Ẓāʾ, or ṱāʾ (ظ), is one of the six letters the Arabic alphabet added to the twenty-two inherited from the Phoenician alphabet (the others being thāʼ, khāʼ, dhāl, ḍād, ġayn). In Arabic it represents a pharyngealized voiced alveolar fricative, voiced dental fricative or velarized voiced dental fricative ([zˤ]~[ðˤ]~[ðˠ]). In name and shape, it is a variant of ṭāʼ. Its numerical value is 900 (see Abjad numerals).
The ẓāʼ sound is an emphatic [z] or [ð], pronounced with the center of the tongue depressed. Regional pronunciations vary; it may sound like an emphatic counterpart of either ز or ذ. In few dialects, such as the Lebanese Arabic, it is indistinguishable from the former in sound. Because the Persian pronunciation of this letter is influenced by the Levantine dialect, it too, is indistinguishable in sound.
In some reconstructions of Proto-Semitic phonology, there is an emphatic interdental fricative, ṱ ([θˤ] or [ðˤ]), featuring as the direct ancestor of Arabic ẓāʼ, while it merged with ṣ in most other Semitic languages, although the South Arabian alphabet retained a symbol for ẓ.
Note: See also ḍād.
When representing this sound in transliteration of Arabic into Hebrew, it is written as ט׳.
|Position in word:||Isolated||Final||Medial||Initial|
|Unicode name||ARABIC LETTER ZAH|
|UTF-8||216 184||D8 B8|
|Numeric character reference||ظ||ظ|
- Hans Wehr, Arabisches Wörterbuch für die Schriftsprache der Gegenwart (1952)