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Arabic letters without dots – Does it work?

Arabic used to be written without dots in ancient times. At least it did, a long time ago. Could you read such sentences?

Last updated: February 20, 2022

At least it did, a long time ago. Let us focus a bit on the history of the Arabic language. Arabic, at a very early stage, was not only written without vowel-signs above or below letters.

Furthermore, letters were written without dots which makes reading pretty difficult – as the letters and for example might look the same in certain positions.

There are five distinct letters look which look the same when you omit the dots. This is also known as Arabic skeleton script).

Let’s try it. Can you read the following sentence without dots?

letters_without_dots_arabic
(c) Gerald Drißner

This sentence can mean a lot depending where and how you add the dots, e.g. the first word can mean:

killedقَتَلَbeforeقَبْلَelephantفِيل

This is how you could read the sentence:

It was said that the elephant killed an elephant in front of the river.

قيل إن فيل قتل فيل قبل النهر.

This is the sentence with all the vowels.

قِيلَ إِنَّ فِيلاً قَتَلَ فِيلاً قَبْلَ النَّهْرِ

Remark: In the 8th century, a grammarian from modern day Oman invented a writing system which we basically use in stand­ard Arabic till today.

His name was أَبُو عَبْد الرَّحْمٰن الْخَلِيل ابن أَحْمَد الْفَراهِيدي – com­monly known as al-Farahidi or al-Khalil. It is said that he started using a small س for the الشَّدّة (Shadda): ّ

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Read more about Arabic and Islamic history:

Picture credit: Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

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