Ẓāʾ, or ḏ̣āʾ (ظ), 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, ḍād, ġayn). In Classical Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic it represents a pharyngealized or velarized voiced dental fricative [ðˤ] or [ðˠ]. In name and shape, it is a variant of ṭāʾ. Its numerical value is 900 (see Abjad numerals).
Ẓāʾ does not change its shape depending on its position in the word:
|Position in word:||Isolated||Final||Medial||Initial|
In Classical Arabic and Modern Standard Arabic it represents a pharyngealized or velarized voiced dental fricative [ðˤ] or [ðˠ]. It is acceptable to pronounce it as a pharyngealized or velarized voiced alveolar fricative [zˤ] or [zˠ].
In most Arabic vernaculars ظ ẓāʾ and ض ḍād have been merged quite early. 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/. However, there are dialects in South Arabia and in Mauritania where both the letters are kept different. In loanwords from Classical Arabic ẓāʾ is often /zˤ/, e.g. Egyptian ʿaẓīm (< Classical عظيم ʿaḏ̣īm) "great".
"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. However, there do exist Arabic borrowings into Ibero-Romance languages as well as Hausa and Malay, where ḍād and ẓāʾ are differentiated.
In other Semitic languages
In some reconstructions of Proto-Semitic phonology, there is an emphatic interdental fricative, ṱ ([θˤ] or [ðˤ]), featuring as the direct ancestor of Arabic ẓāʾ, while it merged with ṣ in most other Semitic languages, although the South Arabian alphabet retained a symbol for ẓ.
Writing in the Hebrew alphabet
When representing this sound in transliteration of Arabic into Hebrew, it is written as ט׳.
|Unicode name||ARABIC LETTER ZAH|
|UTF-8||216 184||D8 B8|
|Numeric character reference||ظ||ظ|
- Versteegh, Kees (1999). "Loanwords from Arabic and the merger 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.
- 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.
- Ferguson, Charles (1959). "The Arabic koine". Language. 35 (4): 630. doi:10.2307/410601.
- Ferguson, Charles Albert (1997) . "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.
- Retsö, Jan (2012). "Classical Arabic". In Weninger, Stefan. The Semitic Languages: An International Handbook. Walter de Gruyter. pp. 785–786. ISBN 978-3-11-025158-6.
- Wehr, Hans (1952). Arabisches Wörterbuch für die Schriftsprache der Gegenwart.[page needed]