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or is the sixteenth letter in many Semitic abjads, including Phoenician, Aramaic, Hebrew and Arabic (in abjadi order). It is the twenty first letter in the new Persian alphabet. It represents a sound approximately like a voiced pharyngeal fricative (IPA ), which has no equivalent in English.

Ayin is usually transliterated into the Latin alphabet with , (U+02BF) "modifier letter left half ring", a symbol based on the Greek spiritus asper , for example in the name of the letter itself, . The grave accent ` is sometimes used as a substitute. The Maltese language, which uses a Latin alphabet (and is the only Semitic language to do so in its standard form) writes the ayin as .

In English and many other languages, Arabic loanwords containing ( ) are commonly transliterated without it, e.g. Iraqmarker , Omanmarker , Saudi Arabiamarker , Arab or Arabic , , Ammanmarker , etc.

Origins

The letter name is derived from Proto-Semitic "eye", and the Proto-Canaanite letter had an eye-shape, ultimately derived from the ı͗r hieroglyph
D4
.
To this day, 'ayin in Hebrew, Arabic and Maltese means "eye" (‘ayno in Assyrian).


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

The sound represented by ayin is common to much of the Afrasiatic language family, such as the Egyptian, Cushitic, and Semitic languages. Some scholars believe that the sound in Proto-Indo-European transcribed h3 was similar, though this is debatable. (See Laryngeal theory#Pronunciation.)

Transliteration

In Semitic romanization and Egyptological transliteration, ayin was traditionally represented by a character based on Greek spiritus asper, similar in shape to superscript c. For most uses this can now be represented by the Unicode character (U+02BF MODIFIER LETTER LEFT HALF RING) in the Spacing Modifier Letters range, but (U+A724 LATIN CAPITAL LETTER EGYPTOLOGICAL AIN) and (U+A725 LATIN SMALL LETTER EGYPTOLOGICAL AIN) were added to the Latin Extended-D range in Unicode version 5.1.

Other characters commonly used to represent ayin include the superscript c (c), or IPA pharyngeal symbols (U+0295 LATIN LETTER PHARYNGEAL VOICED FRICATIVE) or (U+02C1 MODIFIER LETTER REVERSED GLOTTAL STOP).

Less precise transcription may use an apostrophe, failing to distinguish the ayin from the glottal stop consonant hamza. Even this representation is often omitted, as these symbols are often misinterpreted as punctuation instead of actual consonants.

The Somali language represents the ayin with the ordinary Roman letter c.

Hebrew Ayin

Orthographic variants
Various Print Fonts Cursive
Hebrew
Rashi
Script
Serif Sans-serif Monospaced
ע ע ע
Ayin, along with Aleph, Resh, He, and Heth, cannot receive a dagesh.

Phonetic representation

Ayin has traditionally been described as a voiced pharyngeal fricative ( ). However, this may be imprecise. Although a pharyngeal fricative have occasionally been observed for ayin in Arabic, and so therefore may occur in Hebrew as well, the sound is more commonly epiglottal ([[[voiced epiglottal fricative|{{IPA|ʢ}}]]]), and may also be a pharyngealized glottal stop ( ).

In some historical Sephardi pronunciations, `ayin represented a velar nasal ( ) sound, as in English si'nging, while in non-"Mizrahi" modern Israeli Hebrew represents a glottal stop in certain cases, but is mostly silent (that is, it behaves the same as aleph). However, often changes in adjoining vowels testify to the former presence of a pharyngeal or epiglottal articulation.

In Yiddish, the ‘Áyin is used as a vowel, rather than a consonant, and represents .

Ayin is also one of the three letters that can take a vowel at the end of a word, and the vowel it takes is chataf patach.

Transliteration

In Hebrew transliteration, the letter Ayin may be transliterated <`>.</`> <`>In Greek and Latin it was sometimes represented as <<A wiki_link="G" href="/G">g>, since the biblical phonemes (or "`") and (represented by "g") were both represented in Hebrew writing by the letter ayin (see Ġayn).</`> <`>Because of this, we get Gomorrah from the original (modern `Amora) and Gazamarker from the original (`Aza), which eventually gave us the English word gauze.</`>

Significance

In gematria, ayin represents the number 70.

Ayin is also one of the seven letters which receive a special crown (called a tagin) when written in a Sefer Torah. See Shin, Gimmel, Teth, Nun, Zayin, and Tzadi.

Arabic ayn

The Arabic letter (called ﻋﻴﻦ ayn) is written in one of several ways depending on its position in the word:

As in Hebrew, the letter originally stood for two sounds, the other being . When pointing was developed, ghayin was distinguished with a dot.

Pronunciation

Ayn is one of the most common letters in Arabic, and one of the most notoriously difficult sounds for Western learners to pronounce. One piece of advice for people trying to make the  ayn sound is to "sing the lowest possible note, then one lower".


Arabic ayn ranges from a pharyngeal to an epiglottal , with the latter being more common. However, this may be imprecise. As in Hebrew, the sound is often not a fricative at all, but either an epiglottal stop or a pharyngealized glottal stop .

Because the sound is so difficult for most non-Arabs to pronounce, it is often used as a shibboleth by Arabic-speakers; other sounds, such as a and ād are also used, typically with speakers of other Semitic languages or other dialects of Arabic. (Many Hebrew-speakers should be able to pronounce ayn, and Mizrahi Jews and speakers of the Ethiopic languages can typically pronounce a, but ad appears to be unique to Arabic).

References


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