Newsgroups: soc.culture.lebanon
From: (Naji Mouawad)
Subject: AlpaLeb V 1.0
Sender: (News Owner)
Organization: University of Waterloo
Date: Mon, 28 Sep 1992 19:37:19 GMT


                    vesrion 1.0 (27-9-1992)

by Bassem Medawar, Naji Mouawad, Elie Wardini.

Purpose of AlphaLeb:
The purpose of AlphaLeb is to allow the representation of all forms
Lebanese dialects in written form.  Since our most likely form
communication is going to be through electronic message, special attention
will paid to ASCII representation.  Why is writting the Lebanese dialects
of interest?

Though many of us who will be using "AlphaLeb" are multilingual, it always
a pleasure to be able to say things in our mother tongue. It would also be
nice if we could write things in our mother tongue. Some would even argue
that being able to communicate in one's mother tongue is an essential part
of a person's personal development.

The mother tongue of most Lebanese is the Lebanese dialect of Arabic. While
there is an alphabet and a standard to write Classical Arabic, there is no
alphabet nor standard by which we can write Lebanese Arabic (hereafter

AlphaLeb is therefore a suggestion, a "new" first attempt to present an
alphabet and a standard that allows us to write Lebanese. We should mention
that others before us have also attempted to provide such standards and
that we are not the first ones. We hope that our system will gain more
support than the earlier attempts.

In our endeavors to develope such an alphabet or standard we decided that
it would be best to use the Latin alphabet as our basic tool. The reasons
were many but not decisive. Our main arugment was that the Arabic language
and its alphabet represent much more than just a "national language".
Arabic is the language of the Qor'aan and Islam. To try to adjust or
"reform" the Arabic script would be a very delicate and difficult job.

One final argument for using the Latin alphabet to represent AlphaLeb is
that it is the prevalent alphabet set used in our current computer age
(Typewriter for others).  Advanced display technology may become more
readily available in the future thus allowing the widespread display of
additional characters. AlphaLeb could then adapt accordingly.

AlphaLeb is not to be seen as the conclusive or unique possibility to write
Lebanese. We have named it AlphaLeb v.1.0 in order to leave the door open
for modifications when needed and in order to fine tune this alphabet. It
is also possible that some would prefere the Arabic alphabet, and would
want to develope a system similar to AlphaLeb, yet based on the Arabic
alphabet. In such a case we are willing to help in any way possible. The
two efforts are not exclusive.

By endeavoring to be as complete as possible, we have managed to present a
system that will also allow us to write Classical Arabic with AlphaLeb.

Yet back to Lebanese! It is our hope and desire that AlphaLeb be used
actively, and that we be able to express ourselves in our mother tongue. We
hope that as many as possible, will use it not only on the net, but also in
their publications which we hope will benefit our country and fellow
Lebanese. We hope that through AlphaLeb we will be able to bring
information, litterature, art, technology a step closer to every single

Technical note:
In order to achieve our aim to have maximum readablilty and economy while
at the same time reducing ambiguity to a minimum, we decided to use
diacritical signs, those which Bassem called "exotic" characters.

In developing AlphaLeb we took the type writer as our point of departure.
We do not assume that very many Lebanese have at present PCs available at
their disposal. This led us to restricting our "exotic" characters to
three: 1- the caret "^"; 2- the cedilla ","; 3- the at sign "@".

These signs would be placed under or above the Latin characters in order to
modify these characters to better represent the sounds present
in Lebanese.

Due to the restrictions of the ASCII character set, we are not able to
reproduce AlphaLeb as it would be written on a PC or type writer using all
its range of characters. We will therefore place these "exotic" characters
following the relevant Latin character. The cedilla is here represented by
a coma. e.g. The first sound in the word "s^ams" (sun) is represented by
the Latin "s" with a caret above it. In ASCII we place the caret following
the "s" => "s^"

NB.: Please as you read this description use your imagination and place
     the cedilla (coma) under the consonant and the caret above the

Moreover we have presented alternatives for use solely in ASCII. These are
presented in the passage: AlphaLeb in ASCII.

The rules of AlphaLeb:
1. The lebanese alphabet corresponds to the Latin alphabet unless
   otherwise stated.

2. "Heavy" consonats are marked by a cedilla (here marked by a coma)
   under the corresponding Latin Character:

    a. emphatic consonants:
        s,  (s,ayf = summer)
        t,  (t,anjra = pot)
        d,  (d,arab = he hit)
        z,  (z,olm = oppression)

    b. other heavy sounds:
        h,  (h,maar = donkey) (laryngal voiceless fricative)
        k,  (k,ayme = tent) (velar voiceless fricative)

3. fricatives (when the production of the sound involves friction), when 
   they do not have a corresponding charcter in latin and when they are
   not "heavy" are represented by a carret above the corresponding latin

        c^  (c^allac^a = three)
        z^  (z^i'b = wolf)
        s^  (s^angliis^ a kind of cheese)
        g^  (g^aara = raid)

5. Hamza is represented by "'" when not word-intinial followed by a

6. @ayn is represented by "@".

7. doubled consonants are represented writing the same consonant twice.

8. vowels are represented by a, e, i, o, u when long the vowels are
   written twice.

   NB. The sounds that these vowels represent should be based on the 
   description that follows and NOT on the way they are pronounced in in 
   either English or French.

NB: "a" =~ a in English "far"
NB: "e" =~ e in French "les" (bayte = my house)
NB: "i" when in stressed open syllable "i" =~ "ee" in English "beer"
        otherwise "i" =~ "i" in English "kill".
      e.g. open stressed syllable: bi-bayt (in a house) =~ "beer"
           opened unstressed syllable: nikat (jokes) =~ "kill"
           closed stressed syllable: bi-bleed (in countires) =~ "kill"
           closed unstressed syllable: keehin (priest) =~ "kill"
NB: "o" =~ o in English "no"
NB: "u" =~ o in English "two" (lebanese bukra = tomorrow)
NB: "aa" =~ a in Englsih "car" (raah, = he went)
NB: "ee" =~ a in English "care" (keen = he was)
NB: "ii" =~ ee in English "beer"
NB: "uu" =~ oo in English "shoot"

9. Proper names are exceptions to these rules. They are written with 
   whatever spelling the person who caries the name choses to use.

10. Write as you speak. Try to find from the above vowels the one that is 
    closest to your pronunciation. You are not bound by traditional 
    spelling norms.

11. Separate prepositions and the definite article from the following
    word with a hyphen "-".
       e.g. b-bayt (in a house), la-imme (to my mother), l-amar (the

12. The definite article is represented by doubling the first lettre in
    a word. Yet in front of the moon consonants the doubling is
    dissimilated into an l-
       e.g. sh-shams (sun consonant)
            l-amar (moon consonant)

     The "moon" consonants are:
       hamza/vowel    => l-'maar (gambling)/ l-alb (the heart)
       be             => l-bayt (the house)
       h,e            => l-Hmaar (the donkey)
       k,e            => l-Kayme (the tent)
       @ayn           => l-@ayn (the eye, the fountain)
       g^ayn          => l-g^aym (the clouds)
       fe             => l-fijle (the radish)
       qaaf           => l-Qaahira (Cairo)
       kaf            => l-kalb (the dog)
       miim           => l-mawze (the banana)
       he             => l-hawa (the wind)
       waw            => l-wazze (the goose)
       ye             => l-yamiin (the right side)
       ge             => l-garaaj (the garage)
       pe             => l-pyaano (the piano)
       ve             => l-vitees (the gear)

AlphaLeb in ASCII:
Due to the restrictions of ASCII, AlphaLeb will undergoe the following
modifications when used in ASCII:

concerning rule 2. which reads:
2. "Heavy" consonats are marked by a cedilla under the corresponding
   Latin Character.

we disallow the use of the capital lettres (except for proper names) and
replace the cedilla by capitalizing the repective character in the Latin

          s,  => Sayf = summer
          t,  => Tanjra = pot
          d,  => Darab = he hit
          z,  => Zolm = oppression
          h,  => Hmaar = donkey (laryngal voiceless fricative)
          k,  => Kayme = tent (velar voiceless fricative)

concerning rule 3. which reads:
3. fricatives (when the production of the sound involves friction), when 
   they do not have a corresponding charcter in latin and when they are
   not "heavy" or @ayn, are represented by a caret above the corresponing
   latin character:

we have two alternatives:

     a. place the caret after the respective character in Latin (as in
        this presentation)

          c^  => c^allac^a = three
          z^  => z^i'b = wolf
          s^  => s^angliis^ a kind of cheese
          g^  => g^aara = raid

     b. substitute the carret with an h (in line with common usage, but 
                     creating some ambiguity including an exception)

          z^  => zhi'b = wolf
          s^  => shangliish a kind of cheese
          g^  => ghaara = raid
       exception: c^ to be replaced by "th" as not to confuse it with
          c^  => thallatha = three

List of characters in AlphaLeb:

name      represent.     ASCII     e.g.
~~~~      ~~~~~~~~~      ~~~~~     ~~~
Hamza         '            '       ba'le (a herb) (but amar = moon)
be            b            b       baba (dady)
te            t            t       tays (he goat)
c^e           c^         c^/th     c^awra (revolution)
jim           j            j       jamal (camal)
h,e           h,           H       Hmaar (donkey)
k,e           k,           K       kayme (tent)
dal           d            d       duude (worm)
z^aal         z^         z^/zh     z^i'b (wolf)
re            r            r       raas (head)
zayn          z            z       zalame (man)
sin           s            s       sama (heaven)
s^iin         s^         s^/sh     s^ams (sun)
s,aad         s,           S       Sabuun (soap)
d,aad         d,           D       Darab (he hit)
t,ah          t,           T       Tarbuus^ (fez)
z,ah          z,           Z       Zolm (oppression)
@ayn          @            @       @ayn (eye)
g^ayn         g^         g^/gh     g^aym (clouds)
fe            f            f       fijle (radish)
qaaf          q            q       Qaahira (Cairo)
kaaf          k            k       kalb (dog)
laam          l            l       lamba (lamp)
miim          m            m       marj (field)
nuun          n            n       nahr (river)
he            h            h       hawa (air)
waw           w            w       wazze (goose)
ye            y            y       yalla (come on)
ge            g            g       garaaj (garage)
pe            p            p       pyaano (piano)
v             v            v       vitees (gear)

"a"     => nahr (river)
"e"     => kalbe (my dog)
"i"     => open stressed syllable: bi-bayt (in a house) =~ "beer"
           opened unstressed syllable: nikat (jokes) =~ "kill"
           closed stressed syllable: bi-bleed (in countries) =~ "kill"
           closed unstressed syllable: keehin (priest) =~ "kill"
"o"     => Hobb (love)
"u"     => bukra (tomorrow)
"aa"    => raaH (he went)
"ee"    => neem (he slept)
"ii"    => ktiir (much)
"uu"    => nuur (light)

Possible problems:
The basic problem we anticipate is that the idea of writing Lebanese,
except for some words or short sentences here and there, is foreign. We
hope that people realize that it is with steps like the ones we are taking
here that the world's most prominent and beautiful languages have developed
into fullfledged written languages. French, Classical Arabic, Italian are
such languages.

Another problem we anticipate is that many are used to writing in their
"own" standard. It will take time before un-learn a system and learn anew
one. We hope that as many as possble will adopt AlphaLeb such that we will
be able to use a single standard.

We see that we will have a problem with reading AlephLeb due to the
linguistic backgrounds that we represent. If we are used to English, the
"ee" vowel would "intuitively" be read as an English "ee" in "beer". If
French is our point of departure, the vowel "u" would more easily be
identified with French "u" as in jus (juice). The solution is to learn the
vowels through the examples given above.

The problem of "correct" spelling will undoubtadly arise. The need for
standard spelling will quickly present itself. We see the problem to arise
first in the choice of vowels. It is not always clear which vowel we
pronounce, and at times the vowel we actually pronounce lies between two
vowels in AlphaLeb. Consonants will be easier. The advice we have for the
vowels is the following: Try to choose the vowel from AlphaLeb that is
"nearest" to your pronunciation. This problem and the problem of spelling,
will have to be solved with time. This will be done on the basis of a
compilation of texts written and by studies done by specialized linguists
and philologists. The anwer is not to "create" a standrad, but to
"describe" the language as it actually exists, and from this description
provide a "normative" spelling.

We hope that the differences between AlphaLeb under ASCII and AlphaLeb in a
"normal" environment will not cause confusion. We should remember that the
ASCII variant is the exception and not the rule.

Another problem, which will arise especially with those who intend to use
AlphaLeb to write extensively in Lebanese, is the choice of words. It is
not so obvious, as some of us who tried to write in Lebanese, that we will
be able to find adequate terms for every subject that we will want to write
about. Here we will need to cooperate, and eventually can set up a
"language academy" where we will be able to discuss and propose terms that
will be incorporated into Lebanese.

Sample texts:

b-tetloj ed-dini
wbi-tshammis ed-dini
wya Lebneen b-Hebbak la toKlas ed-dini
b-Kabbiik b-@aynayye wib-ellak ghenniyye
shamsak el-maHabbe w-sahlak el Horiyyeh 


- wloo! shuu hal-@ab'a? rakbuulkun shi azbarateer !
- tfaDDal, eja zalmto la Tarazaan.


@iid w-sa@iid Tol@o @a Sajra,
we'i@ sa@iid, miin faDDal?


la yaDDummu ghtiraabi
la jinanon lana yaDum
fa-nhaDi fi ghiyaabi
wa-tba@iini ilal-kuruum.

Habiibati zanbaqaton Saghiira
amma ana fa-@awsajon qadiim
Tawiilaton intaZaartuha Tawiilan
jalastu bayna l-layli wa-siniin.

wa @indama adrakani masaa'i
Habiibati jaa'at ilaD-Diyaa@
ma baynana manaazilu sh-shita'i
ya asafan lil-@omri kayfa Daa@


hown nazl s-suruur


tik tik tik ya-m slaymaan
tik tik tik jawzik wayn kaan
tik tik tik kaan bel-Ha'le
@am yo'toof ward w-remmaan


rez'allah @al @arabiyyeet
w-@a iyyaam el-@arabiyyeet
min bayt jidde la bayt sitte
kaanit taKood tlaat saa@aat.

@arabiyyit jidde b-lawnayn
kaanu yjorruuha HSaanayn


fiikon tziido @ala hel moqTatafeet shi kem kelme, w-ana b-kuun 
mamnuunkon. ya@ne halla' ma@'uul enno kelna @am netsheera@ 
bil-engliize bala ma ne'dir nbell temna b-shi kelme 
rebyit taHt @ariishe min @araayishna?



Future developments:
As time goes on all languagues develope. It is our hope that once AlphaLeb
is used and tested, and once it becomes a means by which we can write
Lebanese it will develope to cover the needs of Lebanese Arabic as this
language evolves. We hope that we will be able to give to the world
scholars, scientists, poets and experts who have expressed themsleves by
means of their mother tongue, the language of the Lebanese. 

We hope that as many as possible will use AlphaLeb. We apreciate any
comments or suggestions that will help make AlphaLeb a better tool.

Bassem, Naji, Elie

    | Naji Mouawad  |            |
    |  University   |---------------------------------------------------|
    | Of Waterloo   |   "The Stranger in us is our most familiar Self"  |