Syriac diacritics (ptaha)


I. In addition to the vowel zqafa and the combination zqafa-alaf ,the vowel [a] can be indicated with the vowel ptaha which has the following form:

As you can clearly see, this vocalization schematically reproduces the letter A of the Greek alphabet.

II. The ptaha diacritic marks the [а] sound which was a short vowel at an earlier stage of the language. Classical Syriac had no distinction between short and long vowels. So the diacritics ptaha and zqofo mark the same sound-[a].

A general rule to remember is that closed syllables- those ending in a consonant take a ptaha while open syllables- those ending in a vowel take a zqafa.

A syllable in Syriac cannot have more than one vowel and cannot begin with more than two consonants.

For example in the word bav-ga, the first syllable is closed and therefore ptaha is used. The second syllable is open so the [a] sound is marked with a zqafa.


In some words , loanwords mainly an alaf is used after ptaha as in the word Bagdad.


III. In some cases, for example the word gada, the letter that follows the combination gamal-ptaha ,the dalat takes a zqafa. That makes the syllable with the gamal open - GAda.

In such cases the open syllable is closed with the doubling of the following consonant (gemination), dalata in this case and the word is pronounced gadda.

Compare the following variation of the word ,in which the zqafa over the gamal does not require an open syllable ,so there is no need to double the dalat.
gada (with a zqafa over the gamal)

Gemination of consonants is not observed in the traditional way of the Yakobite and Maronite way of reading. 

Accordingly, the following word will read gado

  While the word below will read godo.

(for reading the zqafa as [o] see the footnote in paragraph

In the example above the consonant d changes to d after the gemination  because occlusive-aspirated consonants are geminated only in their occlusive variant (bb,gg,dd). The variants vv,gg,dd are excluded.

 In the Syriac language there's no diacritic for gemination, nevertheless the kushaya (dot above) may indicate gemination.

The red dot above the d
 indicates gemination.

The rules above are not absolute and have numerous exceptions. For example the alaf  at he beginning of the word usually takes a ptaha above. Nevertheless the following consonant many not be geminated.

Read also
Forms of Alaph


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