The Somali Latin alphabet has been the official writing script in Somalia since 1972. It was developed by the Somali linguist Shire Jama Ahmed specifically for transcribing the Somali language, and is based on the Latin script. The Somali Latin alphabet uses all letters of the English Latin alphabet except p, v and z. There are no diacritics or other special characters, although it includes three consonants digraphs: DH, KH and SH. Tone is not marked and a word-initial glottal stop is also not shown. Capital letters are used for names and at the beginning of a sentence.
The Somali Latin alphabet is largely phonemic, with consonants having a one-to-one correspondence between graphemes and phonemes. Long vowels are written by doubling the vowel. However, the distinction between tense and lax vowels is not represented. Diphthongs are represented using Y or W as the second element (AY, AW, EY, OY and OW) and long diphthongs are shown with the first vowel doubled.
As there is no central regulation of the language, there is some variation in orthography, the endings -ay and -ey being particularly interchangeable.
The letters' names (with their Arabic equivalents) are spelt out thus:
- alef (ا), ba (ﺏ), ta (ﺕ), ja (ﺝ), xa (ﺡ), kha (ﺥ), deel (د), ra (ر), sa (ﺱ), shiin(ﺵ), dha (ط or ظ), cayn (ﻉ), ga (غ), fa (ف), qaaf (ﻕ), kaaf (ﻙ), laan (ﻝ), miim (ﻡ), nun (ن), waw (و), ha (ه), ya (ﻱ); a, e, i, o, u.
The following elements of the Somali alphabet either are not IPA symbols in their lower case versions, or else have values divergent from IPA symbols:
- ' – /ʔ/
- J – /tʃ/
- X – /ħ/
- KH – /χ/
- SH – /ʃ/
- DH – /ɖ/
- C – /ʕ/
- Q – /ɢ/
- W – /w/ or the second element in a diphthong
- Y – /j/ or the second element in a diphthong
- A – /æ/ or /ɑ/
- E – /e/ or /ɛ/
- I – /i/ or /ɪ/
- O – /ɞ/ or /ɔ/
- U – /ʉ/ or /u/
- Laitin, p. 102
- David D., Laitin (1977). Politics, language, and thought: the Somali experience. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-46791-0.