My question concerns the ISO-233-2:1993 transliteration of Arabic, and specifically of the grammatical ending wāw-ʾalif such as is found in the conjugation of verbs, e.g., “⁧فَعَلُوا⁩” (”they did”). As far as I know, the final ʾalif is purely orthographic and is not pronounced. If I am not mistaken, in ISO-233:1984, which follows the Arabic script verbatim, this would be transcribed “faʿaluwʾ”, but in ISO-233-2:1993 where the vowels are transcribed in a simplified form, we would get “faʿalū” ignoring this final ʾalif: my question is whether it should, indeed, be ignored in transcription or whether it should be marked in some way.

(I don't have access to the ISO standard itself.)

1 Answer 1


I finally found this page which is an internal document of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France indicating how they use ISO 233-2 as well as (in section 6) some complements thereon. Paragaph 6.4 concerns the orthographical ʾalif which I was asking about in this question. It states:

Le cas de l’alif orthographique final (mādīou accompli 3e personne du pluriel) n’est pas envisagé par la norme ISO 233-2 (1993). Il n’est pas prononcé et n’est pas restitué en translittération. Exemple : فتحوا => fataḥū

Or, in English (translation mine):

The case of final orthographical alif (mādīou 3rd person plural accomplished) is not considered by the ISO 233-2 (1993) norm. It is not pronounced and not marked in transliteration. Example: فتحوا => fataḥū

So it appears that ISO 233-2 forgot(?) to consider this case, and that the BNF decided to simply omit the letter in transliteration, as I was suggesting.

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