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Ḍād, or ṣ́ād (ض), is one of the six letters the Arabic alphabet added to the twenty-two inherited from the Phoenician alphabet (the others being ṯāʾ, ḫāʾ, ḏāl, ẓāʾ, ġayn). In name and shape, it is a variant of ṣād.


The usual current pronunciation of this letter in modern Standard Arabic is the "emphatic" /d/: pharyngealized voiced alveolar stop About this sound [dˤ] , pharyngealized voiced dental stop [d̪ˤ] or velarized voiced dental stop [d̪ˠ].[1]

However, based on ancient descriptions of this sound, it is clear that in Qur'anic Arabic it was some sort of unusual lateral sound.[1][2][3][4][5] Sibawayh, author of the first book on Arabic grammar, explained the letter as being articulated from "between the first part of the side of the tongue and the adjoining molars". It is reconstructed by modern linguists as having been either a pharyngealized voiced alveolar lateral fricative About this sound [ɮˤ]  or a similar affricated sound [d͡ɮˤ] or [dˡˤ].[2][3] Though, not all linguists agree on this, the French orientalist André Roman supposes that the letter was actually a voiced emphatic alveolo-palatal sibilant /ʑˤ/, similar to the Polish ź.[2][3][6]

In most Arabic vernaculars ض ḍād and ظ ẓāʾ have been merged quite early.[2] The outcome depends on the dialect. In those varieties (such as Egyptian and Levantine), where the dental fricatives /θ, ð/ are merged with the dental stops /t, d/, both ḍād and ẓāʾ are pronounced /dˤ/; in the varieties (such as Bedouin and Iraqi), where the dental fricatives are preserved, both the letters are pronounced /ðˤ/.[2][3][5] However, there are dialects in South Arabia and in Mauritania where both the letters are kept different.[2] In loanwords from Classical Arabic ẓāʾ is often /zˤ/, e.g. Egyptian ʿaẓīm (< Classical عظيم ʿaḏ̣īm) "great".[2][3]

"De-emphaticized" pronunciation of the both letters in the form of the plain /z/ entered into other non-Arabic languages such as Persian, Urdu, Turkish.[2] However, there do exist Arabic borrowings into Ibero-Romance languages as well as Hausa and Malay, where ḍād and ẓāʾ are differentiated.[2]

Writing in the Arabic alphabet[edit]

Ḍād is written in several ways depending in its position in the word:

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form: ض ـض ـضـ ضـ

Writing in the Hebrew alphabet[edit]

When representing this sound in transliteration of Arabic into Hebrew, it is either written with ד (the letter for /d/) or צ׳ (tsadi with geresh).

In other Semitic languages[edit]

This is an extremely unusual sound, and led the early Arabic grammarians to describe Arabic as the "language of the ḍād", since the sound was thought to be unique to Arabic. The emphatic lateral nature of this sound is in fact inherited from Proto-Semitic, and related sounds still occur in some South Semitic languages such as Mehri (where it is usually an ejective lateral fricative). A grapheme for this sound also exists in the South Arabian alphabet (ḍ ṣ́) and the Ge'ez alphabet (Ṣ́appa ), although in Ge'ez it merged early on with . Its numerical value is 800 (see Abjad numerals).

Some reconstructions[which?] of Proto-Semitic phonology include an emphatic voiceless alveolar lateral fricative, ṣ́ (Classical Arabic pronunciation: [ɬˠ]). It is considered to be the direct ancestor of Arabic ḍād, while merging with ṣād in most other Semitic languages.

Character encodings[edit]

Character ض
Encodings decimal hex
Unicode 1590 U+0636
UTF-8 216 182 D8 B6
Numeric character reference &#1590; &#x636;

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Versteegh, Kees (2003) [1997]. The Arabic language (Repr. ed.). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. p. 89. ISBN 9780748614363. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Versteegh, Kees (1999). "Loanwords from Arabic and the merfer of ḍ/ḏ̣". In Arazi, Albert; Sadan, Joseph; Wasserstein, David J. Compilation and Creation in Adab and Luġa: Studies in Memory of Naphtali Kinberg (1948–1997). pp. 273–286. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Versteegh, Kees (2000). "Treatise on the pronunciation of the ḍād". In Kinberg, Leah; Versteegh, Kees. Studies in the Linguistic Structure of Classical Arabic. Brill. pp. 197–199. ISBN 9004117652. 
  4. ^ Ferguson, Charles (1959). "The Arabic koine". Language 35 (4): 630. doi:10.2307/410601. 
  5. ^ a b Ferguson, Charles Albert (1997) [1959]. "The Arabic koine". In Belnap, R. Kirk; Haeri, Niloofar. Structuralist studies in Arabic linguistics: Charles A. Ferguson's papers, 1954–1994. Brill. pp. 67–68. ISBN 9004105115. 
  6. ^ Roman, André (1983). Étude de la phonologie et de la morphologie de la koiné arabe 1. Aix-en-Provence: Université de Provence. pp. 162–206.