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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 "emphatic-/d/": pharyngealized voiced alveolar stop About this sound [dˤ] , pharyngealized voiced dental stop [d̪ˤ] or velarized voiced dental stop [d̪ˠ].

However, based on ancient descriptions of this sound, it is clear that in Qur'anic Arabic it was some sort of unusual lateral sound. 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," which differs from how (some colloquial) Arabic speakers pronounce it today.[1] 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] It is said that Muhammad pronounced it with both sides of his tongue.[4]

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 ض ض

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Kees Versteegh, The Arabic Language, pg. 89. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2001. Paperback edition. ISBN 9780748614363
  2. ^ Ferguson, Charles (1959), "The Arabic Koine", Language 35 (4): 630, doi:10.2307/410601 .
  3. ^ Versteegh, Kees (1997), The Arabic Language, Edinburgh University Press, ISBN 90-04-17702-7 
  4. ^ The Side of the Tongue