|Position in alphabet||
16(9 in Maltese)
70(no numeric value in Maltese)
|Alphabetic derivatives of the Phoenician|
Ayin or Ayn is the sixteenth letter of the Semitic abjads, including Phoenician ʿayin , Hebrew ʿayin ע, Aramaic ʿē , Syriac ʿē ܥ, and Arabic ʿayn ع (where it is sixteenth in abjadi order only). ﻉ comes twenty‐first in the Persian alphabet and eighteenth in the hijaʾi order of Arabic.
The ʿayin glyph in these various languages represents or used to represent a voiced pharyngeal fricative (/ʕ/) or a similarly articulated consonant, of which there is not even an approximate substitute sound in English. There are many possible transliterations.
To this day, ʿayin in Hebrew, Arabic, and Amharic means "eye" and "spring" (ʿayno in Neo-Aramaic) but in Maltese it additionally also means "aid".
The sound represented by ayin is common to much of the Afroasiatic language family, such as in the Egyptian language, the Cushitic languages and the Semitic languages. Some scholars believe that the sound in Proto-Indo-European transcribed h3 was similar, but that is debatable. (See Laryngeal theory.)
ʿayin is usually transliterated into the Latin alphabet with ʿ, (U+02BF) "modifier letter left half ring" (in the Spacing Modifier Letters range), such as in the DIN 31635 romanization of Arabic. This symbol originated from Semitic romanization and the transliteration of Ancient Egyptian. There, it was inspired by the Greek rough breathing mark.
As a substitute for the left half ring, other symbols resembling it are sometimes used, such as a superscript c (c), ʻ (U+02BB Modifier letter turned comma) as in ALA-LC romanization of Arabic, a single opening quotation mark (‘) (U+2018), the grave accent (`), ˁ (U+02C1 Modifier letter reversed glottal stop), or the IPA pharyngeal symbols [ʕ] (U+0295 Latin letter pharyngeal voiced fricative) and [ˤ] (U+02E4 Modifier letter small reversed glottal stop). However, such substitutions obviously may cause confusion, such as with the glottal stop consonant hamza.
In loanwords, ʿayin is commonly omitted altogether: Iraq العراق al-ʿIrāq, Oman عمان ʿUmān, Saudi Arabia العربية السعودية al-ʿArabiyyah as-Saʿūdiyyah, Arab or Arabic عربي, ʿArabī, Amman عمان ʿAmmān, etc.
Specifically for use in transliterating Ancient Egyptian, Ꜥ (U+A724 Latin capital letter Egyptologican Ain) and ꜥ (U+A725 Latin small letter Egyptologican Ain) were added to the Latin Extended-D range in Unicode version 5.1.
The informal way to represent it in Arabic chat alphabet uses the digit 3 as transliteration.
The Arabic letter ﻉ (called ﻋﻴﻦ ʿayn) is the eighteenth letter of the alphabet. It is written in one of several ways depending on its position in the word:
|Position in word:||Isolated||Final||Medial||Initial|
Arabic ʿayn is one of the most common letters in Arabic. Depending on the region, it ranges from a pharyngeal [ʕ] to an epiglottal [ʢ]. It is voiced, its unvoiced counterpart being ح. Due to its position as the innermost letter to emerge from the throat, al-Khalil ibn Ahmad al-Farahidi, who wrote the first Arabic dictionary, actually started writing with ʿayn as the first letter instead of the eighteenth; he viewed its origins deep down in the throat as a sign that it was the first sound, the essential sound, the voice and a representation of the self.
As in Hebrew, the letter originally stood for two sounds, /ʕ/ and /ʁ/. When pointing was developed, the sound /ʁ/ was distinguished with a dot on top (غ), to give the letter ghayn. In Maltese, which is written with the Latin alphabet, the digraph għ, called ʿajn, is used to write what was originally the same sound.
|Various print fonts||Cursive
Hebrew spelling: עַיִן
ʿayin has traditionally been described as a voiced pharyngeal fricative ([ʕ]). However, this may be imprecise. Although a pharyngeal fricative has occasionally been observed for ʿayin in Arabic and so may occur in Hebrew as well, the sound is more commonly epiglottal ([ʢ]), and may also be a pharyngealized glottal stop ([ʔˤ]).
In some historical Sephardi and Ashkenazi pronunciations, ʿayin represented a velar nasal ([ŋ]). Remnants can be found in the Yiddish pronunciations of some words such as /ˈjaŋkəv/ and /ˈmansə/ from Hebrew יַעֲקֹב (yaʿăqōḇ, "Jacob") and מַעֲשֶׂה (maʿăse, "story"), but in other cases, the nasal has disappeared and been replaced by /j/, such as /ˈmajsə/ and /ˈmajrəv/ from Hebrew מַעֲשֶׂה and מַעֲרָב (maʿărāḇ, "west"). In Israeli Hebrew (except for Mizrahi pronunciations), it represents a glottal stop in certain cases but is usually silent (it behaves the same as aleph). However, changes in adjoining vowels often testify to the former presence of a pharyngeal or epiglottal articulation. As well, it may be used as a shibboleth to identify the social background of a speaker, as Mizrahim and Arabs almost always use the more traditional pronunciation.
Ayin is also one of the three letters that can take a furtive patach / patach ganuv.
In Hebrew loanwords in Greek and Latin, ʿayin is sometimes reflected as /g/, since the biblical phonemes /ʕ/ (or "ʿ") and /ʁ/ (represented by "g") were both represented in Hebrew writing by the letter ʿayin (see Ġain). Gomorrah is from the original /ʁamora/ (modern ʿAmora) and Gaza from the original /ʁazza/ (ʿaza) (although Gaza is Ghaza in Arabic).
In Yiddish, the ʿayin is used to write the vowel e when it is not part of the diphthong ey.
In gematria, ʿayin represents the number 70.
|Unicode name||HEBREW LETTER AYIN||ARABIC LETTER AIN||SYRIAC LETTER E||SAMARITAN LETTER IN||LATIN LETTER AIN|
|UTF-8||215 162||D7 A2||216 185||D8 B9||220 165||DC A5||224 160 143||E0 A0 8F||225 180 165||E1 B4 A5|
|Numeric character reference||ע||ע||ع||ع||ܥ||ܥ||ࠏ||ࠏ||ᴥ||ᴥ|
|Unicode name||UGARITIC LETTER AIN||IMPERIAL ARAMAIC LETTER AYIN||PHOENICIAN LETTER AIN|
|UTF-8||240 144 142 147||F0 90 8E 93||240 144 161 143||F0 90 A1 8F||240 144 164 143||F0 90 A4 8F|
|UTF-16||55296 57235||D800 DF93||55298 56399||D802 DC4F||55298 56591||D802 DD0F|
|Numeric character reference||𐎓||𐎓||𐡏||𐡏||𐤏||𐤏|
- Ladefoged, Peter & Ian Maddieson (1996). The sounds of the world’s languages. Oxford: Blackwells. ISBN 0-631-19814-8
- Suzanne Pinckney Stetkevych, The Mute Immortals Speak: Pre-Islamic Poetry and the Poetics of Ritual, pg. 178. Cornell Studies in Political Economy. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1993. ISBN 9780801427640
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