The Arabic Alphabet (3)

Arabic is a cursive language; its letters must be joined to form words. This entails that they change their shapes. The change in shape is not straightforward, as a letter can have three different shapes: one at the beginning of the word, one in the middle of the word, and one at the end of the word. This makes Arabic writing difficult for most beginners, so many learners unfortunately resort to using transliteration, which turns out to be an obstacle in later stages of learning.

The table above shows the shapes of the first fifteen Arabic letters at beginning of the word, in the middle of the word, and at the end of the word. At the beginning of the word, five letters don’t join to subsequent letters. They are ا, د, ذ, ر, and ز. These letters in addition to و, which we will see in the next lesson, never join to subsequent letters. So, let’s call them semi-joining letters.

In the middle as well as at the end of the word, all the letters join to the preceding letter, except with semi-joining letters. Therefore, the letters that follow the non-joining letters are written like when they occur at the beginning of the word, if there is another letter after them, or like when they occur in isolation, if they are the last letters of the word.

Here are some illustrative examples:

بـَ  + ـتـَ  +  ـرَ  =  بَتَرَ

خَـ  +  ـشَـ  +  ـبَـ  +  ـا  +  ت  = خَشَبَات

شـِ  +  ـبـْ  +  ـسٌ  =  شِبْس

دُ  +  حـِ  +  ـرَ  =  دُحِرَ

حَـ  +  ـرَ  +  دْ  +  نَ  +  ا  =  حَرَدْنَا

تَـ  +  ـخْـ  +  رُ  +  جَ  +  ا  +  ن  = تَخْرُجَان

In the next lesson, you will learn how the remaining set of alphabets join to preceding and following letters.

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