Romanization of Arabic

The romanization of Arabic is the systematic rendering of written and spoken Arabic in the Latin script. Romanized Arabic is used for various purposes, among them transcription of names and titles, cataloging Arabic language works, language education when used instead of or alongside the Arabic script, and representation of the language in scientific publications by linguists. These formal systems, which often make use of diacritics and non-standard Latin characters and are used in academic settings or for the benefit of non-speakers, contrast with informal means of written communication used by speakers such as the Latin-based Arabic chat alphabet.

Google Ngrams chart showing the changing English romanization of the Arabic short vowels (ـَ, ـِ and ـُ) between the 19th and 20th centuries, using مُسْلِم and مُحَمَّد as examples.

Different systems and strategies have been developed to address the inherent problems of rendering various Arabic varieties in the Latin script. Examples of such problems are the symbols for Arabic phonemes that do not exist in English or other European languages; the means of representing the Arabic definite article, which is always spelled the same way in written Arabic but has numerous pronunciations in the spoken language depending on context; and the representation of short vowels (usually i u or e o, accounting for variations such as Muslim/Moslem or Mohammed/Muhammad/Mohamed).


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