Origins and Characteristics of the Arabic Alphabet
The Arabic alphabet consists of eighteen shapes that express twenty-eight phonetic sounds with the help of diacritical marks.
The origins of the Arabic alphabet can be traced to the writing of the semi-nomadic Nabataean tribes, who inhabited southern Syria and Jordan, Northern Arabia, and the Sinia Peninsula Surviving stone inscriptions from the Nabataean script show strong similarities with
the modern Arabic writing system. Like Arabic, their written texts consisted largely of consonants and long vowels, with variations on the same basic letter shapes used to represent a number of sounds. Arabic is written and read from right to left. There is no distinction between upper- and lowercase letters, though shapes of letters usually vary depending on whether they are in an initial, medial, or final position in a word. Punctuation marks were not adopted until the twentieth century. Short vowels, represented by a set of marks below or above the letters, aid in the pronunciation of a words are usually only written in the Qur'an or where precise recitation is important and in texts for novice readers.