Sun and Moon Letters

Sun and Moon Letters

The Arabic alphabet contains 28 letters. These letters are divided in two groups, 14 sun letters ( al-ḥurūfu š-šamsīyaالحروف الشمسية ) and 14 moon letters ( al-ḥurūfu l-qamarīyaالحروف القمرية ).

Sun letters – حروف الشمسية

Sun LettersWhen a word starts with one of the sun letters and is preceded by the definite article ‘ al- ال ‘, the letter lām ‘ ل ‘ assimilates into the following consonant.

For example: ‘ the lesson ‘ ‘ الدرس ‘ is not pronounced ‘ al-dars ‘ but ‘ ad-dars ‘. The word starts with a sun letter ‘ d ‘. Therefor the ‘ l ‘ of the definite article assimilates into ‘ d ‘.

These are the 14 sun letters: ت، ث، د، ذ، ر، ز، س، ش، ص، ض، ط، ظ، ل، ن .

Examples:
English العربية
the translation الترجمة
at-tarjama
the snake الثعبان
aṯ-ṯu‘bān
the world الدنيا
ad-dunyā
the arm الذراع
aḏ-ḏirā‘
the man الرجل
ar-rajul
the visit الزيارة
az-ziyāra
the car السيارة
as-sayyāra
the sun الشمس
aš-šams
the friend الصديق
aṣ-ṣadīq
the guest الضيف
aḍ-ḍaif
the doctor الطبيب
aṭ-ṭabīb
the envelope الظرف
aẓ-ẓarf
the game اللعب
al-la‘b
the light النور
an-nūr

Moon letters – حروف القمرية

Moon LettersWhen a word starts with one of the moon letters and is preceded by the definite article ‘ (’a)l- ال ‘, the letter lām ( ل ) does NOT assimilate into the following consonant.

For example: ‘ the government ‘ ‘ الحكومة ‘ is pronounced ‘ al-ḥukūma ‘ and NOTaḥ-ḥukūma ‘. The word starts with a moon letter ‘ ḥ ‘. Therefor the ‘ l ‘ of the definite article does not assimilate into ‘ ḥ ‘.

These are the 14 moon letters: أ، ب، ج، ح، خ، ع، غ، ف، ق، ك، م، ه، و، ي .

Examples:
English العربية
the brother الأخ
al-ak
the door الباب
al-bāb
the university الجامعة
al-jāmi‘a
the freedom الحرية
al-ḥurriya
the danger الخطر
al-ḵaṭar
the eye العين
al-‘ain
the room الغرفة
al-ḡurfa
the brush الفرشة
al-furša
the heart القلب
al-qalb
the dog الكلب
al-kalb
the city المدينة
al-madīna
the goal الهدف
al-hadaf
the rose الوردة
al-warda
the hand اليد
al-yad

Vocalization

Sun letters: the šadda ( ــّـ ) on the first consonant of the word indicates assimilation of the lām.

Moon letters: the first consonant of a word is preceded by the definite article with a sukūn ( ــْـ ) on the lām.

Examples (vocalized):
Sun letters Moon letters
the sun الشَّمْس the moon الْقَمَر
aš-šams al-qamar
the snow الثَّلْج the rain الْمَطَر
aṯ-ṯalj al-maṭar
the company الشَّرِكَة the party الْحِزْب
aš-šarika al-ḥizb