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Articulation
Introduction to articulation points of the Arabic letters

The articulation point of a letter is the place the letter is emitted, meaning a sound that comes
out of the mouth relying on a specific place of articulation or an approximate one. Using the
correct articulation point of a letter is necessary to utter the letter correctly, and of course this
is even more important when reciting the book of Allah, the Holy Qur’an.

Almost all the articulation points in Arabic are specific places, but there are some that have a
general area of articulation.

There are ways for you to see what articulation point YOU are using for a letter (not
necessarily the correct one), so that you can compare what you are using to the correct way of
articulating a letter:

1. Pronounce the letter with a shaddah; in other words, double the letter.

2. Pronounce the letter with no vowel and put a hamzah before the letter you are checking.

You can then check the position of your tongue, mouth, or feel what area of the throat you are
using.

There are five general areas of the throat and mouth that have within them the specific or
general articulation points of the Arabic letters.

1. The empty space in the mouth and throat has in it one articulation point for the
three lengthened letters, which are wow with no vowel with a dhammah before it, ya’
with no vowel with a kasrah before it, and an alif with a fath before it.
2. The Throat: It has three articulation points for six different letters which are
pronounced from the deepest, middle, and closest part of the throat
3. The Tongue: It has ten articulation points for eighteen letters
4. The Two Lips: The lips have two articulation points for four letters
5. The nasal passage: From the hole of nose towards the inside of the mouth, here there
is one articulation point, that of the ghunnah

The following pictures shows these areas:


The empty space in the throat and mouth
The empty space in the mouth and throat is a place and an articulation point at the same time.
The three medd (lengthened) letters originate from this general area, these letters are:

1.The alif preceded by a letter with a fat-hah (and the true alif is only in this state); the Arabic

alif never takes a vowel and is always preceded by a fathah ( )

2. The wow with a sukoon preceded by a letter with a dhammah

3. The ya’ with a sukoon preceded by a letter with a kasrah

These three medd letters do not have a specific place that they are pronounced from, unlike
all the other letters; instead these letters finish articulating with the stopping of the sound.

The medd letters are lengthened two counts if they are not followed by a hamzah or a
sukoon. The lengthening when there is a hamzah or sukoon after the medd letter will be
covered, insha’ Allah, in future lessons.

Common mistakes in these letters

Many times a reciter lets the sound of some or all of these letters come up from the empty
space of the throat into the nose, and a nasalization (or ghunnah) of one or all of these letters
then occurs. The most common letter for this to happen with is the lengthened “wow”.

To rid oneself of this error, the sound needs to be focused up and out the mouth. To practice
and see if this error is present one should close off the nostrils and say the medd letter; if the
sound becomes muted with the pinching off of the nostrils, or if it sounds like one has a cold,
it is indeed coming up through the nose, and therefore incorrect.

A less common mistake is pronouncing one or all of these letters from a specific place in the throat.
The resultant sound is usually a cross between one of the letters that are supposed to be articulated
from the throat, and the medd letter. To tell if this mistake is present, one needs to say the medd
letter, and if there is a pull in the throat, it is then incorrect. These medd letters should be
pronounced with using only the vibration of the vocal cords and an accompanying opening of the

mouth for the alif, a circling of the lips for the lengthened wow, and a lowering of the jaw with

the lengthened ya’.


The articulation points of the
throat

There are three places of articulation in the throat, each place has two letters emitted from
therein.

1. The deepest part of the throat


2. The middle part of the throat
3. The closest part of the throat (closest to the mouth)

The deepest part of the throat

The deepest part of the throat is the furthest away from the mouth and the closest to the

chest. Two letters are articulated from here. They are the hamzah and the ha’
.

The middle part of the throat

The middle part of the throat lies half way in between the beginning and the end of the
throat. The two letters that are emitted from here are: and .

The closest part of the throat

The closest part of the throat is the beginning of the throat, or the closest to the mouth. Two

letters are articulated from this area, they are: and .

Common mistakes in these letters

These letters are uncommon to many languages, especially English, outside of the hamzah,
and many would say the ha’, but even the the English “h” is often pronounced at a
position higher in the throat than the Arabic ha’.

The two letters from the middle of the throat need practice to succeed in their proper
pronunciation. The first step is getting used to using the throat, especially the middle, then
work should begin on the letter: . Think of the throat squeezing against itself from
the middle, and try to pronounce it from that point. There is plenty of air that runs with this
letter.

is the second letter from this area is pronounced from the same point, but has more
of a rolling sound. One Qur’an teacher described the sound as of that of a camel. It may
not be practical for the reciter to find a camel and practice this sound that way, so listening
to a Qur’an tape and trying to imitate the sound of the reciter will work well instead.

The last two letters pronounced from the upper part of the throat (closest to the mouth) also
need practice to achieve a correct pronunciation.

is often mispronounced as a “k” by non-Arabs. The “k” is not articulated from


the throat, rather it is articulated from the posterior portion of the tongue and the roof of the
mouth.

many times is mispronounced as a “g” like the first “g” in the word “garage”. One
way of finding the articulation area is by gargling. The sound emitted with a deep gargle is
close to the Arabic letter.
Articulation points of the Deepest part of the Tongue

There are two letters that use the deepest part of the tongue in articulation. They are

and .

Is articulated from the deepest part of the tongue and what lies opposite to it
from the roof of the mouth in the area of the soft palate.

Is articulated from the deepest part of the tongue and what lies opposite to it from
the roof of the mouth in the area of the hard palate. This letter is closer to the mouth than

the .

Common Mistakes in these letters

The non-Arab has more than a few common mistakes with these two letters. The first letter,

is not a common letter in other languages, and even the Arabs have substituted
this letter for others in different colloquial Arabic dialects. Egyptians and Shaamis

substitute a hamzah for the in their dialect. The Gulf Arabs use a “g” sound in
their dialect for this letter.
There are two mistakes in articulating this when reciting the Qur’an. Usually it is a problem
in the articulation point. Either the letter is articulated on the hard palate or close to it, so it
ends up sounding like an English “k”, or the letter is pronounced not from the tongue, but
from the throat, and the resultant incorrect sound is a cross between a

and a . Native English speakers tend to make the first type of error, and
Muslims of eastern origin tend to make the second type of error.

is often mispronounced at an articulation point further back in the mouth than the
correct articulation point. The resultant letter is often closer to a than the correct
desired sound. Muslims from the East, such as Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the
Philippines tend to have this error. Native English speakers sometimes pronounce this letter
a little further back in the mouth than is totally correct so there is no air heard with the
letter. In truth, there should be a running of air when this letter is pronounced correctly.
Areas of the tongue used for articulation

There are four areas of the tongue used for articulation. The deepest part, the middle, the
sides, and the tip. The following picture helps pinpoint these areas.

Middle of the Tongue

Three letters use the middle of the tongue for their articulation. They are ,

, and the

These three letters are articulated from the middle of the tongue and what lies opposite to it
from the roof of the mouth. This means the middle of the tongue collides with the roof of

the mouth when these letters are articulated without a vowel, and the middle of the tongue
separates with strength from the roof of the mouth when the letters are voweled. The ya’
here is not the medd letter ya’, which was previously stated to be articulated from the non
specific area of the empty space in the throat and mouth. The medd letter ya’ is a ya’
saakinah preceded by a kasrah, NOT a fath. When the ya’ saakinah is preceded by a fath,
this currently discussed articulation point is used.

Common mistakes in these letters

The mistakes that may occur with these letters tend to more in the area of characteristics

than in the specific articulation point, but not exclusively so. The is often
mispronounced by Arabs and non Arabs alike, with a running of the sound, like the French
“j”. This letter, in Arabic, is a strong letter, and there is imprisonment of the running of the
sound, and imprisonment of the running of air. To pronounce it correctly, first make sure
the middle of the tongue is being used, and not the anterior portion of the tongue, then
concentrate on not letting any sound and air run out when saying the letter.

can be articulated incorrectly, especially by those with a significant overbite.


Those that may have an overbite have to take the extra measure of protruding the lower jaw
until the bottom and top teeth are aligned. It may take a little practice, but is indeed possible
to pronounce it correctly, even with the overbite. There is a lot of air that fills the mouth and
runs out with this letter. Westerners sometimes pronounce this like the English “sh”, which
has a more forward position than the Arabic .

The sometimes mistakenly is articulated with an accompanying


running of air. This letter should not have air running with it, so care needs to be taken to
control the air and suppress its excessive outward flow.

TheTeeth
The Side of the
Tongue

There are two letters that use the side of the tongue for articulation.

They do not use the same part of the side of the tongue, rather the )‫ ضاد (ض‬uses the
posterior two thirds of the side (or edge) of the tongue, and the )‫ الم (ل‬uses the anterior one
third (closest to the mouth) portion of the side of the tongue.

The letter ‫ضاد‬

This letter is articulated from the one or both sides of the tongue and from the molars and
the gum area next to the molars. The posterior two thirds of the side of the tongue is used
for this letter. This letter can be articulated from one side (right or left) of the tongue alone,
or from both sides of the tongue simultaneously.

‫ ضاد‬has the characteristic of compression of the sound, as well as tafkheem (heaviness), so


the deep part of the tongue raises up when pronouncing it and compresses the sound at the
same time.

Common mistakes in the letter

The ‫ (ض) ضاد‬takes practice, patience, and dua’ to perfect its articulation. The most
common mistake in its pronunciation is using the tip of the tongue instead of the side
(posterior two thirds). The resultant sound then is that of a ‫ ضاد‬. Using the middle of the
tongue and what opposes it of the middle of the roof of the mouth is another common error.
The resultant sound is sort of like a heavy ‫ضاد‬.

Some Arabs even sometimes have difficulty pronouncing ‫ ضاد‬correctly. Some areas of the
Arab world consistently pronounce this letter using the tip of the tongue and the teeth and
the resultant sound is exactly that of a ‫ ضاد‬. This is most noted in Sudan.

Another less common mistake is of going too far back to articulate it; back to the throat, in
this case the sound is similar to a swallowing sound mixed with a letter.

The letter ‫الم‬

This letter has the widest articulation points of all the Arabic letters. It is articulated from
the anterior one third of the sides of the tongue until the sides end at the tip, and what lies
opposite to them of the gums of the two top front incisors, the two top lateral incisors, the
two top canines, and the two top premolars. The articulation of this letter is then in the
shape of an arc, with both sides until the tongue ends at the tip meeting up with with gums
of all the mentioned teeth. It is to be noted that it is a fine line of the sides of the tongue that
meets up with the gums, and it does not include the top of the tongue. The articulation of
the )‫ الم (ل‬is an upward movement, not a forward movement like “L” is in English.

Common mistakes in the letter

The most common mistake is that of using just the tip and not the sides of the tongue to
pronounce this letter, and the resultant sound is that of a noon, since the noon is articulated
very close to the ‫ الم‬Another mistake for native English speakers is pronouncing using the
underside of the tongue and the actual plates of the two front teeth. The resultant sound is a
heavy sound, just as the English “L”.
The Tip of the Tongue (part one)

Articulation points of the and the

The letter
This letter is articulated from the tip of the tongue and what lies opposite to it from the gum
of the two front top incisors. is articulated a bit forward on the gums from the place

of the .
This letter is not always pronounced clearly, and the articulation point is only applied when
it is pronounced clearly, namely when it has a vowel on it, or if it has a sukoon on it and is
followed by one of the following six letters:

The rules for the when it has no vowel (saakinah), and is not followed by one of
the above six letters, will be explained later, insha’ Allah.

Common mistakes in this letter

The mistakes with this letter tend to be few. The most common mistake is that of using too
large an area of the tongue and including the top of the tongue, instead of just the tip.

The letter

This letter is emitted from the tip of the tongue with the top of the tip and what lies opposite
to it of the gums of the two front top incisors. The tip with the top of the tip need to strike
the gums to produce this sound correctly. There should be no trilling of the tongue when
pronouncing this letter.

Common mistakes in this letter

The first and most common mistake in the is not striking the tip with the top of the
tip to the gums. The English “r” is articulated without the tongue striking on any part of the
mouth, so many native English speakers have to practice a bit to say the correctly.
One should physically feel the tongue hit the gum of the two top front incisors.

Another mistake that some have is using the soft tissue behind the gum for a striking place
for the tongue. It is quite difficult to get the tip and the top involved when the soft tissue
area is used, so the resultant sound is deep and rolling, but not correct.

Still other make the aforementioned error of repeated trilling of the tongue when
pronouncing the . The scholars have cautioned against this. This usually can be
fixed by leaving a small space for the sound to run out at the very tip of the tongue. If the
tip is up tight against the gum, there is no place for the sound to run, pressure builds up and
can only released by the incorrect excessive trilling.
The Tip of the Tongue (part two)
The articulation point of the

These letters are pronounced from the top side of the tip of the tongue and the gum line of
the two front upper incisors. The gum line is exactly where the gum meets the teeth. The
part of the tongue used in these letters is a small part of the top of the tip, not any farther
back than the very tip area.

Common mistakes in these letters

The mistake that occurs most often in these letters is using the soft elevated area behind the
gum instead of the gum line. The English “t” and “d” are articulated at this position which is

further back in the mouth than the Arabic and . When these letters are
emitted back too far, their sound gets heavy. Another problem that may occur in all of the
letters in this group is not using just the top of the tip, but instead using a large portion of
the top of the tongue. This is common in Urdu speaking Muslims as well as native English
speakers, and it contributes to a heavy sounding letter.

is a letter that has both tafkheem (heaviness) and sticks to the roof of the mouth. It
is the strongest of all the letters of the Arabic language. The most common mistake (outside
of the above mistakes) in this letter is not getting it strong enough, as well as not sticking
most of the tongue up to the roof of the mouth while pronouncing it. Since this letter is not
common to many languages, it needs practice to be proficient in its proper
articulation. Listening to a known accomplished reciter can assist in learning the proper
sound for the .
The Tip of the Tongue (part three)

Articulation points of the

These three letters are emitted from the tip of the tongue and the plates of the two front top
incisors, at a point just above the two front lower incisors. There is a little space left in
between the tip of the tongue and the plates of the teeth when pronouncing these letters.
The term “plate” refers to the long axis of the tooth, and in this case, the long axis that is on
the internal side, rather than the external side of the teeth.

These letters are also called letters, which means “whistle”. They are called that due
to the accompany whistle type sound heard when they are emitted properly.

Common mistakes in these letters

The most common mistake that occurs in the three letters as a group is in the lack of
(whistle). Usually this problem is due to a strong overbite. Those that have a large overbite
though, can still learn to pronounce these letters correctly by making a compensation in the
lower jaw. The lower jaw should be protruded until it aligns with the upper jaw while
saying these three letters, and insha’ Allah they will come out clearly with the proper
“whistle” sound. A note to remember, the tongue should not press up against the plates of
the teeth or the sound will be incorrectly imprisoned when trying to say these letters.

Another mistake that occurs singularly in the is not making it heavy enough. It is
one of the tafkheem (heavy) letters, and it also has the characteristic of sticking. If the
is not made heavy enough, it sounds just like, or very close to a . The
sticking of the tongue with the is not at the articulation area, but rather with the
back of the tongue. It sticks to the very back of the soft palate while pronouncing this letter.
Tip of the tongue (Part 4)

Articulation point of the

These letters are emitted from the tip of the tongue (from the top side of the tip) and the
bottom edges of the two top front incisors. Care should be taken to make sure the top of the
tip is really colliding or separating (depending whether there is no vowel or a vowel) with
the edges of the teeth and not the plates of the teeth.

Common mistakes in these letters

These three letters are some of the most mispronounced letters in the Arabic language by
both Arabs and non-Arabs. The main reason for this is the corruption of pure classical
Arabic and the colloquialization of many letters to other forms. This colloquialization
unfortunately, has carried over to the way some recite the Qur’an, and with this mistake the
reciter could unintentionally change the intended meaning of the Qur’an. This error should
be attended to and fixed as soon as possible by the student of the Qur’an.

The is often mispronounced as a heavy form of “z”. The reason for this
(mechanically speaking) is not using the top of the tip with the edges of the incisors, and
instead using the back plates of the two front incisors, which as covered in the last tidbit, is

the articulation point for the . It is then


understandable the mechanical reason for this letter to erroneously sound like a “z” when
the incorrect articulation point is used. The is a letter that has tafkheem, or
heaviness, and that characteristic tends to be present even in the misarticulated form of the
letter, and therefore the heavy “z” sound. Some transliterations of the Qur’an, which we
caution against using, write this letter in English as “z”. This contributes to non-Arabs also
reciting this letter incorrectly.
Some students of the Qur’an may have the articulation point of this letter correct, but do not
make the necessary tafkheem, or heaviness that is needed when reciting this letter. The
posterior portion of the tongue needs to rise up to the roof of the mouth for tafkheem to take
place.
The is many times mispronounced as a plain “z”. Again, Arabs as well as non-Arabs
have this error. The solution is again using the top of the tip of the tongue and the bottom
edges of the two top front incisors. There should be enough protrusion of the tip tongue in
all three of these letters so that it is visible to the observer.

The frequently is pronounced as a by mistake. This mistake can occur


with both Arabs and non-Arabs. The same reason as discussed above is the cause for this:
using the wrong articulation point.

In summary the common mistake in these three letters is using the articulation point of the

“whistle” group of letters instead of their own unique


articulation point. The tip of the tongue needs to collide or separate with the bottom edges
of the two top front incisors, and not the internal plates of the two top incisors.
The articulation point of the fa' and the two lips

Articulation point of the letter

The articulation point of the is between the inside of the lower lip and the tips (or
edges) of the two top front incisors. This means that there is a meeting of these two parts of
articulation to make the correct sound of this letter.

Common mistakes in this letter

The English letter “f” uses the middle of the lower lip and the edges or tips of the two front
top incisors. As mentioned above in the articulation point definition of the Arabic

, the inside of the lower lip is used. If the English speaking student of the Qur’an
does not make a conscience effort to use the inside of the lip, some of the characteristic of

the , namely the running of the sound as well as the breath, will be imprisoned.

The sound will not be a true Arabic then, but an English “f”.

Some areas in the Far East do not have an “f” in their language. The natives of these
countries tend to substitute a “p” for an “f” when they are speaking a language that has an
“f”. This obviously will carry over to the recitation of the Qur’an when there is a word with

a in it. Practice is needed to pronounce the Arabic , and not use a “p”,
which does not exist in the Arabic language.

Articulation point of the two lips

There are three letters that are articulated from the two lips, but they do not all three share
the same mechanism in articulation.

The unlengthened is articulated by forming a circle of the two lips without the two
lips meeting completely.

The is articulated by closing the two lips together

The letter is articulated by closing the two lips together, but a stronger closing than
the meem.

Common mistakes in these letters

The is often mispronounced as a “v” by some Urdu speaking Muslims as well as


Turkish speaking Muslims from Turkey and former Russian republics. This is due to the
absence of in the Turkish dialects, and the presence of both the wow and va’ in Urdu.
There is no “v” in Arabic, and “v” has the same articulation point as the “f”. This problem
can be overcome by practicing using both lips and pressing on them when pronouncing the
unlengthened . At the beginning much practice will be needed to overcome this
mispronunciation. The student of the Qur’an may want to make note of all the unlengthened
in a passage he/she is reciting or memorizing, and practice those phrases or words to
make sure they all come out correctly.

Westerners have to take care that they really do put pressure on the two lips when
pronouncing the , otherwise the sound comes out weak like a “w”, which is not the
same sound as the Arabic .

The is not a letter that commonly has mistakes. The only thing to take heed of is not
to press the lips together too hard.

The sometimes gets air in it, which is not a characteristic of the Arabic , and
the resultant sound is that of a “p”, which as stated before, does not exist in the Arabic
language. The pressure on this letter is more on the inside of the lower lip than the outside,
whereas “p” uses more of the outside of the lips, and has running air with it. There is an
imprisonment of both the running of the sound and the running of the breath in the letter
which makes it a strong letter.

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