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Aleph (or alef or alif, transliterated ʾ) is the first
letter Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) A letter is a segmental symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing an idea, Object (philosophy ...
of the
Semitic abjads An abjad () is a type of writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to the ...
, including
Phoenician Phoenician may refer to: * Phoenicia, an ancient civilization * Phoenician alphabet * Phoenician language * List of Phoenician cities * Phoenix, Arizona See also

* Phoenix (mythology) * Phoenicia (disambiguation) {{disambiguation Language an ...

Phoenician
,
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as the language of the Israelites, Judeans and their ancestors. It is the o ...

Hebrew
,
Aramaic Aramaic (: ''Arāmāyā''; : ; : ; ) is a language that originated among the in the ancient , at the end of the , and later became one of the most prominent languages of the . During its three thousand years long history, Aramaic went thr ...
,
SyriacSyriac may refer to: *Syriac language, a dialect of Middle Aramaic * Syriac alphabet ** Syriac (Unicode block) ** Syriac Supplement * Neo-Aramaic languages also known as Syriac in most native vernaculars * Syriac Christianity, the churches using Syr ...
, and
Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental countries, transcontinental region ...

Arabic
. It also appears as South Arabian 𐩱, and Ge'ez . These letters are believed to have derived from an
Egyptian hieroglyph Egyptian hieroglyphs () were the formal writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent ...
depicting an ox's head to describe the initial sound of the West Semitic word for ox, preserved in Biblical Hebrew as Eleph 'ox'. The Phoenician variant gave rise to the Greek alpha (), being re-interpreted to express not the
glottal consonant Glottal consonants are consonant In articulatory phonetics The field of articulatory phonetics is a subfield of phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign lan ...
but the accompanying
vowel A vowel is a syllabicSyllabic may refer to: *Syllable, a unit of speech sound, considered the building block of words **Syllabic consonant, a consonant that forms the nucleus of a syllable *Syllabary, writing system using symbols for syllables * ...

vowel
, and hence the
Latin A
Latin A
and Cyrillic А. In
phonetics Phonetics is a branch of that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of s, the equivalent aspects of sign. Phoneticians—linguists who specialize in phonetics—study the physical properties of speech. The field of phon ...

phonetics
, aleph originally represented the onset of a vowel at the
glottis The glottis is the opening between the vocal folds In humans, vocal cords, also known as vocal chords, vocal folds or voice reeds, are folds of tissue in the throat that are key in creating sounds through vocalization. The size of vocal cor ...
. In Semitic languages, this functions as a weak consonant allowing roots with only two true consonants to be conjugated in the manner of a standard three consonant Semitic root. In most Hebrew dialects as well as Syriac, the glottal onset represented by aleph is an absence of a true consonant although a
glottal stop
glottal stop
(), which is a true consonant, typically occurs as an allophone. In Arabic, the alif has the glottal stop pronunciation when occurring initially. In text with diacritical marks, the pronunciation as a glottal stop is usually indicated by a special marking,
hamza Hamza ( ar, همزة ') () is a letter in the Arabic alphabet, representing the glottal stop . Hamza is one of the 28 "full" letters and owes its existence to historical inconsistencies in the orthography, standard writing system. It is derived ...
in Arabic and
mappiq The mappiq (, also ''mapiq'', ''mapik'', ''mappik'', lit. "causing to go out") is a diacritic A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph added to a letter Letter, letters, or literature may ref ...

mappiq
in Tiberian Hebrew. (Although once thought to be the original pronunciation of aleph in all cases where it behaves as a consonant, a consistent glottal stop appears to have been absent in ancient Semitic languages such as Akkadian and Ugaritic besides being absent in Syriac and Hebrew.) Occasionally, the aleph was also used to indicate an initial unstressed vowel before certain consonant clusters, without functioning as a consonant itself, the '' prosthetic (or prothetic) aleph''. In later Semitic languages, aleph could sometimes function as a ''
mater lectionis ''Matres lectionis'' (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Rom ...
'' indicating the presence of a vowel elsewhere (usually long). The period at which use as a mater lectionis began is the subject of some controversy, though it had become well established by the late stage of Old Aramaic (ca. 200 BCE). Aleph is often
transliterated Transliteration is a type of conversion of a text from one script Script may refer to: Writing systems * Script, a distinctive writing system, based on a repertoire of specific elements or symbols, or that repertoire * Script (styles of ha ...

transliterated
as , based on the Greek ''
spiritus lenis The smooth breathing ( grc, ψιλὸν πνεῦμα, psilòn pneûma; ell, ψιλή ''psilí''; la, spīritus lēnis) is a diacritical mark A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph add ...
'' ; for example, in the transliteration of the letter name itself, '.


Origin

The name ''aleph'' is derived from the West Semitic word for "
ox
ox
" (as in the Biblical Hebrew word Eleph (אֶלֶף) 'ox'), and the shape of the letter derives from a Proto-Sinaitic glyph that may have been based on an
Egyptian hieroglyph Egyptian hieroglyphs () were the formal writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent ...
F1 , which depicts an ox's head. In
Modern Standard Arabic Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) or Modern Written Arabic (shortened to MWA), terms used mostly by Western linguists, is the variety of standardized Standardization or standardisation is the process of implementing and developing technical standa ...
, the word literally means 'tamed' or 'familiar', derived from the root , from which the verb ألِف means 'to be acquainted with; to be on intimate terms with'. In modern Hebrew, the same root (alef-lamed-peh) gives ''me’ulaf'', the passive participle of the verb ''le’alef'', meaning 'trained' (when referring to pets) or 'tamed' (when referring to wild animals); the IDF rank of
aluf ''Aluf'' ( he, אלוף, lit=champion or "First\leader of a group" in Biblical Hebrew; ) is a senior military rank in the Israel Defence Forces The Israel Defense Forces (IDF; he, צְבָא הַהֲגָנָה לְיִשְׂרָאֵל , '' ...
, taken from an
Edom Edom (; Edomite Edom (; Edomite: 𐤀𐤃𐤌 ''’Edām''; he, אֱדוֹם ''ʼÉḏōm'', lit.: "red"; akk, 𒌑𒁺𒈠𒀀𒀀 ''Uduma'') was an ancient kingdom in Transjordan located between Moab to the northeast, the Arabah Th ...

Edom
ite title of nobility, is also cognate.


Ancient Egyptian

The Egyptian "
vulture A vulture is a bird of prey that Scavenger, scavenges on carrion. There are 23 Neontology#Extant taxa versus extinct taxa, extant species of vulture (including Condors). Old World vultures include 16 living species native to Europe, Africa, and As ...
"
hieroglyph A hieroglyph (Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximat ...
(
GardinerGardiner may refer to: Places Settlements ;Canada * Gardiner, Ontario Gardiner is a Dispersed Rural Community and unincorporated place in Township (Canada)#Ontario, geographic Blount Township, Cochrane District, Ontario, Canada. It is approxima ...
G1), by convention pronounced ) is also referred to as ''aleph'', on grounds that it has traditionally been taken to represent a , although some recent suggestions tend towards an alveolar approximant () sound instead. Despite the name it does not correspond to an aleph in cognate Semitic words, where the single "reed" hieroglyph is found instead. The
phoneme In phonology and linguistics, a phoneme is a unit of sound that distinguishes one word from another in a particular language. For example, in most List of dialects of English, dialects of English, with the notable exception of the West Midlan ...
is commonly
transliterated Transliteration is a type of conversion of a text from one script Script may refer to: Writing systems * Script, a distinctive writing system, based on a repertoire of specific elements or symbols, or that repertoire * Script (styles of ha ...
by a symbol composed of two half-rings, in
Unicode Unicode, formally the Unicode Standard, is an information technology standard Standard may refer to: Flags * Colours, standards and guidons * Standard (flag), a type of flag used for personal identification Norm, convention or requireme ...

Unicode
(as of version 5.1, in the
Latin Extended-D Latin Extended-D is a Unicode blockA Unicode block is one of several contiguous ranges of numeric character codes ( code points) of the Unicode Unicode is an information technology Technical standard, standard for the consistent character enco ...
range) encoded at U+A722 Ꜣ LATIN CAPITAL LETTER EGYPTOLOGICAL ALEF and U+A723 ꜣ LATIN SMALL LETTER EGYPTOLOGICAL ALEF. A fallback representation is the numeral ''3'', or the Middle English character ''ȝ''
Yogh The letter yogh (ȝogh) ( ; Scots: ; Middle English Middle English (abbreviated to ME) was a form of the English language spoken after the Norman conquest of England, Norman conquest (1066) until the late 15th century. The English language u ...
; neither are to be preferred to the genuine Egyptological characters.


Aramaic

The Aramaic reflex of the letter is conventionally represented with the Hebrew in typography for convenience, but the actual graphic form varied significantly over the long history and wide geographic extent of the language. Maraqten identifies three different aleph traditions in East Arabian coins: a lapidary Aramaic form that realizes it as a combination of a V-shape and a straight stroke attached to the apex, much like a Latin K; a
cursive Cursive (also known as script, among other names) is any style of penmanship Penmanship is the technique of writing Writing is a medium of human communication that involves the representation of a language with written symbols. Writin ...

cursive
Aramaic form he calls the "elaborated X-form", essentially the same tradition as the Hebrew
reflex In biology Biology is the natural science that studies life and living organisms, including their anatomy, physical structure, Biochemistry, chemical processes, Molecular biology, molecular interactions, Physiology, physiological mechanisms, ...
; and an extremely cursive form of two crossed oblique lines, much like a simple Latin X.


Hebrew

It is written as and spelled as . In
Modern Israeli Hebrew Modern Hebrew, also known as Israeli Hebrew ( he, עברית חדשה, ''ʿivrít ḥadašá ', , '' lit.'' "Modern Hebrew" or "New Hebrew"), generally referred to by speakers simply as Hebrew ( ), is the standard form of the Hebrew language ...
, the letter either represents a () or indicates a
hiatus Hiatus may refer to: *Hiatus (linguistics), the lack of a consonant separating two vowels in separate syllables *Hiatus (television), a break of several weeks or more in television scheduling *Hiatus (anatomy), a natural fissure in a structure *Hi ...
(the separation of two adjacent
vowels A vowel is a syllabicSyllabic may refer to: *Syllable, a unit of speech sound, considered the building block of words **Syllabic consonant, a consonant that forms the nucleus of a syllable *Syllabary, writing system using symbols for syllables * ...

vowels
into distinct
syllable A syllable is a unit of organization for a sequence of speech sounds. It is typically made up of a syllable nucleus (most often a vowel A vowel is a Syllable, syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels a ...

syllable
s, with no intervening
consonant In articulatory phonetics The field of articulatory phonetics is a subfield of phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, the equivalent aspects of sig ...
). It is sometimes silent (word-finally always, word-medially sometimes: "he", "main", "head", "first"). The pronunciation varies in different
Jewish ethnic divisions Jewish ethnic divisions refer to many distinctive communities within the world's Ethnicity, ethnically Jewish population. Although considered a Cultural identity, self-identifying ethnicity, there are distinct ethnic subdivisions among Jews, most ...
. In
gematria Gematria (; he, גמטריא or gimatria , plural or , ''gimatriot'') is the practice of assigning a number, numerical value to a name, word or phrase according to an alphanumerical cipher. A single word can yield several values depending on the c ...
, aleph represents the number 1, and when used at the beginning of Hebrew years, it means 1000 (e.g. in
numbers A number is a mathematical object A mathematical object is an abstract concept arising in mathematics. In the usual language of mathematics, an ''object'' is anything that has been (or could be) formally defined, and with which one may do deduc ...

numbers
would be the Hebrew date 1754, not to be confused with 1754 CE). Aleph, along with
ayin ''Ayin'' (also ''ayn'' or ''ain''; transliterated ) is the sixteenth letter Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) A letter is a segmental symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that i ...

ayin
,
resh Resh is the twentieth letter Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) A letter is a segmental symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signifies, or is understood as represent ...

resh
, he and
heth Heth, sometimes written Chet, but more accurately Ḥet, is the eighth letter Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) A letter is a segmental symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that ...
, cannot receive a
dagesh The dagesh () is a used in the . It was added to the at the same time as the system of (vowel points). It takes the form of a dot placed inside a and has the effect of modifying the sound in one of two ways. An identical mark, called , has a ...

dagesh
. (However, there are few very rare examples of the
Masoretes The Masoretes ( he, בעלי המסורה, Ba'alei ha-Masora) were groups of Jewish Jews ( he, יְהוּדִים ISO 259-2 , Israeli pronunciation ) or Jewish people are an ethnoreligious group and nation originating from the Israelites I ...
adding a dagesh or
mappiq The mappiq (, also ''mapiq'', ''mapik'', ''mappik'', lit. "causing to go out") is a diacritic A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph added to a letter Letter, letters, or literature may ref ...

mappiq
to an aleph or resh. The verses of the Hebrew Bible for which an aleph with a mappiq or dagesh appears are
Genesis Genesis may refer to: Literature and comics * Genesis (DC Comics), a 1997 DC Comics crossover * Genesis (Marvel Comics), a Marvel Comics villain * Genesis, a fictional character from the ''Preacher (comics), Preacher'' comic-book series * ''Genes ...

Genesis
43:26, Leviticus 23:17,
Job Employment is the relationship between two parties Image:'Hip, Hip, Hurrah! Artist Festival at Skagen', by Peder Severin Krøyer (1888) Demisted with DXO PhotoLab Clearview; cropped away black border edge.jpg, 300px, ''Hip, Hip, Hurrah!'' ...
33:21 and
Ezra Ezra (; he, עֶזְרָא, '; fl. 480–440 BCE), also called Ezra the Scribe (, ') and Ezra the Priest in the Book of Ezra The Book of Ezra is a book of the Hebrew Bible The Hebrew Bible or Tanakh (; : , or ), is the of scripture ...

Ezra
8:18.) In Modern Hebrew, the frequency of the usage of alef, out of all the letters, is 4.94%. Aleph is sometimes used as a
mater lectionis ''Matres lectionis'' (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power of the Rom ...
to denote a vowel, usually . That use is more common in words of
Aramaic Aramaic (: ''Arāmāyā''; : ; : ; ) is a language that originated among the in the ancient , at the end of the , and later became one of the most prominent languages of the . During its three thousand years long history, Aramaic went thr ...
and
Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental countries, transcontinental region ...

Arabic
origin, in foreign names, and some other borrowed words.


Rabbinic Judaism

Aleph is the subject of a
midrash ''Midrash'' (;"midrash"
''Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary''.
he, מִדְרָשׁ; ...

midrash
that praises its humility in not demanding to start the Bible. (In
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as one of the spoken languages of the Israelites and their longest-survivi ...
, the Bible begins with the second letter of the
alphabet An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semanti ...

alphabet
,
bet Black Entertainment Television (BET) is an American cable television Cable television is a system of delivering television programming to consumers via radio frequency (RF) signals transmitted through coaxial cables, or in more recent ...
.) In the story, aleph is rewarded by being allowed to start the
Ten Commandments The Ten Commandments ( he, עֲשֶׂרֶת הַדִּבְּרוֹת, ''Aseret ha'Dibrot''), also known as the Decalogue, are a set of biblical The Bible (from Koine Greek Koine Greek (, , Greek approximately ;. , , , lit. " ...

Ten Commandments
. (In
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as one of the spoken languages of the Israelites and their longest-survivi ...
, the first word is , which starts with an aleph.) In the
Sefer Yetzirah ''Sefer Yetzirah'' ( ''Sēp̄er Yəṣīrā'', ''Book of Formation'', or ''Book of Creation'') is the title of the earliest extant book on Jewish mysticism, although some early commentators treated it as a treatise on mathematical and linguistic t ...
, the
letter Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) A letter is a segmental symbol A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing an idea, Object (philosophy ...
aleph is
king King is the title given to a male monarch in a variety of contexts. The female equivalent is queen regnant, queen, which title is also given to the queen consort, consort of a king. *In the context of prehistory, antiquity and contempora ...

king
over breath, formed air in the universe, temperate in the year, and the
chest The thorax or chest is a part of the anatomy Anatomy (Greek ''anatomē'', 'dissection') is the branch of biology concerned with the study of the structure of organism In biology, an organism (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ὀργανι ...

chest
in the soul. Aleph is also the first letter of the
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as one of the spoken languages of the Israelites and their longest-survivi ...
word ''emet'' (), which means ''truth''. In
Jewish mythology Jewish mythology is a major literary element of the body of Myth, myths found in the Religious text, sacred texts and in Oral tradition, traditional narratives that help explain and symbolize Jewish culture and Judaism. Elements of Jewish mytholo ...
, it was the letter aleph that was carved into the head of the
golem A golem ( ; he, , ''gōlem'') is an animated anthropomorphic Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities. It is considered to be an innate tendency of human psychology. Personificat ...

golem
that ultimately gave it life. Aleph also begins the three words that make up God's mystical name in
Exodus Exodus or the Exodus may refer to: Religion *Book of Exodus, second book of the Hebrew Torah and the Christian Bible *The Exodus, the biblical story of the migration of the ancient Israelites from Egypt into Canaan Historical events * Jujuy E ...
, I Am who I Am (in
Hebrew Hebrew (, , or ) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic language of the Afroasiatic languages, Afroasiatic language family. Historically, it is regarded as one of the spoken languages of the Israelites and their longest-survivi ...
, Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh ), and aleph is an important part of mystical
amulet An amulet, also known as a good luck charm A good luck charm is an amulet or other item that is believed to bring good luck. Almost any object can be used as a charm. Coins and buttons are examples, as are small objects given as gifts, due t ...

amulet
s and formulas. Aleph, in
Jewish mysticism Academic study of Jewish mysticism, especially since Gershom Scholem's ''Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism'' (1941), distinguishes between different forms of mysticism across different eras of Jewish history. Of these, Kabbalah, which emerged in 1 ...
, represents the oneness of God. The letter can be seen as being composed of an upper yud, a lower yud, and a vav leaning on a diagonal. The upper yud represents the hidden and ineffable aspects of God while the lower yud represents God's revelation and presence in the world. The vav ("hook") connects the two realms. Jewish mysticism relates aleph to the element of air, the Fool (Key 0, value 1) of the major arcana of the tarot deck, and the Scintillating Intelligence (#11) of the path between Kether and Chokmah in the Tree of the Sephiroth .


Yiddish

In
Yiddish Yiddish (, or , ''yidish'' or ''idish'', , ; , ''Yidish-Taytsh'', ) is a West Germanic The West Germanic languages constitute the largest of the three branches of the Germanic languages, Germanic family of languages (the others being the ...

Yiddish
, aleph is used for several orthographic purposes in native words, usually with different
diacritical mark A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph The term glyph is used in typography File:metal movable type.jpg, 225px, Movable type being assembled on a composing stick using pieces that ...
s borrowed from Hebrew
niqqud In Hebrew language, Hebrew orthography, niqqud or nikud ( or ) is a system of diacritical signs used to represent vowels or distinguish between alternative pronunciations of letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Several such diacritical systems were ...
: * With no diacritics, aleph is silent; it is written at the beginning of words before vowels spelled with the letter vov or yud. For instance, ''oykh'' 'also' is spelled אויך. The
digraph Digraph may refer to: * Digraph (orthography), a pair of characters used together to represent a single sound, such as "sh" in English * Orthographic ligature, the joining of two letters as a single glyph, such as "æ" * Digraph (computing), a grou ...
וי represents the initial
diphthong A diphthong ( ; , ), also known as a gliding vowel, is a combination of two adjacent vowel A vowel is a Syllable, syllabic speech sound pronounced without any stricture in the vocal tract. Vowels are one of the two principal classes of spe ...
[], but that digraph is not permitted at the beginning of a word in Yiddish orthography, so it is preceded by a silent aleph. Some publications use a silent aleph adjacent to such vowels in the middle of a word as well when necessary to avoid ambiguity. * An aleph with the diacritic '' pasekh'', אַ, represents the vowel in standard Yiddish. * An aleph with the diacritic '' komets'', אָ, represents the vowel in standard Yiddish.
Loanword A loanword (also loan word or loan-word) is a word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semantic, objective or pragmatics, practical meaning ...
s from Hebrew or Aramaic in Yiddish are spelled as they are in their language of origin.


Syriac Alaph/Olaf

In the
Syriac alphabet The Syriac alphabet ( ) is a writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be in relation with") is "an apparent answer to ...
, the first letter is , syc, ܐܵܠܲܦ, alap (in eastern dialects) or olaph (in western dialects). It is used in word-initial position to mark a word beginning with a vowel, but some words beginning with ''i'' or ''u'' do not need its help, and sometimes, an initial alap/olaph is
elided In linguistics, an elision or deletion is broadly defined as the omission of one or more sounds (such as a vowel, a consonant, or a whole syllable) in a word or phrase. However, it is also used to refer more narrowly to cases where two words are r ...
. For example, when the Syriac first-person
singular Singular may refer to: * Singular, the grammatical number In linguistics, grammatical number is a grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, and verb agreement (linguistics), agreement that expresses count distinctions (such as "one", ...
pronoun In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languag ...

pronoun
is in
enclitic In morphology and syntax In linguistics, syntax () is the set of rules, principles, and processes that govern the structure of Sentence (linguistics), sentences (sentence structure) in a given Natural language, language, usually including word ...
positions, it is pronounced ''no/na'' (again west/east), rather than the full form ''eno/ana''. The letter occurs very regularly at the end of words, where it represents the long final vowels ''o/a'' or ''e''. In the middle of the word, the letter represents either a between vowels (but West Syriac pronunciation often makes it a
palatal approximant The voiced palatal approximant, or yod, is a type of consonant In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are , pronounced with the lips; , pronoun ...

palatal approximant
), a long ''i/e'' (less commonly ''o/a'') or is silent.


South Arabian/Ge'ez

In the Ancient South Arabian alphabet, 𐩱 appears as the seventeenth letter of the South Arabian abjad. The letter is used to render a . In the Ge'ez alphabet, ʾälef አ appears as the thirteenth letter of its abjad. This letter is also used to render a glottal stop .


Arabic

Written as , spelled as and transliterated as ', it is the first letter in
Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental countries, transcontinental region ...

Arabic
. Together with Hebrew aleph, Greek
alpha Alpha (uppercase , lowercase ; grc, ἄλφα, ''álpha'', modern pronunciation ''álfa'') is the first letter Letter, letters, or literature may refer to: Characters typeface * Letter (alphabet) A letter is a segmental symbol A s ...
and Latin , it is descended from
Phoenician Phoenician may refer to: * Phoenicia, an ancient civilization * Phoenician alphabet * Phoenician language * List of Phoenician cities * Phoenix, Arizona See also

* Phoenix (mythology) * Phoenicia (disambiguation) {{disambiguation Language an ...

Phoenician
, from a reconstructed Proto-Canaanite ' "ox". Alif is written in one of the following ways depending on its position in the word:


Arabic variants


Alif with hamza: and

The Arabic letter was used to render either a long or a . That led to orthographical confusion and to the introduction of the additional letter ' .
Hamza Hamza ( ar, همزة ') () is a letter in the Arabic alphabet, representing the glottal stop . Hamza is one of the 28 "full" letters and owes its existence to historical inconsistencies in the orthography, standard writing system. It is derived ...
is not considered a full letter in Arabic orthography: in most cases, it appears on a carrier, either a ' (), a dotless ' (), or an alif. The choice of carrier depends on complicated orthographic rules. Alif is generally the carrier if the only adjacent vowel is '. It is the only possible carrier if hamza is the first phoneme of a word. Where alif acts as a carrier for hamza, hamza is added above the alif, or, for initial alif-', below it and indicates that the letter so modified is indeed a glottal stop, not a long vowel. A second type of hamza, ' (), occurs only as the initial letter of the
definite article An article is any member of a class of dedicated words that are used with noun phrases A noun phrase, or nominal (phrase), is a that has a or as its or performs the same grammatical function as a noun. Noun phrases are very common , and the ...
and in some related cases. It differs from ' in that it is elided after a preceding vowel. Again, alif is always the carrier.


Alif maddah:

The ' is a double alif, expressing both a glottal stop and a long vowel. Essentially, it is the same as a sequence: (final ) , for example in ' 'last'. "It has become standard for a ''hamza'' followed by a long ā to be written as two ''alifs'', one vertical and one horizontal" (the "horizontal" alif being the ''maddah'' sign).


Alif maqṣūrah:

The ى, ('limited/restricted alif', '), commonly known in Egypt as ' (, 'flexible alif'), looks like a dotless

(final ) and may appear only at the end of a word. Although it looks different from a regular ''alif'', it represents the same sound , often realized as a short vowel. When it is written, ' is indistinguishable from final
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'' ye'' or Arabic ' as it is written in Egypt, Sudan and sometimes elsewhere. ' is transliterated as in
ALA-LC ALA-LC (American Library Association - Library of Congress) is a set of standards for romanization, the representation of text in other writing systems using the Latin script. Applications The system is used to represent bibliographic information ...
, in
DIN 31635 DIN 31635 is a Deutsches Institut für Normung ' (DIN; in English English usually refers to: * English language English is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language first spoken in History of Anglo-Saxon England, early medieva ...
, in ISO 233-2 and in
ISO 233 The international standard An international standard is a technical standard A technical standard is an established norm (social), norm or requirement for a repeatable technical task which is applied to a common and repeated use of rules, conditions ...
.


Numeral

As a numeral, alaph/olaf stands for the number one. With a dot below, it is the number 1,000; with a line above it, alaph/olaf will represent 1,000,000. With a line below it is 10,000 and with two dots below it is 10,000,000.


Other uses


Mathematics

In
set theory Set theory is the branch of mathematical logic that studies Set (mathematics), sets, which can be informally described as collections of objects. Although objects of any kind can be collected into a set, set theory, as a branch of mathematics, i ...
, the Hebrew aleph glyph is used as the symbol to denote the
aleph number In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It ...
s, which represent the
cardinality In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It ...
of infinite sets. This notation was introduced by mathematician
Georg Cantor Georg Ferdinand Ludwig Philipp Cantor ( , ;  – January 6, 1918) was a German mathematician. He created set theory, which has become a fundamental theory in mathematics. Cantor established the importance of one-to-one correspondence be ...
. In older mathematics books, the letter aleph is often printed upside down by accident, partly because a
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matrix for aleph was mistakenly constructed the wrong way up.


Character encodings


See also

* ʾ *
Al- ( ar, ٱلْـ), also Romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language) ...
*
Aleph number In mathematics Mathematics (from Ancient Greek, Greek: ) includes the study of such topics as quantity (number theory), mathematical structure, structure (algebra), space (geometry), and calculus, change (mathematical analysis, analysis). It ...
*
Arabic yāʼ Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic languages, Semitic language that first emerged in the 1st to 4th centuries CE.Semitic languages: an international handbook / edited by Stefan Weninger; in collaboration with Geoffrey Khan, Michael P. Stre ...
* "The Aleph (short story), The Aleph", a short story by Jorge Luis Borges describing a point in space that contains all other spaces at once * Hamzah * Aleph (novel)


References

* {{Northwest Semitic abjad Phoenician alphabet Arabic letters, Alef Hebrew alphabet Vowel letters