Qoph or Qop (Phoenician Qōp ) is the nineteenth letter of the Semitic abjads. Aramaic Qop is derived from the Phoenician letter, and derivations from Aramaic include Hebrew Qof ק, Syriac Qōp̄ ܩ and Arabic Qāf ق.
|Phonemic representation||[q], [g], [ʔ], [k]|
|Position in alphabet||19|
The origin of the glyph shape of qōp ( ) is uncertain. It is usually suggested to have originally depicted either a sewing needle, specifically the eye of a needle (Hebrew קוף and Aramaic קופא both refer to the eye of a needle), or the back of a head and neck (qāf in Arabic meant "nape"). According to an older suggestion, it may also have been a picture of a monkey and its tail (the Hebrew קוף means "monkey").
The Arabic letter ق is named قاف qāf. It is written in several ways depending in its position in the word:
|Position in word:||Isolated||Final||Medial||Initial|
It is usually transliterated into Latin script as q, though some scholarly works use ḳ.
According to Sibawayh, author of the first book on Arabic grammar, the letter is pronounced as a voiced phoneme. As noted above, Modern Standard Arabic has the voiceless uvular plosive /q/ as its standard pronunciation of the letter, but dialectical pronunciations vary as follows:
The three main pronunciations:
- [q]: in most of Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, Southern and Western Yemen and parts of Oman, Northern Iraq, parts of the Levant (especially the Alawite and Druze dialects). In fact, it is so characteristic of the Alawites and the Druze that Levantines invented a verb "yqaqi" /jqæqi/ that means "speaking with a /q/". However, most other dialects of Arabic will use this pronunciation in learned words that are borrowed from Standard Arabic into the respective dialect or when Arabs speak Modern Standard Arabic.
- [ɡ]: in most of the Arabian Peninsula, Northern and Eastern Yemen and parts of Oman, Southern Iraq, some parts of the Levant (within Jordan), Upper Egypt (Ṣaʿīd), Sudan, Libya, Mauritania and to lesser extent in some parts of Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco but it is also used partially across those countries in some words.
- [ʔ]: in most of the Levant and Egypt, as well as some North African towns such as Tlemcen and Fez.
- [ɢ]: In Sudanese and some forms of Yemeni, even in loanwords from Modern Standard Arabic or when speaking Modern Standard Arabic.
- [k]: In rural Palestinian it is often pronounced as a voiceless velar plosive [k], even in loanwords from Modern Standard Arabic or when speaking Modern Standard Arabic.
- [d͡z]: In some positions in Najdi, though this pronunciation is fading in favor of [ɡ].
- [d͡ʒ]: Optionally in Iraqi and in Gulf Arabic, it is sometimes pronounced as a voiced postalveolar affricate [d͡ʒ], even in loanwords from Modern Standard Arabic or when speaking Modern Standard Arabic.
- [ɣ] ~ [ʁ]: in Sudanese and some Yemeni dialects (Yafi'i), and sometimes in Gulf Arabic by Persian influence, even in loanwords from Modern Standard Arabic or when speaking Modern Standard Arabic.
It is not well known when the pronunciation of Qāf ⟨ق⟩ as a velar [ɡ] occurred or the probability of it being connected to the pronunciation of Jīm ⟨ج⟩ as an affricate [d͡ʒ], but in most of the Arabian peninsula (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE and parts of Yemen and Oman) which is the homeland of the Arabic language, the ⟨ج⟩ represents a [d͡ʒ] and ⟨ق⟩ represents a [ɡ], except in western and southern Yemen and parts of Oman where ⟨ج⟩ represents a [ɡ] and ⟨ق⟩ represents a [q], which shows a strong correlation between the palatalization of ⟨ج⟩ to [d͡ʒ] and the pronunciation of the ⟨ق⟩ as a [ɡ] as shown in the table below:
|Language / Dialects||Pronunciation of the letters|
|Parts of Southern Arabia1||[g]||[q]|
|Most of the Arabian Peninsula||[d͡ʒ]2||[g]|
|Modern Standard Arabic||[d͡ʒ]||[q]|
- Western and southern Yemen and parts of Oman.
- [ʒ] can be an allophone in some dialects.
|Position in word:||Isolated||Final||Medial||Initial|
|Form of letter:||ڧ
The earliest Arabic manuscripts show qāf in several variants: pointed (above or below) or unpointed. Then the prevalent convention was having a point above for qāf and a point below for fāʼ; this practice is now only preserved in manuscripts from the Maghribi, with the exception of Libya and Algeria, where the Mashriqi form (two dots above: ق) prevails.
The Oxford Hebrew-English Dictionary transliterates the letter Qoph (קוֹף) a transliteration as q or k; and, when word-final, it may be transliterated as ck. The English spellings of Biblical names (as derived from Latin via Biblical Greek) containing this letter may represent it as c or k, e.g. Cain for Hebrew Qayin, or Kenan for Qenan (Genesis 4:1, 5:9).
|Various print fonts||Cursive
Qof in gematria represents the number 100. Sarah is described in Genesis Rabba as בת ק' כבת כ' שנה לחטא, literally "At Qof years of age, she was like Kaph years of age in sin", meaning that when she was 100 years old, she was as sinless as when she was 20.
|Unicode name||HEBREW LETTER QOF||ARABIC LETTER QAF||SYRIAC LETTER QAPH||SAMARITAN LETTER QUF|
|UTF-8||215 167||D7 A7||217 130||D9 82||220 169||DC A9||224 160 146||E0 A0 92|
|Numeric character reference||ק||ק||ق||ق||ܩ||ܩ||ࠒ||ࠒ|
|Unicode name||UGARITIC LETTER QOPA||IMPERIAL ARAMAIC LETTER QOPH||PHOENICIAN LETTER QOF|
|UTF-8||240 144 142 150||F0 90 8E 96||240 144 161 146||F0 90 A1 92||240 144 164 146||F0 90 A4 92|
|UTF-16||55296 57238||D800 DF96||55298 56402||D802 DC52||55298 56594||D802 DD12|
|Numeric character reference||𐎖||𐎖||𐡒||𐡒||𐤒||𐤒|
- Travers Wood, Henry Craven Ord Lanchester, A Hebrew Grammar, 1913, p. 7. A. B. Davidson, Hebrew Primer and Grammar, 2000, p. 4. The meaning is doubtful. "Eye of a needle" has been suggested, and also "knot" Harvard Studies in Classical Philology vol. 45.
- Isaac Taylor, History of the Alphabet: Semitic Alphabets, Part 1, 2003: "The old explanation, which has again been revived by Halévy, is that it denotes an 'ape,' the character Q being taken to represent an ape with its tail hanging down. It may also be referred to a Talmudic root which would signify an 'aperture' of some kind, as the 'eye of a needle,' ... Lenormant adopts the more usual explanation that the word means a 'knot'.
- Qop may have been assigned the sound value /kʷʰ/ in early Greek; as this was allophonic with /pʰ/ in certain contexts and certain dialects, the letter qoppa continued as the letter phi. C. Brixhe, "History of the Alpbabet", in Christidēs, Arapopoulou, & Chritē, eds., 2007, A History of Ancient Greek.
- e.g., The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition
- Kees Versteegh, The Arabic Language, pg. 131. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2001. Paperback edition. ISBN 9780748614363
- This variance has led to the confusion over the spelling of Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi's name in Latin letters. In Western Arabic dialects the sound [q] is more preserved but can also be sometimes pronounced [ɡ] or as a simple [k] under Berber and French influence.
- Bruce Ingham (1 January 1994). Najdi Arabic: Central Arabian. John Benjamins Publishing. p. 14. ISBN 90-272-3801-4.
- Lewis jr. (2013), p. 5.
- van den Boogert, N. (1989). "Some notes on Maghrebi script" (PDF). Manuscript of the Middle East. 4. p. 38 shows qāf with a superscript point in all four positions.
- Gacek, Adam (2008). The Arabic Manuscript Tradition. Brill. p. 61. ISBN 90-04-16540-1.
- Gacek, Adam (2009). Arabic Manuscripts: A Vademecum for Readers. Brill. p. 145. ISBN 90-04-17036-7.
- Muhammad Ghoniem, M S M Saifullah, cAbd ar-Rahmân Robert Squires & cAbdus Samad, Are There Scribal Errors In The Qur'ân?, see qif on a traffic sign written ڧڢ which is written elsewhere as قف, Retrieved 2011-August-27
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