh found in English or that the English reader may be
familiar with is Loch, the Scottish word for lake, where the ch in loch is
pronounced as the designated kh in Arabic.
S{ or s}
The sound of this letter resembles the sound of ‘strong’ S. It is generated by
involving the main trunk of the tongue, by slightly curving the centre of the front
half of the tongue in the downward direction. In aid of pronouncing the sound of
the ‘strong’ S, it would be helpful if you consider saying the normal letter ‘S’,
when the front upper and lower teeth are brought closer together reducing the
airflow, thus producing the sound of the letter ‘S’. The opposite process is used to
generate the sound of the ‘strong’ S, i.e. the sound is produced when slightly
moving apart the upper and lower teeth, thus pronouncing the ‘strong’ S.
D{ or d}
The sound of this letter is somewhere near the sound of the normal D. Whereas
the sound of a normal D is generated by placing the front end of the tongue at the
front end of the hard palate or the roof of the mouth adjoining the top teeth, the
sound of d} is generated by touching, to the same location, more of the front trunk
of the tongue while caving in the middle part of the tongue.
Dh or dh
The best description of this sound is that it could be the strong version of the sound
of ‘dh’ as in the word ‘there’. Whereas ‘dh’ is generated by placing the tip of the
tongue between the upper and lower front teeth, whilst pressing against the upper
front teeth, the sound for dh is generated by pressing more of the front end of the
tongue between the upper and lower front teeth, whilst pressing against the upper
front teeth, and the centre of the tongue is curved downwards.
T{ or t}
The sound of this letter resembles a ‘strong’ T. Whereas a normal T is generated
by involving the front end of the tongue, the ‘strong’ T is generated by pressing
the front end of the trunk of the tongue against the front end of the hard palate or
the roof of the mouth. Also when the normal T is pronounced, the lower jaw does
not move, whereas in the case of pronouncing the strong T, or T{, the lower jaw
moves outwards.
’ or the hamzah, which is the character representing the glottal stop.
c
also shown as ‘
This symbol is used to characterize an Arabic alphabet that represents the sound of
a strong ‘throaty’ A. Just as the sound for A is generated at the back of the throat,
in the same proximity, the sound for c or ‘ is also generated with the difference that
the entire throat back is engaged in the process by a stroke of contraction in the
muscle there. In this process more of the throat is blocked, which also involves the
back end of the tongue, than when pronouncing the normal A. Just in the case of
the normal A, the sound is actually generated at the time of the release of the
contraction of the muscles involved.
Gh or gh
The nearest sound for this is that of the French R.
Q or q
The sound for this letter is a short and sharp version of the letter ‘gh’ or the French
R. Whereas in the process of generating the sound of ‘gh’ the back end of the
tongue is pressed slightly against the uvula, allowing some air to flow, in the case
of the sound of the Arabic alphabet represented by Q, the same process takes place
with the difference that the passage is completely blocked, and the sound is
actually generated by he sudden release of the passage.

‘Long’ a
There are also cases when there is a diacritic or a small horizontal line above the
letter, like a> : this is to represent ‘long’ a, an alternative to writing aa. The
nearest example for the long a, or a>, in English words is case of “far” as opposed
to the word “fat”. In the case of “far”, the ‘a’ is elongated in the pronunciation,
whereas in the case of “fat”, the ‘a’ is short.
‘Long’ i
In the case of i>, it represents the pronunciation of the ee in the word ‘need’.
‘Long’ u
In the case of u>, it represents the pronunciation of the oo in the word ‘noon’.
‘Double’ letters
In the Arabic language, there are many instances where a letter in a word has
double pronunciations with a very slight pause between the two. The first
pronunciation is always the sound of the letter itself, and the second is the sound of
the letter together with that of the following letter. For correct pronunciation of
the word, it is important that there is a very slight pause between the sounds of the
double letters. Some examples are as follows:
Alla>h, where the presence of ‘ll’ indicates the requirement of the double
pronunciation of the letter ‘l’. It may help if the word is considered as Al-la>h,
with the pause due to the hyphen being very slight. Another example is
Muhammad.
N.B.
To emphasise the correct pronunciation of some Arabic words, the transliteration
characters are normally used for words like Alla>h, Qur’a>n, Muh}ammad,
su>rah, a>yah, etc. On the other hand, to adhere to simplicity it has been decided
that diacritics and other transliteration characters are to be avoided where possible
– in common words – where it is assumed that reader is or would be familiar with
the pronunciation of those words, and that such characters are only used for less
common and unfamiliar words only. So for such words as the above-mentioned,
they would be written simply as Allah, Qur’an, Muhammad, surah, ayah, etc.
Along similar lines, names of prophets and messengers are generally presented in
the Latin form in this work, although on the initial occasion for each case, the
equivalent of the Arabic pronunciation is also given. e.g. in the case of the name of
prophet Abraham, its Arabic equivalent of Ibra>hi>m is also given for the first
time, and subsequently only the Latin form is used for the sake of ease and
simplicity for the English reader.