Arabic Names from al-Andalus: Notes on Transcription

by Juliana de Luna (Julia Smith)

© 2008 Julia Smith; all rights reserved
last updated 30Apr08

As Arabic uses several letters not found in English, a transcription system must be used. This follows the standard of the Library of Congress (which can be found at, with a few exceptions. The emphatic k is written as q; other emphatic consonants are indicated with a dot below the letter, as in Ḥasan. The pronunciation of emphatic consonants is difficult to explain: they are pronounced further back than their non-emphatic counterparts and are often described as "more forceful" in pronunciation. The following consonants have emphatic forms indicated with a dot under the consonant: h, t, d, s, and z. Occasionally the dots may appear as if they are under another letter; this is an unavoidable problem with the notation in html. For further assistance, find someone who speaks Arabic. There are two special characters: ` is ayn (as in the given name `Imrān) and ' is hamza (in the given name Ismaī'l). These are also somewhat difficult to explain: both are pronounced far back in your throat; the first is voiced and the second unvoiced. For further assistance, find someone who speaks Arabic or consult a guide to Arabic pronunciation.

Long vowels are marked with a macron (long mark). These are longer in duration, but not a different sound, than short vowels. When words start with the "sun consonants" (t, th, d, dh, r, z, s, sh, ṣ, ḍ, ṭ, ẓ, n), the consonant ā€˜lā€™ at the end of the article al was assimilated to the following consonant, so that a name like al-Zahra 'the radiant' would have been pronounced \ahz zah rah\. This change in pronunciation is not written out here.