Gimel

Gimel is the third letter of the Semitic abjads, including Phoenician Gīml , Hebrew ˈGimel ג, Aramaic Gāmal , Syriac Gāmal ܓ, and Arabic ǧīm ج (in alphabetical order; fifth in spelling order). Its sound-value in the original Phoenician and in all derived alphabets, except Arabic, is a voiced velar plosive [ɡ]; in Modern Standard Arabic, it represents either a /d͡ʒ/ or /ʒ/ for most Arabic speakers except in Lower Egypt, the southern parts of Yemen and some parts of Oman where it is pronounced as a voiced velar plosive [ɡ] (see below).

← Bet
Gimel
Dalet →
Phoenician
Hebrew
ג
Aramaic
Syriac
ܓ
Arabic
ج
Phonemic representationd͡ʒ, ʒ, ɡ, ɟ, ɣ
Position in alphabet3
Numerical value3
Alphabetic derivatives of the Phoenician
GreekΓ
LatinC, G, Ɣ
CyrillicГ, Ґ

In its unattested, yet hypothetical, Proto-Canaanite form, the letter may have been named after a weapon that was either a staff sling or a throwing stick, ultimately deriving from a Proto-Sinaitic glyph based on the hieroglyph below:

The Phoenician letter gave rise to the Greek gamma (Γ), the Latin C, G, Ɣ and yogh , and the Cyrillic Г and Ґ.

Hebrew gimel

Variations

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

Hebrew spelling: גִּימֶלְ

Bertrand Russell posits that the letter's form is a conventionalized image of a camel.[1][2] The letter may be the shape of the walking animal's head, neck, and forelegs. Barry B. Powell, a specialist in the history of writing, states "It is hard to imagine how gimel = "camel" can be derived from the picture of a camel (it may show his hump, or his head and neck!)".[3]

Gimel is one of the six letters which can receive a dagesh qal. The two functions of dagesh are distinguished as either qal (light) or hazaq (strong). The six letters that can receive a dagesh qal are bet, gimel, daled, kaph, pe, and taf. Three of them (bet, kaph, and pe) have their sound value changed in modern Hebrew from the fricative to the plosive by adding a dagesh. The other three represent the same pronunciation in modern Hebrew, but have had alternate pronunciations at other times and places. They are essentially pronounced in the fricative as ג gh غ, dh ذ and th ث. In the Temani pronunciation, gimel represents /ɡ/, /ʒ/, or /d͡ʒ/ when with a dagesh, and /ɣ/ without a dagesh. In modern Hebrew, the combination ג׳ (gimel followed by a geresh) is used in loanwords and foreign names to denote [d͡ʒ].

Significance

In gematria, gimel represents the number three.

It is written like a vav with a yud as a "foot", and is traditionally believed to resemble a person in motion; symbolically, a rich man running after a poor man to give him charity. In the Hebrew alphabet gimel directly precedes dalet, which signifies a poor or lowly man, from the Hebrew word dal (b. Shabbat, 104a).[4]

The word gimel is related to gemul, which means 'justified repayment', or the giving of reward and punishment.

Gimel is also one of the seven letters which receive special crowns (called tagin) when written in a Sefer Torah. See shin, ayin, teth, nun, zayin, and tsadi.

The letter gimel is the electoral symbol for the United Torah Judaism party, and the party is often nicknamed Gimmel.[5][6]

In Modern Hebrew, the frequency of usage of gimel, out of all the letters, is 1.26%.

Syriac gamal/gomal

Gamal/Gomal
Madnḫaya Gamal
Serṭo Gomal
Esṭrangela Gamal

In the Syriac alphabet, the third letter is ܓ — Gamal in eastern pronunciation, Gomal in western pronunciation (ܓܵܡܵܠ). It is one of six letters that represent two associated sounds (the others are Bet, Dalet, Kaph, Pe and Taw). When Gamal/Gomal has a hard pronunciation (qûššāyâ ) it represents [ɡ], like "goat". When Gamal/Gomal has a soft pronunciation (rûkkāḵâ ) it traditionally represents [ɣ] (ܓ݂ܵܡܵܠ), or Ghamal/Ghomal. The letter, renamed Jamal/Jomal, is written with a tilde/tie either below or within it to represent the borrowed phoneme [d͡ʒ] (ܓ̰ܡܵܠ), which is used in Garshuni and some Neo-Aramaic languages to write loan and foreign words from Arabic or Persian.

Arabic ǧīm

an approximation of the main pronunciations of written ج in Arabic dialects.

The Arabic letter ج is named جيم ǧīm [d͡ʒiːm, ʒiːm, ɡiːm, ɟiːm]. It is written in several ways depending on its position in the word:

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form:
(Help)
ج ـج ـجـ جـ

In most Modern Standard Arabic (Literary Arabic) registers and languages that use the Arabic script (e.g. Persian, Urdu, Pashto, Uyghur, Malay, etc) The standard pronunciation taught outside the Arabic speaking world is an affricate [d͡ʒ], which was the agreed upon pronunciation by the end of the nineteenth century to recite the Qur'an. It is pronounced as a fricative [ʒ] in most of Northern Africa and the Levant, and [ɡ] is the prestigious and most common pronunciation in Egypt which is also found in Southern Arabian Peninsula. Differences in pronunciation occur because speakers of Modern Standard Arabic pronounce words in accordance to their spoken variety of Arabic. In such varieties, cognate words will have consistent differences in pronunciation of the letter:

The three main pronunciations:

  • [d͡ʒ]: In most of the Arabian Peninsula, Algeria, Iraq, some parts of the Levant. However, in Algeria and the Arabian Peninsula, it may be softened to [ʒ] in some environments.
  • [ʒ]: In most of the Levant and Northwestern Africa.
  • [g]: The standard pronunciation in Egypt, parts of Yemen (West and South), and southwestern Oman, also in Soqotri language, as in Hebrew and the other Semitic languages. This pronunciation also exists colloquially in Northwestern Africa in words that contain grooved alveolar sounds (/s/, /z/) but not to pronounce Literary Arabic.

Other pronunciations:

  • [ɟ]: In some regions of Sudan and Yemen, as well as being a common reconstruction of the Classical Arabic pronunciation.
  • [j]: In eastern Arabian Peninsula in the most colloquial speech but [d͡ʒ] or sometimes [ʒ] to pronounce Literary Arabic loan words.

Egyptians always use the letter to represent [ɡ] as well as in names and loanwords, such as جولف "golf". However, ج may be used in Egypt to transcribe /ʒ~d͡ʒ/ (normally pronounced [ʒ]) or if there is a need to differentiate between them completely then چ can be used instead to represent /ʒ/, which is also a proposal for Mehri and Soqotri languages.

Palatalization

While in most Semitic languages, e.g. Aramaic, Hebrew, Ge'ez, Old South Arabian the Gimel represents a [ɡ], Arabic is considered unique among them where the Gimel or Jīm ج was palatalized to an affricate [d͡ʒ] or a fricative [ʒ] in most dialects from classical times. While there is variation in Modern Arabic varieties, most of them reflect this palatalized pronunciation except in Egyptian Arabic and a number of Yemeni and Omani dialects, where it is pronounced as [ɡ] due to their substrate languages being Old South Arabian languages.

It is not well known when this change occurred or the probability of it being connected to the pronunciation of Qāf ق as a [ɡ], but in most of the Arabian peninsula (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE and parts of Yemen and Oman) which is the homeland of the Arabic language, the ج represents a [d͡ʒ] and ق represents a [ɡ], except in western and southern Yemen and southern Oman where ج represents a [ɡ] and ق represents a [q], which shows a strong correlation between the palatalization of ج to [d͡ʒ] and the pronunciation of the ق as a [ɡ] as shown in the table below:

Language / Dialects Pronunciation of the letters
ج ق
Proto-Semitic [ɡ] [kʼ]
Parts of Southern Arabia1 [ɡ] [q]
Most of the Arabian Peninsula [d͡ʒ]2 [ɡ]
Modern Standard Arabic [d͡ʒ]3 [q]

Notes:

  1. Coastal Yemen and southern Oman.
  2. [ʒ] can be an allophone in some dialects.
  3. in most Modern Standard Arabic registers ج is pronouned [d͡ʒ] or [ʒ], but in Egypt [g], Yemen [ɡ, ɟ], and Sudan [ɟ].

Ethiopian/Sudanese gimel

The dialect of Eastern Africa often utilizes the gimel sofit when the gimel ends a word. The letter is a traditional gimel with an add-on curve on the bottom.

Character encodings

Character information
Previewגجگܓ
Unicode nameHEBREW LETTER GIMELARABIC LETTER JEEMARABIC LETTER GAFSYRIAC LETTER GAMALSAMARITAN LETTER GAMANGIMEL SYMBOL
Encodingsdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhex
Unicode1490U+05D21580U+062C1711U+06AF1811U+07132050U+08028503U+2137
UTF-8215 146D7 92216 172D8 AC218 175DA AF220 147DC 93224 160 130E0 A0 82226 132 183E2 84 B7
Numeric character referenceגגججگگܓܓࠂࠂℷℷ
Named character referenceℷ
Character information
Preview𐎂𐡂𐤂
Unicode nameUGARITIC LETTER GAMLAIMPERIAL ARAMAIC LETTER GIMELPHOENICIAN LETTER GAML
Encodingsdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhex
Unicode66434U+1038267650U+1084267842U+10902
UTF-8240 144 142 130F0 90 8E 82240 144 161 130F0 90 A1 82240 144 164 130F0 90 A4 82
UTF-1655296 57218D800 DF8255298 56386D802 DC4255298 56578D802 DD02
Numeric character reference𐎂𐎂𐡂𐡂𐤂𐤂

See also

The serif form of the Hebrew letter gimel is occasionally used for the gimel function in mathematics.

References

  1. Russell, Bertrand (1972). A history of western philosophy (60th print. ed.). New York: Touchstone book. ISBN 9780671314002.
  2. Stan Tenen - Meru Foundation. "Meru Foundation Research: Letter Portrait: Gimel". meru.org.
  3. Powell, Barry B. (27 March 2009). Writing: Theory and History of the Technology of Civilization. Wiley Blackwell. p. 182. ISBN 978-1405162562.
  4. Ginzburgh, Yitzchak; Trugman, Avraham Arieh; Wisnefsky, Moshe Yaakov (1991). The Alef-beit: Jewish Thought Revealed Through the Hebrew Letters. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 42, 389. ISBN 9780876685181.
  5. "Mass Rally for United Torah Judaism - Hamodia.com". Hamodia. 11 March 2015.
  6. "Gedolim at Special Conference Call to Strengthen UTJ to Uphold Torah, Shabbos and Religious Character - Hamodia.com". Hamodia. 1 April 2019.
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