Classical Arabic

Tafkhīm تفخيم — emphasis, thickening (in certain consonants)


Certain letters are مستعلية. Tafkhīm is the action of pronouncing...

Some Arabic letters can be either Tafkhīm (thick, emphatic) or Tarqīq (thin, non-emphatic).

Thin (non-emphatic) consonants

س د ت ذ
IPA s d t ð

The so-called ‘thin’ or non-emphatic consonants can be described as clear, slender or light. The tongue is tense and narrowed. The lips are generally spread. These generally sound like regular English consonants (with the exception of the English L).

Thick (emphatic) consonants

ص ض ط ظ
IPA sˤʷ dˤʷ tˤʷ ðˤʷ

The so-called ‘thick’ or emphatic consonants can be described as dark, heavy, broad, dull or muffled. The front of the tongue is concave and lowered like a little bowl. The tongue is widened on its sides (towards the teeth).The lips can be slightly rounded or pursed. The back of the tongue is relaxed and can fall back in the throat a bit. The cheeks can be puffed out.

The letter L

The Arabic L sound is always thin (non-emphatic), except in the word Allāh, where it is thick (emphatic).

Minimal pairs

  • tīn (figs), ṭīn (clay, mud)
  • tāb (he repented), ṭāb (it ripened; he got well)
  • dall (he directed), ḍall (he lost his way)
  • mardūd (returned, rejected), marḍūḍ (bruised)
  • sayf (sword), ṣayf (summer)
  • bass (cat), baṣṣ (it shone)
  • nasīb (relative, kinsman), naṣīb (share)
  • dhall (he was humbled), ẓall (he continued)

‏درجات التفخيم‏ = degree of tafkhīm