Arabic/LearnRW/Alphabet Basics

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Arabic Reading and Writing Basics[edit | edit source]

The standard way to write Arabic is with the Arabic writing system. It represents words by representing the sounds that occur in the word. It represents the consonants that occur in a word prominently. Vowels are usually not represented.

In English, both consonants and vowels are represented prominently. The letter "a" and the letter "b" occupy approximately equal area. Sometimes vowels are omitted for brevity, like in "Scrn Lk" for Screen Lock on a keyboard, but this is unusual. In the Arabic writing system, omitting vowels is pervasive. It is the standard. Symbols for vowels are an afterthought in the Arabic writing system, they are sprinkled on and are rarely used.

Although the Arabic writing system represents consonants prominently and represents vowels obscurely, a difference in the vowels can change the meaning of a word. So how do people read Arabic when the writing system does not usually represent vowels? Experienced readers of Arabic are capable of predicting the vowels based on the context. For beginners, extra symbols are written to represent the vowels. In cases where the author of a text anticipates ambiguity, the author can write the minimum vowels necessary to resolve ambiguity.

As an example the word for "reply" written without vowels is: رد The same word written with a vowel is: رَد. Notice how the vowel is given no horizontal space.

The direction of writing in the Arabic writing system is also different than English. Arabic is written from right to left, unlike English which is written from left to right. This horizontal direction is the main difference. The vertical direction is the same as English; when a line is completed the next line is placed below the previous line.