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Title: Ẓāʼ  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: ZA, Emphatic consonant, Scrabble letter distributions, South Arabian alphabet, Ge'ez script, Zah, A Is for Allah,
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Ẓāʾ 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 (]~]~]). In name and shape, it is a variant of ṭāʼ. Its numerical value is 900 (see Abjad numerals).

The ẓāʼ sound is an emphatic ] or ], 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.

Ẓāʼ is the rarest phoneme of the Arabic language. Out of 2,967 triliteral roots listed by Hans Wehr in his 1952 dictionary, only 42 (1.4%) contain ظ.

In some reconstructions of Proto-Semitic phonology, there is an emphatic interdental fricative, (] or ]), featuring as the direct ancestor of Arabic ẓāʼ, while it merged with in most other Semitic languages, although the South Arabian alphabet retained a symbol for . 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
Glyph form: ظ ـظ ـظـ ظـ

Character encodings

See also


  • Hans Wehr, Arabisches Wörterbuch für die Schriftsprache der Gegenwart (1952)
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