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Somali alphabet

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Title: Somali alphabet  
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Subject: Somalia, 1972, Somaliland, Siad Barre, Latin-derived alphabet, Somali National University, List of Somalis, Culture of Somalia, Somali people, Ayin
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Somali alphabet

Sign including instructions written with the Somali alphabet.
Type Alphabet
Languages Somali language
ISO 15924 ,
Unicode alias
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

The Somali Latin alphabet has been the official writing script in Somalia since 1972. It was developed by the Somali linguist Shire Jama Ahmed specifically for transcribing the Somali language, and is based on the Latin script.[1] The Somali Latin alphabet uses all letters of the English Latin alphabet except p, v and z. There are no diacritics or other special characters, although it includes three consonants digraphs: DH, KH and SH. Tone is not marked and a word-initial glottal stop is also not shown. Capital letters are used for names and at the beginning of a sentence.


The Somali Latin alphabet is largely phonemic, with consonants having a one-to-one correspondence between graphemes and phonemes. Long vowels are written by doubling the vowel. However, the distinction between tense and lax vowels is not represented. Diphthongs are represented using Y or W as the second element (AY, AW, EY, OY and OW) and long diphthongs are shown with the first vowel doubled.

As there is no central regulation of the language, there is some variation in orthography, the endings -ay and -ey being particularly interchangeable.

The Somali Latin alphabet, which follows an Arabic-based order, is:
', B, T, J, X, KH, D, R, S, SH, DH, C, G, F, Q, K, L, M, N, W, H, Y, A, E, I, O, U.

The letters' names (with their Arabic equivalents) are spelt out thus:

alef (ا), ba (ﺏ), ta (ﺕ), ja (ﺝ), xa (ﺡ), kha (ﺥ), deel (د), ra (ر), sa (ﺱ), shiin(ﺵ), dha (ط or ظ), cayn (ﻉ), ga (غ), fa (ف), qaaf (ﻕ), kaaf (ﻙ), laan (ﻝ), miim (ﻡ), nun (ن), waw (و), ha (ه), ya (ﻱ); a, e, i, o, u.

The following elements of the Somali alphabet either are not IPA symbols in their lower case versions, or else have values divergent from IPA symbols:

  • ' – //
  • J – //
  • X – //
  • KH – //
  • SH – //
  • DH – //
  • C – //
  • Q – //
  • W – // or the second element in a diphthong
  • Y – // or the second element in a diphthong
  • A – // or //
  • E – // or //
  • I – // or //
  • O – // or //
  • U – // or //

See also

  • Somali orthography



External links

  • Osmanya, Borama, Wadaad's writing and the Somali language
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