Sun and moon letters

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Sun letters (red) and moon letters (black) in Arabic

In Arabic and Maltese, consonants are divided into two groups: the sun/solar letters (Arabic: حروف شمسيةḥurūf shamsiyyah, Maltese: konsonanti xemxin) and moon/lunar letters (حروف قمرية ḥurūf qamariyyah, Maltese: konsonanti qamrin).

In those languages, all nouns start with the word "al" (الـ) in Arabic or "il" in Maltese. Both words mean "the." If a sun letter comes after the consonant, the "l" sound in "al" or "il" is dropped and is replaced by whatever sound the letter makes. However, if a moon letter comes after, the "l" sound in those words stays.

In Arabic, the word for "the sun" is ash-shams because the "sh" sound is a sun letter. Meanwhile, the word for "the moon" is al-qamar because the "q" sound is a moon letter.

Rule[change | change source]

Below is a chart of the sun and moon letters in Arabic.

Sun letters
t th d dh r z s sh l n
Moon letters ء ه
' b j kh ʻ gh f q k m h w y

Writing[change | change source]

The ال 'al-' is written down in Arabic regardless of how it is pronounced. In the case of sun letters, a mark called the shaddah (ـّـ) is written over the sun letter. For moon letters, a mark called the sukun (ـْـ)is written over the letter ل lam in the al-.

Examples
Sun letters Moon letters
الشَّمْس 'ash-shams' 'the sun' الْقَمَر 'al-qamar' 'the moon'
الثِّقَة 'ath-thiqah' 'the confidence' الْمُرْجَان 'al-murjān' 'the coral'

Maltese[change | change source]

Below is a chart of the sun and moon letters in Maltese.

Sun letters ċ d n r s t x ż z
Moon letters b f ġ g h ħ j k l m p q v w

If a word starts with any of the moon letters, the word il- stays the same. However, if it stats with a sun letter, the word il-changes to iċ-, id-, in-, ir-, is-, it-, ix-, iż-, iz-.

If a word begins with two consonants, it changes to "l-i-." For example, skola (school) becomes l-iskola (the school).[1]

References[change | change source]

  1. Aidan. "The Definite Article in Maltese".