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The Arabic chat alphabet, also known as Arabish, Araby (Arabic: عربي, Arabī), Arabizi (عربيزي, Arabīzī), Mu'arrab (معرب), and Franco-Arabic (عرنسية), is an alphabet used to communicate in Arabic over the Internet or for sending messages via cellular phones. It is a character encoding of Arabic to the Latin script and the Arabic numerals. It differs from more formal and academic Arabic transliteration systems, as it avoids diacritics by freely using digits and multigraphs for letters that do not exist in the basic Latin script (ASCII).
The Arabic chat alphabet is used to communicate in Arabic over the Internet or for sending messages via cellular phones when the Arabic alphabet is unavailable or difficult to use for technical reasons. Arabish is most commonly used by youth in the Arab world in very informal settings, such as when communicating with friends or other young people.
Because of its widespread use, including in public advertisements by large multinational companies, large players in the online industry like Google and Microsoft have introduced tools that convert text written in Arabish to Arabic. Add-ons for Mozilla Firefox and Chrome also exist. The Arabic chat alphabet is never used in formal settings and is rarely, if ever, used for long communications.
During the last decades of the 20th century, Western text-based communication technologies, such as mobile phone text messaging, the World Wide Web, email, bulletin board systems, IRC, and instant messaging became increasingly prevalent in the Arab world. Most of these technologies originally permitted the use of the Latin script only, and some still lack support for displaying Arabic script. As a result, Arabic-speaking users frequently transliterate Arabic text into Latin script when using these technologies to communicate.
To handle those Arabic letters that do not have an approximate phonetic equivalent in the Latin script, numerals and other characters were appropriated. For example, the numeral "3" is used to represent the Arabic letter ⟨ع⟩ (ʿayn)—note the choice of a visually similar character, with the numeral resembling a mirrored version of the Arabic letter. Many users of mobile phones and computers use Arabish even though their system is capable of displaying Arabic script. This may be due to a lack of an appropriate keyboard layout for Arabic, or because users are already more familiar with the QWERTY keyboard layout.
Online communication systems, such as IRC, bulletin board systems, and blogs, are often run on systems or over protocols which do not support code pages or alternate character sets. Thus, the Arabic chat alphabet has become commonplace. It can be seen even in domain names, like Qal3ah.
Conservative Muslims, as well as Pan-Arabists and some Arab-nationalists, have viewed Arabish as a detrimental form of Westernization. Arabish emerged amid a growing trend among Arab youth, especially in Lebanon and Jordan, to incorporate English into Arabic as a form of slang. Arabish is used to replace Arabic script, and this has raised concerns regarding the preservation of the quality of the language.
Because of the informal nature of this system, there is no single "correct" or "official" usage. There may be some overlap in the way various letters are transliterated.
Most of the characters in the system make use of the Latin character (as used in English and French) that best approximates phonetically the Arabic letter that one would otherwise use (for example, ب corresponds to b). Regional variations in the pronunciation of an Arabic letter can also produce some variation in its transliteration (e.g. ﺝ might be transliterated as j by a speaker of the Levantine dialect, or as g by a speaker of the Egyptian dialect).
Those letters that do not have a close phonetic approximation in the Latin script are often expressed using numerals or other characters, so that the numeral graphically approximates the Arabic letter that one would otherwise use (e.g. ع is represented using the numeral 3 because the latter looks like a horizontal reflection of the former).
Since many letters are distinguished from others solely by a dot above or below the main portion of the character, the transliterations of these letters frequently use the same letter or number with an apostrophe added before or after (e.g. '3 is used to represent غ).
|Letters||Arabic chat alphabet||IPA|
|ء أ ؤ إ ئ آ||2||ʔ|
|ا||a e è ||æ(ː) a(ː) ɑ(ː) ɛ(ː) ɐ|
|ب||b p||b p|
|ت||t||t t̪ t͡s|
|ث||s th||s θ|
|ج||j dj g||ʒ d͡ʒ ɟ ɟ͡ʝ ɡ|
|خ||kh 7' 5||x χ|
|ر||r||ɾ r rˤ|
|ش||sh ch ||ʃ|
|ص||s 9||sˤ sˠ|
|ض||d dh 9'||dˤ d̪ˤ d̪ˠ|
|ط||t 6||tˤ t̪ˤ t̪ˠ|
|ظ||z th dh 6'||zˤ ðˤ ðˠ|
|غ||gh 3' 8||ɣ ʁ|
|ف||f v||f v|
|ق||g 8 q||ʔ ɡ ɢ q|
|ه||h a e ah eh é ||h, /a e/|
|ة||a e eh at et é ||/a e at et/|
|و||w o||w o(ː) u(ː)|
|ي ى ||y i ee ei ai a é ||j i(ː) e(ː), /a/|
|Additional letters||Arabic chat alphabet||IPA|
|چ ||j tsh ch tch||ʒ t͡ʃ|
|ڜ ||ch tch||t͡ʃ|
|ڤ ڥ ||v||v|
|ڨ گ ݣ ||g||ɡ|
انا رايح الجامعه الساعه 3 العصر
الجو عامل ايه النهارده فى إسكندرية؟
|Araby transcription||ana raye7 el gam3a el sa3a 3 el 3asr.||el gaw 3amel eh elnaharda f eskendereya?|
|IPA||[ʔænæˈrɑˑjeħ elˈɡæmʕæ (ʔe)sˈsæˑʕæ tæˈlæˑtæ lˈʕɑsˤɾ]||[elˈɡæwwe ˈʕæˑmel ˈe(ˑhe)nnɑˈhɑɾdɑ feskendeˈɾejjæ]|
|English||I'm going to college at 3pm.||How is the weather today in Alexandria?|
كيف صحتك، شو عمتعمل؟
|Araby transcription||kif/keef sa7tak, chou/shu 3am ta3mil?|
|ALA-LC||kīf ṣaḥtak, shū ʻam taʻmil?|
|IPA||[kiːf ˈsˤɑħtak ʃuː ʕam ˈtaʕmɪl]|
|English||How is your health, what are you doing?|
كيفاش داير في القراية؟
|Araby transcription||kifach dayer fel9raya?|
|English||How are you doing with your studies?|
شلونك؟ شنو قاعد تسوي الحين؟
|Araby transcription||shlounik? Shnu ga3d tsawe al7een?|
|English||How are you? What are you doing right now?|
عليمن يا جلب تعتب عليمن؟
|Araby transcription||3alayman ya galub ti3tib 3alayman?|
|English||Who do you blame, my heart, who?|
ولاي مشتاق ليك شديد يا زول كيفك إنتا؟ انا الحمدلله اكنت داير امشي المحل داك فوق النيل، المكان قريب من بيتك. حاستناك في الكبري.
|Araby transcription||wallay moshtag leakk shadid ya zol kefak inta? ana alhamdolillah konta dayir amshi le al ma7al dak fog al nil, al makan garib men betak. 7astanak fi al kubri.|
|English||Oh, God, I missed you a lot, man! How are you? Thank God. So I want to go to that one place over the Nile, the place near your very house! I'll wait for you at the bridge.|
بوه ياخي، إتَ عفة؟ ولله سمح انا ماشي للسوبرمارشة ديك بي وسط نجامينا لو تدور تمشي يعني، تعال معاي يلا ياخي
|Araby transcription||boh yakhi, inta afé? . wallah semeh, ana maché lê supermarché dik bi ousut n'djamena lô tidoura tamshi yani, ta'al maa'ai yalla yakhi|
|English||Oh, hey, my brother. How are you? Good. I am going to that supermarket, so if you want to come, hurry and come with me, my brother!|
Conservative Muslims, as well as Pan-Arabists and some Arab-nationalists, view Arabish as a detrimental form of Westernization. Arabish emerged amid a growing trend among Arab youth, especially in Lebanon and Jordan, to incorporate English into Arabic as a form of slang. Arabish is used to replace Arabic script, and this raises concerns regarding the preservation of the quality of the language.