(A littera)

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Sciendum est quod a littera que prima in serie apud quam plures gentes ordinantur: quam arabes alif vocant sepissime apud eos sonat .a. interdum tamen .e. ut elkli. lelmelik quod est dictu corona regia et est mellilotum sic proferunt: et tamen per alif scribunt ut vides in .ii. canonis Avicenne. Aliquando sonat .I. unde interdum dicunt ille et scribunt alla quod est deus. Aliquando sonat .o. vel .u. ut habetur in eodem libro usnee et etiam usnen et buchuen: qui omnia scribuntur in littera alif et ab ea incipiunt, distingunt tamen hoc totum per certas notas Grecum vero alfa in nulla a nostro .a. differt potestate.


In ACH and e the entry is part of the Preface § 6. B starts a new paragraph.

Whole entry om. ft (extant in jkmn)

ordinãt~ A | ordinatur (-t~ B e) BCH e

alif ABCH | aliter e

{interdum} tm̃ A | tñ H e | tantũ C | tamen om. B

elkli.lelmelik AC | elklil elmelik BH e

dictu ACH | dictũ B | dc͞m e

mellilotũ AC e | melilotum B | melylotum H

alif scribunt AB | alrˀ {= aliter} scribitur e | Alif scribitur H

alla ABC e | alle H

et etiam om. BH e

huchuẽ C | buchuẽ A {'h' misread as 'b'} | uchnen B | uchuen H e

qui ABC e | que H

distinguũt A | distingũt BCH e

alif ABC | alrˀ {= aliter} e

alfa ABH | alpha e | alaf C

nulla ABC e | nullo H

et cetera add. H


Be aware that it is the letter "A", which is the first in the alphabetic sequence as the letters are arranged by many peoples. The Arabs call it alif and with them it sounds often between 'a' {as in "at"} and 'e' {as in "end"}, as in elkli. lelmelik, which means in Latin corona regia {lit. "crown of the king"} and this is how they name mellilotum {"melilot"}, and nevertheless they write it with alif, as can be seen in the ii. book of Avicenna’s Canon. Sometimes alif sounds like 'i' {i.e. as in "it"}, which is why they sometimes say ille but write down alla, which means "god". Sometimes it sounds between 'o' or 'u' {as in "ooze"} as is written in the same book: usnee as well as usnen and huchuen, which are all written with the letter alif word-initially, but they can distinguish all these sounds clearly by using certain diacritic signs. But Greek alpha does in no way differ from our "a" in pronunciation.


The first letter in the Arabic alphabet, ﺍﻟﻒ /ʔalif/ had originally purely consonantal value, i.e. it represented the sound as heard notably in Cockney and other dialects instead of /t/ as in "butter, better" etc., a sound which in the Semitic languages is a fully functional consonant and can consequently occur in most positions in a word, cf. ﺭﺃﺱ /raʔs/ "head; chief", ﺣﻧﺎﺀ /ḥinnāʔ/ "henna".

In Arabic no word can begin with a vowel. If for whatever reason a vowel comes to be positioned word-initially it must be preceded by alif. Therefore the occurrence of alif in word-initial position is highly predictable, i.e. redundant, and is consequently not normally marked in transcriptions, e.g. /alif/ rather than /ʔalif/. Since every word-initial vowel is preceded by alif, alif has now become no more than an indicator of any vowel, i.e. signalling only that the word begins with some vowel.

Simon comments on this last fact in his deliberations. He mentions that it sounds between /a/ and /e/, i.e. he means "is followed by" these vowels. For illustration he chooses elkli. lelmelik, which is ﺍﻛﻠﻴﻞ ﺍﻟﻤﻠﻚ /iklīl al-malik/ "(lit. 'crown of the king') melilot", transcribed more precisely /ʔiklīl ʔal-malik/. His Arabic ille is ﺍﻻﻩ /ʔilāh/, more usually transcribed /ilāh/ "(a) god, deity"; ﺍﻟﻠﻪ /ʔallāh/, usually /allāh/ is "Allah, or the god"; usnee is ﺍﺷﻨﺔ /ʔušna/, usually /ušna/ "moss"; usnen is ﺍﺷﻧﺎﻥ /ʔušnān/ usually /ušnān/ "potash", and huchuẽ, which is ﺍﻗﺤﻮﺍﻥ /ʔuqḥuwān/ usually /uqḥuwān/ "chamomile; daisy".

Simon also briefly touches on the spelling of vowels in Arabic by saying "they can distinguish all these sounds clearly by using certain diacritic signs". Classic Arabic has only a very limited vowel inventory, short /a,i,u/; long /ā,ī,ū/ and two diphthongs /au/ and /ai/. The small number of vowels allows much wider variation in the vowel pronunciation of Arabic than is the case in most European languages, where the cluttered vowel systems force a more restricted and more distinctive vowel pronunciation on their speakers. This incidentally accounts for the fact that often Arabic /a/ is also heard and transcribed in Simon's entries as "e"; /i/ is also heard and transcribed as "e" and /u/ as "o".

As with most Semitic languages spelling in Arabic only displays the consonantal skeleton of a word, thus English "cat", "cut", "cot" would all be written as "ct" and only the context would reveal which word was meant. However, in the Qurʔān and wherever else required, diacritic signs above or underneath a consonant letter can be used to represent a vowel unambiguously, though this is extremely rare in practice.

Simon alludes to three consecutive chapters in Goehl: Canon Avicennae, liber secundus: Capitulum 722. De usnee. - cap. 723. De uchuen. - cap. 724. De usnen, where all the Arabic plant names begin with alif + short 'u'.

See also: Achavẽ, E Littera, Usnee, Usnen, Ucuen

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