The places of the origin of the Arabic Alphabets
In this lesson we will cover:
- To understand where each letter originates from, also known as the ‘Makhaarij’ (مخارج) of the Arabic letters.
- Understand why it is important to know the originating places of the Arabic letters.
- We will study this topic in more detail after we have learned about ‘fathah’ and ‘sukoon’.
- For the moment we will just learn the places of origin without going into too much detail about pronunciation.
Why we study the Makhaarij?
In every language the correct pronunciation of letters can be taught by understanding how the tongue, throat and mouth are used in the pronunciation of the letters. So, this is important. Most languages when you are really trying to understand how to pronounce properly you have to go into the detail.
By correctly understanding the exact mechanics of how the sounds are produced you have a better chance of pronouncing the Arabic letters accurately. Again, if you are not Arabs you may not be able to pronounce 100% correctly but you should be able to get close to the exact pronunciation.
Some languages have the same sort of pronunciations as Arabic but require a slight change in the pronunciation to get it right in Arabic. This requires the understanding of the origination point of each letter. So, by learning this you can slightly perfect in pronunciation to fit in with the Arabic pronunciation.
Where sounds can originate from?
- The first place is the throat. In Arabic language, it is called الحلق. We can divide it into the following three parts:
- Bottom of the throat
- Middle of the throat
- Top of the throat
- The second place is the oral cavity which is the space between tongue and roof of the mouth. In Arabic term it is called الجوف.
- The third place is Nasal cavity which is the air passage in the nose going back toward your throat. In Arabic term it is called الخیشوم.
- Then we have two lips from where some letters come. This is known as اشفتان.
- And we have the tongue which is known as اللسان.
We will study the top of the mouth. So right after the back of the mouth you have a very soft part of the throat which is known as soft palate. Moving towards the middle of the mouth, the top roof the mouth is known as hot palate.
Coming towards the front of the mouth you have a hard palate or front roof of the mouth. We then have the very front of your hard palate which some people will call the gums where the hard palate meets the upper front teeth and we have the gums at the bottom of your mouth which meet with the front bottom teeth.
Long vowel sounds (Group- 1):
(this group will be covered in the later lessons).
Fa (Group- 2):
The letter ف is in group- 2. Now when you pronounce the letter fa your upper front teeth should touch the inner wet portion of your bottom lip.
The next three letters which lie in group- 2 (because it still has to do with the lips) are Meem, Baa’ and Waaw. So, when you say meem, your front two lips come together. However, its outer dry portion of your lips that should be touching.
When you say baa’, your lips come together but it is the wet portion or the inner parts of the lips that actually touch. And when you say waaw, you make a small circle with your lips and it is only the outer right and left parts of your lips that are actually touching.
Hamza and soft Haa’ (Group- 3):
There are all the throat letters in this group. And we will start with the two letters which originate right at the bottom of the throat. So, the letters are ء and ھ. Now hamza in Arabic, represents what we call the glottal stop.
In English you have no letter that represent the glottal stop. However, if you have to say any letter beginning with one of the English vowel sounds. For instance, if you say the letter eight but say very slowly, you should feel that your throat blocks a tiny bit right at the beginning that’s known as the glottal stop.
So, in Arabic it is represented by the letter hamza and that’s why its drawn right at the bottom of the throat. And small letter haa’ which is a very soft haa’ also originates from the bottom of your throat.
The next two letters in group three are ح ، ع and these letters comes from the middle of the throat. The letter ح is what we call the forcefully because you are exhaling a bit more forcefully and that air is being pushed out from the middle of your throat.
The next two letters in group- 3 was still on the throat letters is the top of the throat. These two letters are غ ، خ. You will notice that your tongue does not actually touch the back of the of the top of your mouth, but it is really a sound taking place right at the top of your throat.
Qaaf and Kaaf (Group- 4):
When we do move into where the tongue is being involved so what we have got here is two letters pronounced where the back of the tongue is touching the soft palate which is the top part of the very back of your mouth.
Now there are two letters which are operating slightly in a different way.
When you say ق the back of the tongue effectively touches the very back of the soft palate and blocks the air before you release the sound. Whereas the letter ک is again touching the soft palate but it slightly moves forward than the letter ق and normally said as quietly.
Yaa’, sheen and Jeem (Group- 5):
This group is operating from where the tongue is touching the hot palate almost in the middle of the mouth. Again, there are three letters and have slightly different positions of origin.
The letter yaa’ which is exactly in the middle of the throat or middle of your tongue touching the top hot palate in the middle of your mouth. The next letter is ج which is till towards the middle of the top of your mouth.
The next letter is sheen which is a little bit more forward but still at the top of the middle of the throat.
Laam, Noon and Raa’ (Group- 6):
Pronouncing the letters of this group, the tip of the tongue touches front roof of the mouth but not the gums. So, the first letter is ر and you should notice when you say this letter, the back of your tongue lifts up as well.
The next letter is ل, apply a little bit pressure on the front of the tongue and the back of the tongue remains normal and is not raised. The next letter is ن, again here the tip of the tongue is pressing the front hot palate and lips should be round a little.
Daal, taa’ and Taa’ (Group- 7):
In this group, front of the tongue meets the gum and is slightly on the front of upper teeth as well. The first two letters ت ، د starts from exactly the same place. The third letter is ط, when pronouncing this letter apply a bit more pressure on front of your tongue and the back of the tongue is raised a little bit.
Tha’, Zaal and Zaa (Group- 8):
In this group, the tip of the tongue starts between the upper and lower teeth. Hence, for the letters ث ، ذ the tongue is between the upper and lower teeth. It should not be outside of the mouth or between the lips. It must be between the teeth. The next letter is ظ, when pronouncing this letter apply a little bit pressure on the front of your tongue and the back of the tongue would lift.
Seen, Zaa’ and Saad (Group- 9):
In this group the tip of the tongue touches the bottom gums and the inside the bottom front teeth. So, the letters س and ز when pronounced, tip of the tongue will touch the lower gums and bottom front teeth and rest of the tongue will remain normal. While pronouncing the letter ص apply a little bit pressure on the front of your tongue and back of the tongue will lift a little bit.
Zaad’ (Group- 10):
This group has only one letter which is ض. And this letter is quite difficult to say. If you are right-handed, the left side of your tongue will touch the upper left teeth on the top row of teeth. Now notice as well that there will be a portion of middle part of your tongue i.e. the middle part going through whole length of your tongue which will be touching the hot palate roof of the mouth as well. But the main thing try to get the left side of your tongue to touch upper left teeth. If you are left handed, you would normally put the right side of your tongue onto the upper right teeth and some people can do it both left and right side.
Nasalization of Noon and Meem:
There are times when you pronounce certain things in Arabic where you hold the sound in your nose. So its like a small vibration inside your nasal cavity and this nasalization that takes place is known as Al-Guhnna.
We can operate it with م and ن. With meem it will normally happen when there are some sort of sounds joining to meem. And with the noon same sort of joining sounds. When you do ghunnah, you actually force the sound in your nasal cavity.
Hence these sort of sounds are known as ghunnah and it can happen with other letters as well but we will cover that in more advance stages of the Tajweed.
We have learned the places of origination of all the Arabic alphabet.
We will cover the places of origin and the exact letter pronunciations later on after we have studies fathah and sukoon.