Ayin

Ayin
Phonemic representation ʕ
Position in alphabet 16
Numerical value

70

(no numeric value in Maltese)
Alphabetic derivatives of the Phoenician

Ayin (also ayn or ain; transliterated ʿ) 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).[1]

The letter represents or is used to represent a voiced pharyngeal fricative (/ʕ/) or a similarly articulated consonant. In some Semitic languages and dialects, the phonetic value of the letter has changed, or the phoneme has been lost altogether (thus, in Modern Hebrew it is reduced to a glottal stop or is omitted entirely).

The Phoenician letter is the origin of the Greek, Latin and Cyrillic letter O.

Origins

The letter name is derived from Proto-Semitic *ʿayn- "eye", and the Phoenician letter had the shape of a circle or oval, clearly representing an eye, perhaps ultimately (via Proto-Sinaitic) derived from the ı͗r hieroglyph 𓁹 (Gardiner D4).[2]

The Phoenician letter gave rise to the Greek Ο, Latin O, and Cyrillic О, all representing vowels.

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.

Transliteration

In Semitic philology, there is a long-standing tradition of rendering Semitic ayin with Greek rough breathing the mark 〈̔〉 (e.g. ̔arab عَرَب). Depending on typography, this could look similar to either an articulate single opening quotation mark 〈‘〉 (e.g. ‘arab عَرَب). or as a raised semi-circle open to the right 〈ʿ〉 (e.g. ʿarab عَرَب).[3]

This is by analogy to the transliteration of alef (glottal stop, hamza) by the Greek smooth breathing mark ̓, rendered as single closing quotation mark or as raised semi-circle open to the left. This convention has been adopted by DIN in 1982 and by ISO in 1984 for Arabic (DIN 31635, ISO 233) and Hebrew (DIN 31636, ISO 259).

The shape of the "raised semi-circle" for ayin (Unicode ʿ U+02BF) and alef (Unicode ʾ U+02BE) was adopted by the Encyclopedia of Islam (edited 1913–1938, 1954–2005, and from 2007), and from there by the International Journal of Middle East Studies.[4] This convention has since also been followed by ISO (ISO 233-2 and ISO 259-2, 1993/4) and by DIN. A notable exception remains, ALA-LC (1991), the system used by the Library of Congress, continues to recommend modifier letter turned comma 〈ʻ〉 or left single quotation mark 〈‘〉.

The symbols for the corresponding phonemes in the International Phonetic Alphabet, 〈ʕ〉 for pharyngeal fricative (ayin) and 〈ʔ〉 for glottal stop (alef) were adopted in the 1928 revision.

In anglicized Arabic or Hebrew names or in loanwords, ayin is often omitted entirely: Iraq ʿirāq عراق, Arab ʿarab عرب, Saudi saʿūdī سعودي , etc.; Afula עֲפוּלָה, Arad עֲרָד, etc. In Arabic, the presence of ayin in front of u can sometimes be inferred even if it is not rendered separately, as the vowel quality is shifted towards o (e.g. Oman عمان ʿUmān, Omar عمر ʿUmar, etc.)

Maltese, which uses a Latin alphabet, the only Semitic language to do so in its standard form, writes the ayin as 〈〉. It is usually unvocalized in speech. The Somali Latin alphabet represents the ʿayin with the letter 〈c〉. The informal way to represent it in Arabic chat alphabet uses the digit 〈3〉 as transliteration.

Unicode

In Unicode, the recommended character for the transliteration of ayin is ʿ (U+02BF) "modifier letter left half ring" (a character in the Spacing Modifier Letters range, even though it is here not used as a modifier letter but as a full grapheme).[5] This convention has been adopted by ISO 233-2 (1993) for Arabic and ISO 259-2 (1994) for Hebrew.

There are a number of alternative Unicode characters in use, some of which are easily confused or even considered equivalent in practice:[6]

  • ̔ (U+0314 combining reversed comma above), the character recommended to represent Greek rough breathing),
  • single opening quotation mark (U+2018),[7]
  • ʻ (U+02BB Modifier letter turned comma),
  • the grave accent ` U+0060, from its use as single opening quotation mark in ASCII environments, used for ayin in ArabTeX.

Other variants chosen to represent ayin as a full grapheme (rather than a sign suggestive of an apostrophe or a diacritic):

  • a superscript c (c, or ᶜ U+1D9C MODIFIER LETTER SMALL C),
  • the IPA symbol for pharyngealization ˁ, ˤ (U+02C1 Modifier letter reversed glottal stop, U+02E4 Modifier letter small reversed glottal stop),[8] or a superscript ʕ (ʕ, U+0295 Latin letter pharyngeal voiced fricative), the IPA symbol for voiced pharyngeal fricative .

It is worth noting that the phonemes corresponding to alef and ayin Ancient Egyptian are by convention transliterated by more distinctive signs: Egyptian alef is rendered by two semi-circles open to the left, stacked vertically, and Egyptian ayin is rendered by a single full-width semi-circle open to the right. These characters were introduced in Unicode in version 5.1 (2008, Latin Extended-D range), ꜣ U+A723 Latin small letter Egyptologican Alef and ꜥ U+A725 Latin small letter Egyptologican Ain.

Arabic ʿayn

The Arabic letter (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
Glyph form: ع ـع ـعـ عـ

Pronunciation

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].[9] 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.[10]

In the Persian language and other languages using the Persian alphabet, it is pronounced as /ʔ/ (glottal stop), and rarely as /ʁ/ in some languages.

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 , called ʿajn, is used to write what was originally the same sound.

Hebrew Ayin

Orthographic variants
Various print fonts Cursive
Hebrew
Rashi
script
SerifSans-serifMonospaced
ע ע ע

Hebrew spelling: עַיִן

ʿayin, along with Aleph, Resh, and Heth, cannot receive a dagesh.

Phonetic representation

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]),[9] 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) (cf. Arabic غزة Ġazzah, IPA: [ˈɣazza].)

In Yiddish, the ʿayin is used to write the vowel e when it is not part of the diphthong ey.

Significance

In gematria, ʿayin represents the number 70.

ʿayin is also one of the seven letters which receive special crowns (called tagin) when written in a sefer Torah.

Because the sound is difficult for most non-Arabs to pronounce, it is often used as a shibboleth by Arabic speakers; other sounds, such as Ḥā and Ḍād are also used.

Character encodings

Characterעܥ
Unicode nameHEBREW LETTER AYINHEBREW LETTER
ALTERNATIVE AYIN
SYRIAC LETTER ESAMARITAN LETTER IN
Encodingsdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhex
Unicode1506U+05E264288U+FB201829U+07252063U+080F
UTF-8215 162D7 A2239 172 160EF AC A0220 165DC A5224 160 143E0 A0 8F
Numeric character referenceעעﬠﬠܥܥࠏࠏ
Characterعݝݟڠݞ
Unicode nameARABIC LETTER AINARABIC SMALL HIGH AINARABIC LETTER AIN
WITH TWO DOTS
ABOVE
ARABIC LETTER AIN
WITH TWO DOTS
VERTICALLY ABOVE
ARABIC LETTER AIN
WITH THREE DOTS
ABOVE
ARABIC LETTER AIN
WITH THREE DOTS
POINTING DOWNWARDS ABOVE
ARABIC LETTER AIN
WITH THREE DOTS
BELOW
Encodingsdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhex
Unicode1593U+06392262U+08D61885U+075D1887U+075F1696U+06A01886U+075E2227U+08B3
UTF-8216 185D8 B9224 163 150E0 A3 96221 157DD 9D221 159DD 9F218 160DA A0221 158DD 9E224 162 179E0 A2 B3
Numeric character referenceععࣖࣖݝݝݟݟڠڠݞݞࢳࢳ
Character
Unicode nameMODIFIER LETTER AINMODIFIER LETTER SMALL AINLATIN CAPITAL LETTER
EGYPTOLOGICAL AIN
LATIN SMALL LETTER
EGYPTOLOGICAL AIN
Encodingsdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhex
Unicode7461U+1D257516U+1D5C42788U+A72442789U+A725
UTF-8225 180 165E1 B4 A5225 181 156E1 B5 9C234 156 164EA 9C A4234 156 165EA 9C A5
Numeric character referenceᴥᴥᵜᵜꜤꜤꜥꜥ
Character𐎓𐡏𐤏
Unicode nameUGARITIC
LETTER AIN
IMPERIAL ARAMAIC
LETTER AYIN
PHOENICIAN
LETTER AIN
COPTIC CAPITAL LETTER
OLD COPTIC AIN
COPTIC SMALL LETTER
OLD COPTIC AIN
Encodingsdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhex
Unicode66451U+1039367663U+1084F67855U+1090F11444U+2CB411445U+2CB5
UTF-8240 144 142 147F0 90 8E 93240 144 161 143F0 90 A1 8F240 144 164 143F0 90 A4 8F226 178 180E2 B2 B4226 178 181E2 B2 B5
UTF-1655296 57235D800 DF9355298 56399D802 DC4F55298 56591D802 DD0F114442CB4114452CB5
Numeric character reference𐎓𐎓𐡏𐡏𐤏𐤏ⲴⲴⲵⲵ
Character𐭏𐭥𐮅
Unicode nameINSCRIPTIONAL PARTHIAN
LETTER AYIN
INSCRIPTIONAL PAHLAVI
LETTER WAW-AYIN-RESH
PSALTER PAHLAVI LETTER
WAW-AYIN-RESH
GEORGIAN LETTER AINGEORGIAN MTAVRULI
CAPITAL LETTER AIN
Encodingsdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhex
Unicode68431U+10B4F68453U+10B6568485U+10B854346U+10FA7354U+1CBA
UTF-8240 144 173 143F0 90 AD 8F240 144 173 165F0 90 AD A5240 144 174 133F0 90 AE 85225 131 186E1 83 BA225 178 186E1 B2 BA
UTF-1655298 57167D802 DF4F55298 57189D802 DF6555298 57221D802 DF85434610FA73541CBA
Numeric character reference𐭏𐭏𐭥𐭥𐮅𐮅ჺჺᲺᲺ
Character𐫙𐢗𐪒𐡰
Unicode nameMANICHAEAN LETTER AYINMANDAIC LETTER AINNABATAEAN LETTER AYINOLD NORTH ARABIAN LETTER AINPALMYRENE LETTER AYIN
Encodingsdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhex
Unicode68313U+10AD92136U+085867735U+1089768242U+10A9267696U+10870
UTF-8240 144 171 153F0 90 AB 99224 161 152E0 A1 98240 144 162 151F0 90 A2 97240 144 170 146F0 90 AA 92240 144 161 176F0 90 A1 B0
UTF-1655298 57049D802 DED92136085855298 56471D802 DC9755298 56978D802 DE9255298 56432D802 DC70
Numeric character reference𐫙𐫙ࡘࡘ𐢗𐢗𐪒𐪒𐡰𐡰
Character𐼒𐼓𐼘𐼽𐽀
Unicode nameOLD SOGDIAN LETTER AYINOLD SOGDIAN LETTER
ALTERNATE AYIN
OLD SOGDIAN LETTER
RESH-AYIN-DALETH
SOGDIAN LETTER AYINSOGDIAN LETTER RESH-AYIN
Encodingsdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhex
Unicode69394U+10F1269395U+10F1369400U+10F1869437U+10F3D69440U+10F40
UTF-8240 144 188 146F0 90 BC 92240 144 188 147F0 90 BC 93240 144 188 152F0 90 BC 98240 144 188 189F0 90 BC BD240 144 189 128F0 90 BD 80
UTF-1655299 57106D803 DF1255299 57107D803 DF1355299 57112D803 DF1855299 57149D803 DF3D55299 57152D803 DF40
Numeric character reference𐼒𐼒𐼓𐼓𐼘𐼘𐼽𐼽𐽀𐽀

References

  1. comes eighteenth in the hijaʾi order of Arabic and twenty‐first in the Persian alphabet.
  2. Simons, F., "Proto-Sinaitic – Progenitor of the Alphabet" Rosetta 9 (2011), 16–40 (here: 3840). See also: Goldwasser, Orly (Mar–Apr 2010). "How the Alphabet Was Born from Hieroglyphs". Biblical Archaeology Review. Washington, DC: Biblical Archaeology Society. 36 (1), following William F. Albright, The Proto-Sinaitic Inscriptions and their Decipherment (1966), "Schematic Table of Proto-Sinaitic Characters" (fig. 1).
  3. sometimes rendered as the Greek diacritic in a serif font (as 〈̔〉), e.g. Carl Brockelmann's Grundriss Der Vergleichenden Grammatik der semitischen Sprachen, 1908; Friedrich Delitzsch , Paul Haupt (eds.), Beiträge zur assyriologie und semitischen sprachwissenschaft (1890) (1968 reprint); sometimes rendered as a semi-circle open to the right with constant line thickness (as 〈ʿ〉), e.g. Theodor Nöldeke, Beiträge zur semitischen Sprachwissenschaft (1904).
  4. "MES Transliteration System" (assets.cambridge.org/MES/MES_ifc.pdf).
  5. Both characters U+02BE "modifier letter right half ring" and U+02BF "modifier letter left half ring" have been present since Unicode version 1.0.0 (1991). The relevant code chart specifies the purpose of U+02BF as "transliteration of Arabic ain (voiced pharyngeal fricative); transliteration of Hebrew ayin".
  6. "Various small, raised hook- or comma-shaped characters are often substituted for a glottal stop—for instance, U+02BC modifier letter apostrophe, U+02BB modifier letter turned comma, U+02C0 modifier letter glottal stop, or U+02BE modifier letter right half ring. U+02BB, in particular, is used in Hawaiian orthography as the okina." The Unicode Standard Version 7.0: chapter 7.1 "Latin", p. 294.
  7. recommended by the Library of Congress (loc.gov), deprecated by The European Register of Microform Masters
  8. deprecated by The European Register of Microform Masters.
  9. 1 2 Ladefoged, Peter & Ian Maddieson (1996). The sounds of the world’s languages. Oxford: Blackwells. ISBN 0-631-19814-8
  10. 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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