The letter ayn

The letter ayn is a part of the Arabic alphabet. Here you will learn how to pronounce and write ayn.

How ayn is pronounced

The word for arabic is pronounced 3arabiyya. If someone instead pronounces it 'arabiyya', you know that he or she is new to Arabic. The letter ayn is crucial if you want to speak proper Arabic.
I write the pronunciation as a 3 which is common when Arabic is written using Latin letters, for example in online chats. The number 3 looks a bit like the shape of the letter ayn ع, but mirrored.
Regarding the pronunciation of this crucial Arabic letter, I will use descriptions that I have read in books by Wikander*. ع has something heavy over it. The sound is traditionally described as the sound of a heavily loaded camel when it gets up. Some like to point out that ع is produced with the same muscles as most Swedish speaking people only uses to throw up. The most simple way to learn the pronunciation of ع correctly might be to try to pronounce an a as far back in the throat as possible, until it stops being a vowel an turns into a sort of cooing grunting.
I also want to refer to this video by Maha where she goes through the pronunciation of ع
The letter ayn is one of the letters that gives the Arabic language its character. If you want to sound as a professional Arabic speaker and not a beginner, you must pronounce these letters properly. Do not be careful when you pronounce these letters. It is better to exaggerate, then it is easier for the people you are talking with to hear the difference. If you exaggerate the pronunciation, it is also easier for you to memorize the words, and you will know what letter to use when you spell them.

In the phonetic alphabet, the pronunciation of ayn is written [ʕ]. On this website, I write the pronunciation 3.

* Source: The book Ett hav i mäktig rörelse by Ola Wikander.

How ayn is written

The letter ayn has four shapes: isolated, initial, medial and final.

finalmedialinitialisolerad
ـﻊـﻌـﻋـ

Which of the shapes to use depends on the letter's position in the word and surrounding letters. Do not forget that Arabic is written from right to left.

The letter ayn is dual joining. That means that it wants to connect to both right and left. If there is a letter before, that also is dual joining, then ayn will connect with it. If there is a letter after, then ayn will connect with it. How to write with Arabic dual joining letters.

ayn isolerad form

This is how the Arabic letter ayn is written in its isolerad form:

This form is used in the following situations:

ayn alone

When ayn stands by itself, the isolated form is used.

ayn in the end after right joining letter

When ayn is the last letter of a word and comes after a right joining letter, the isolated form is used. It is free to the right since the letter before it does not connect to the left. It is also free to the left since there is no letter after.

ayn initial form

This is how the Arabic letter ayn is written in its initial form:

ﻋـ

This form is used in the following situations:

ayn in the beginning of words

When ayn is the first letter of a word, the initial form is used. It is free to the right and has a tail to the left to connect with the letter after it.

ayn in the middle after right joining letter

When ayn is in the middle of a word and follows a right joining letter, the initial form is used. It is free to the right since the letter before it does not connect to the left, and it has a tail to the left to connect with the letter after.

ayn medial form

This is how the Arabic letter ayn is written in its medial form:

ـﻌـ

This form is used in the following situation:

ayn in the middle of words

When ayn is in the middle of a word, e.g. when ayn is neither the first nor the last letter, the medial form is often used. It has tails in both directions to connect with both the letter before it and the letter after it.

ayn final form

This is how the Arabic letter ayn is written in its final form:

ـﻊ

This form is used in the following situation:

ayn in the end of words

When ayn is the last letter of a word, the final form is often used. It has a tail to the right to connect with the letter before it, and it is free to the left since there is no letter after.

Conclusion: how ayn is written

The letter ayn has four forms.
The isolated form is used when ayn stands by itself and in the end of words (after a right joining letter). In other words: When there is no letter before that wants to connect and there is no letter after.
The initial form ﻋـ is used in the beginning of words and in the middle of words (if the letter before is right joining). In other words: When there is no letter before that wants to connect and there is a letter after.
The medial form ـﻌـ is used in the middle of words (if the letter before is not right joining). In other words: When there is a letter before that wants to connect and there is a letter after.
The final form ـﻊ is used in the end of words (if the letter before is not right joining). In other words: When there is a letter before that wants to connect and there is no letter after.

That's it!
The rules you have learned can be applied to all Arabic dual joining letters, which is most of them.

ayn is a moon letter

You get the definite form of a word by putting the definite article al in front of it.

اَل

The Arabic letter ayn is a moon letter. That means that the definite article is pronounced al and nothing else. The letters that are not moon letters are called sun letters, and they are assimilated with the definite article al.

For example the Arabic word for agreement, contract, necklace is pronounced 3aqd and written ﻋَﻘﺪ. In definite form, it is pronounced al3aqd and written اَل‍ﻋَﻘﺪ.

Read more about definite form

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