The definite article in Arabic

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The definite article in Arabic is -ال-. On its own, the definite article is pronounced -al- or -el-, but sometimes the “l” is not pronounced with the word of which it is the article. However, this only affects the pronunciation, in writing the -l- is always written out. But how do you know when to pronounce it and when not to? The keyword is sun and moon letters. Only the first letter of the word is decisive.

The definite article in Arabic: Sun and moon letters

Moon letters

These are the letters where the definite article is pronounced in full. It affects all letters that are pronounced on the lips or in the throat/pharynx or all letters that are formed without the help of the tongue. The letters are: ب ج ح خ ع غ ف ق ك م ن ه و ي ء

ِAccordingly, الباب (meaning: the door) is also pronounced al-bab because the initial letter of the word باب is a ب, which belongs to the moon letters.

Sun letters

Unlike the moon letters, the sum letters are pronounced with the tongue or their place or origin is between the teeth and are the following letter: ت ث د ذ ر ز س ش ص ض ط ظ ل ن

The fig, in Arabic التين, is pronounced at-tin. The ل of the article ال is written, but it is omitted when pronouncing it. Also, the first letter of the word, whiich is the sun letter ت, is pronounced doubled, as if there were a shadda over the ت. The shadda is always written above the consonant and is a doubling of the letter, which has a reinforcing or intensifying effect.

Arabic as a language with a harmonious sound

Like French, Arabic is a harmonious-sounding language. In order for a language to sound melodic and fluent, tonal adjustments must be made that represent a departure from the actual rules of grammar. These exceptions are also grammatical rule in themselves and MUST be observed. It is the same with the definite article in Arabic. If followed by a sun letter, the article is pronounced abbreviated because the other combination is more difficult to pronounce and sounds less beautiful.

That was the definite article in Arabic. If you liked the article, you can also read the article on Personal pronouns and suffixes in Arabic here.

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