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Arabish: Arabic chat language

Published on 13 February 2012 in Variety
Nadia Al-Sakkaf (author)

Nadia Al-Sakkaf


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In order to compensate for some Arabic language sounds that are not available in the English script, Arabs have invented alternative symbols to overcome the problem. When there were no Arabic keyboards buy we needed to communicate in Arabic, people devised a way of writing in Arabic using the Latin alphabet with additional symbols to replace the missing letters.

This trend began only a few years ago and spread across the internet. No one knows who invented it or who agreed that these numbers would hold the sounds they do. But the word Arabish comes from the merging of Arabic and English. The world Arabish has already been the online Urban Dictionary and even has its own Wikipedia page.

Arabish symbols:

2 – the Hamza in the Arabic alphabet, which is the sudden A sound as in Su2aal [Su’aal] which means question.

3 – this represents Aiyn, the 18th letter of the Arabic alphabet, as used in assalam 3alikum [alaikum] - the Islamic greeting peace be upon you.

‘3 – the 19th letter of the Arabic alphabet, as in ‘3abbi [ghabbi], which means stupid.

5 – represents the seventh letter of the Arabic alphabet used, in 5air [khair], meaning good.

6 – the 16th letter of the Arabic alphabet such as in 6aiyeb [taiyeb], which means kind or fine.

‘6 – used in place of the 17th letter of the Arabic alphabet, as in ‘6areef [thareef or dhareef], which means cute.

7 – the sixth letter of the Arabic alphabet as in 7abibi [habibi], which means my beloved.

8 – the 21st letter of the Arabic alphabet as in 8ubla [qubla] which means kiss.

9 – used in place of the 14th letter of the Arabic alphabet as in 9awt [sawot], which means sound or voice.

‘9 – the 15th letter of the Arabic alphabet as in Rama’9an [Ramadhan or Ramathan], the month when Muslims fast.

A similar, yet older trend, worked in reverse. There are two letters in the Latin alphabet that are not available in Arabic: P and V. In order to compensate for these missing letters, Arabs altered their closest letters to reflect the newcomers. P was usually replaced with the letter ب in Arabic, which is pronounced as B, but then the new character پ was incorporated to reflect P.

The same goes for V; so instead of just using ف which sounds like F, the letter ڤ ‎/‎  was created to reflect the sound.

Although not as common, the letter چ was created to reflect the G used in George instead of in gem where the letter J would be sufficient. It is said that these letters were imported from the Persian alphabet to compensate for the missing sounds.

But the computer age hasn’t just spawned Arabic abbreviations; international terms such as LOL, BRB and OMG have entered the mainstream, with the most common terms such as “laugh out loud” even being included in the latest Oxford Dictionary.

Surprisingly, terms such as “laugh out loud” and “be right back” were not coined by today’s web-hungry youth. They originated in the late 80s when hackers and other techies began creating their own shorthand. But it was only in recently years, with the help of mobile phones and texting, that these terms boomed and became the everyday language of teenagers worldwide.

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0 Response(s) to “”

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