|Phonemic representation||q, g, ʔ, k|
|Position in alphabet||19|
|Alphabetic derivatives of the Phoenician|
|Greek||Ϙ (Ϟ), Φ|
Qoph is the nineteenth letter of the Semitic abjads, including Phoenician qōp , Hebrew qūp̄ ק, Aramaic qop , Syriac qōp̄ ܩ, and Arabic qāf ق.
Its original sound value was a West Semitic emphatic stop, presumably [kʼ]. In Hebrew numerals, it has the numerical value of 100.
The origin of the glyph shape of qōp () is uncertain. It is usually suggested to have originally depicted either a sewing needle, specifically the eye of a needle (Hebrew קוף quf and Aramaic קופא qopɑʔ both refer to the eye of a needle), or the back of a head and neck (qāf in Arabic meant "nape"). According to an older suggestion, it may also have been a picture of a monkey and its tail (the Hebrew קוף means "monkey").
Besides Aramaic Qop, which gave rise to the letter in the Semitic abjads used in classical antiquity, Phoenician qōp is also the origin of the Latin letter Q and Greek Ϙ (qoppa) and Φ (phi).
The Oxford Hebrew-English Dictionary transliterates the letter Qoph (קוֹף) as q or k; and, when word-final, it may be transliterated as ck. The English spellings of Biblical names (as derived via Latin from Biblical Greek) containing this letter may represent it as c or k, e.g. Cain for Hebrew Qayin, or Kenan for Qenan (Genesis 4:1, 5:9).
|Various print fonts||Cursive
In modern Israeli Hebrew the letter is also called kuf. The letter represents /k/; i.e., no distinction is made between the pronunciations of Qof and Kaph (in modern Hebrew).
However, many historical groups have made that distinction, with Qof being pronounced [q] by Iraqi Jews and other Mizrahim, or even as [ɡ] by Yemenite Jews under the influence of Yemeni Arabic.
Qoph is consistently transliterated into classical Greek with the unaspirated〈κ〉/k/, while Kaph (both its allophones) is transliterated with the aspirated〈χ〉/kʰ/. Thus Qoph was unaspirated /k/ where Kaph was /kʰ/, this distinction is no longer present. Further we know that Qoph is one of the emphatic consonants through comparison with other Semitic languages, and most likely was ejective /kʼ/. In Arabic the emphatics are pharyngealised and this causes a preference for back vowels, this is not shown in Hebrew orthography. Though the gutturals show a preference for certain vowels, Hebrew emphatics do not in Tiberian Hebrew (the Hebrew dialect recorded with vowels) and therefore were most likely not pharyngealised, but ejective, pharyngealisation being a result of Arabisation.
Qof in Hebrew numerals represents the number 100. Sarah is described in Genesis Rabba as בת ק' כבת כ' שנה לחטא, literally "At Qof years of age, she was like Kaph years of age in sin", meaning that when she was 100 years old, she was as sinless as when she was 20.
The Arabic letter ق is named قاف qāf. It is written in several ways depending in its position in the word:
|Position in word||Isolated||Final||Medial||Initial|
Traditionally in the scripts of the Maghreb it is written with a single dot, similarly to how the letter fā ف is written in Mashreqi scripts:
|Position in word||Isolated||Final||Medial||Initial|
It is usually transliterated into Latin script as q, though some scholarly works use ḳ.
According to Sibawayh, author of the first book on Arabic grammar, the letter is pronounced voiced (maǧhūr), although some scholars argue, that Sibawayh's term maǧhūr implies lack of aspiration rather than voice. As noted above, Modern Standard Arabic has the voiceless uvular plosive /q/ as its standard pronunciation of the letter, but dialectical pronunciations vary as follows:
The three main pronunciations:
It is not well known when the pronunciation of Qāf ⟨ق⟩ as a velar [ɡ] occurred or the probability of it being connected to the pronunciation of Jīm ⟨ج⟩ as an affricate [d͡ʒ], but the Arabian peninsula which is the homeland of the Arabic language, there are two sets of pronunciations, either the ⟨ج⟩ represents a [d͡ʒ] and ⟨ق⟩ represents a [ɡ] which is the main pronunciation in most of the peninsula except for western and southern Yemen and parts of Oman where ⟨ج⟩ represents a [ɡ] and ⟨ق⟩ represents a [q].
The Standard Arabic (MSA) combination of ⟨ج⟩ as a [d͡ʒ] and ⟨ق⟩ as a [q] does not occur in any natural modern dialect in the Arabian peninsula, which shows a strong correlation between the palatalization of ⟨ج⟩ to [d͡ʒ] and the pronunciation of the ⟨ق⟩ as a [ɡ] as shown in the table below:
|Language / Dialects||Pronunciation of the letters|
|Parts of Southern Arabia1||[g]||[q]|
|Most of the Arabian Peninsula||[d͡ʒ]2||[g]|
|Modern Standard Arabic||[d͡ʒ]3||[q]4|
Not to be confused with ف, a letter with the same initial and medial forms in other languages.
The Maghrebi style of writing qāf is different: having only a single point (dot) above; when the letter is isolated or word-final, it may sometimes become unpointed.
|Position in word:||Isolated||Final||Medial||Initial|
|Form of letter:||ڧ
The earliest Arabic manuscripts show qāf in several variants: pointed (above or below) or unpointed. Then the prevalent convention was having a point above for qāf and a point below for fāʼ; this practice is now only preserved in manuscripts from the Maghribi, with the exception of Libya and Algeria, where the Mashriqi form (two dots above: ق) prevails.
Within Maghribi texts, there is no possibility of confusing it with the letter fāʼ, as it is instead written with a dot underneath (ڢ) in the Maghribi script.
|Unicode name||HEBREW LETTER QOF||ARABIC LETTER QAF||ARABIC LETTER QAF WITH DOT ABOVE||ARABIC LETTER AFRICAN QAF||SYRIAC LETTER QAPH||SAMARITAN LETTER QUF|
|UTF-8||215 167||D7 A7||217 130||D9 82||218 167||DA A7||224 162 188||E0 A2 BC||220 169||DC A9||224 160 146||E0 A0 92|
|Numeric character reference||ק
|Unicode name||UGARITIC LETTER QOPA||IMPERIAL ARAMAIC LETTER QOPH||PHOENICIAN LETTER QOF|
|UTF-8||240 144 142 150||F0 90 8E 96||240 144 161 146||F0 90 A1 92||240 144 164 146||F0 90 A4 92|
|UTF-16||55296 57238||D800 DF96||55298 56402||D802 DC52||55298 56594||D802 DD12|
|Numeric character reference||𐎖
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