Pe (Semitic letter)

Pe is the seventeenth letter of the Semitic abjads, including Phoenician, Hebrewפ, Aramaic, Syriacܦ, and Arabic Fāʼ ف (in abjadi order).

Pe
Phonemic representationp, f (was ɸ), w
Position in alphabet17
Numerical value80
Alphabetic derivatives of the Phoenician

The original sound value is a voiceless bilabial plosive: /p/; it retains this value in most Semitic languages except for Arabic, which having lost /p/ now uses it to render a voiceless labiodental fricative /f/.

The Phoenician letter gave rise to the Greek Pi (Π), Latin P, and Cyrillic П.

Origins

Pe is usually assumed to come from a pictogram of a “mouth” (in Hebrew pe; in Arabic, فا fah).

Hebrew Pe

The Hebrew spelling is פֵּא. It is also romanized pei or pey, especially when used in Yiddish.[1][2]

Orthographic variants
position in word Various print fonts Cursive Hebrew Rashi
script
SerifSans-serifMonospaced
non final פ פ פ
final ף ף ף

Variations on written form/pronunciation

The letter Pe is one of the six letters which can receive a Dagesh Kal. The six are Bet, Gimel, Daleth, Kaph, Pe, and Tav.

Variant forms of Pe/Fe

A notable variation on the letter Pe is the Pe Kefulah, "Doubled Pe". The Pe Kefulah is written as a small Pe scribed within a larger Pe. This atypical letter appears in Torah scrolls (most often Yemenite Torahs[3] but is also present in Sephardic and Ashkenazi Torahs), manuscripts, and some modern printed Hebrew Bibles. When the Pe is written in the form of a Doubled Pe, this adds a layer of deeper meaning to the Biblical text.[4] This letter variation can appear on the final and non-final forms of the Pe.

There are two orthographic variants of this letter which indicate a different pronunciation:

Name Symbol IPA Transliteration as in the English word
Pe פּ /p/ p pan
Fe פ /f/ f fan

Pe with the dagesh

When the Pe has a "dot" in its center, known as a dagesh, it represents a voiceless bilabial plosive, /p/. There are various rules in Hebrew grammar that stipulate when and why a dagesh is used.

Fe

When Pe appears without the dagesh dot in its center (פ), then it usually represents a voiceless labiodental fricative /f/.

Final form of Pe/Fe

At the end of words, the letter's written form changes to a Pe/Fe Sophit (Final Pe/Fe): ף.

When a word in modern Hebrew borrowed from another language ends with /p/, the non-final form is used (e.g. ּפִילִיפ /ˈfilip/ "Philip"), while borrowings ending in /f/ still use the Pe Sofit (e.g. כֵּיף /kef/ "fun", from Arabic). This is because native Hebrew words, which always use the final form at the end, cannot end in /p/.

Significance

In gematria, Pe represents the number 80. Its final form represents 800 but this is rarely used, Tav written twice (400+400) being used instead.

Arabic fāʼ

The letter ف is named فاء fāʾ. It is written in several ways depending on its position in the word:

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form:
(Help)
ف ـف ـفـ فـ

In the process of developing from Proto-Semitic, Proto-Semitic /p/ became Arabic /f/, and this is reflected in the use of the letter representing /p/ in other Semitic languages for /f/ in Arabic.

Examples on usage in Modern Standard Arabic:

  • Fāʾ-fatḥah (فَـ /fa/) is a multi-function prefix most commonly equivalent to "so" or "so that." For example: نَكْتُب naktub ("we write") → فَنَكْتُب fanaktub ("so we write").

Maghrebi variant

In the Maghreb (northwest Africa), the dot in fāʼ is written underneath (ڢ). Once the prevalent style, it is now only used in Maghribi countries for writing Qur'an, with the exception of Libya and Algeria, which adopted the Mashriqi form (dot above).

The Maghrebi qāf
Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Form of letter: ڢ ـڢ ـڢـ ڢـ

The Maghrebi alphabet has taken the shape of fa’ (ف) to mean qāf instead.

Diacriticized Arabic versions

Normally, the letter ف fāʼ renders /f/ sound, but may also be used some names and loanwords where it can render /v/, might be arabized as /f/ in accordance to its spelling, e.g., يُونِيلِفِر (Unilever). It may be used interchangeably with the modified letter ڤ - ve (with 3 dots above) in this case.

The character is mapped in Unicode under position U+06A4.

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form:
(Help)
ڤ ـڤ ـڤـ ڤـ

Maghrebi variant

The Maghrebi style, used in Northwestern Africa, the dots moved underneath (Unicode U+06A5), because it is based on the other style of fāʼ (ڢ):

Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form:
(Help)
ڥ ـڥ ـڥـ ڥـ

Other similar letters

Code point Isolated Final Medial Initial Unicode character name (or descriptive synonyms used in the JoiningType and JoiningGroup datatables)
U+0641 ف ـف ـفـ فـ
|style="text-align:left"| ARABIC LETTER FEH
U+06A1 ڡ ـڡ ـڡـ ڡـ
|style="text-align:left"| ARABIC LETTER DOTLESS FEH
U+06A2 ڢ ـڢ ـڢـ ڢـ
|style="text-align:left"| ARABIC LETTER FEH WITH DOT MOVED BELOW 
U+06A3 ڣ ـڣ ـڣـ ڣـ
|style="text-align:left"| ARABIC LETTER FEH WITH DOT BELOW
U+06A4 ڤ ـڤ ـڤـ ڤـ
|style="text-align:left"| ARABIC LETTER FEH WITH 3 DOTS ABOVE = VEH
U+06A5 ڥ ـڥ ـڥـ ڥـ
|style="text-align:left"| ARABIC LETTER FEH WITH 3 DOTS BELOW = MAGHRIBI VEH
U+06A6 ڦ ـڦ ـڦـ ڦـ
|style="text-align:left"| ARABIC LETTER FEH WITH 4 DOTS ABOVE = PEHEH
U+0760 ݠ ـݠ ـݠـ ݠـ
|style="text-align:left"| ARABIC LETTER FEH WITH 2 DOTS BELOW
U+0761 ݡ ـݡ ـݡـ ݡـ
|style="text-align:left"| ARABIC LETTER FEH WITH 3 DOTS POINTING UPWARDS BELOW
U+08A4 ـ ــ ـ
|style="text-align:left"| ARABIC LETTER FEH WITH DOT BELOW AND THREE DOTS ABOVE

Character encodings

Characterפףفܦ
Unicode nameHEBREW LETTER PEHEBREW LETTER FINAL PEARABIC LETTER FEHSYRIAC LETTER PESAMARITAN LETTER PI
Encodingsdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhex
Unicode1508U+05E41507U+05E31601U+06411830U+07262064U+0810
UTF-8215 164D7 A4215 163D7 A3217 129D9 81220 166DC A6224 160 144E0 A0 90
Numeric character referenceפפףףففܦܦࠐࠐ
Character𐎔𐡐𐤐
Unicode nameUGARITIC LETTER PUIMPERIAL ARAMAIC LETTER PEPHOENICIAN LETTER PE
Encodingsdecimalhexdecimalhexdecimalhex
Unicode66452U+1039467664U+1085067856U+10910
UTF-8240 144 142 148F0 90 8E 94240 144 161 144F0 90 A1 90240 144 164 144F0 90 A4 90
UTF-1655296 57236D800 DF9455298 56400D802 DC5055298 56592D802 DD10
Numeric character reference𐎔𐎔𐡐𐡐𐤐𐤐

References

  1. Daniels, Peter T. (1996). The World's Writing Systems. Oxford University Press. p. 736. ISBN 978-0-19-507993-7.
  2. Kahn, Lily (2013). Colloquial Yiddish: The Complete Course for Beginners. Routledge. p. 3. ISBN 978-1-136-96779-5.
  3. Yeivin, Israel (1985). Introduction to the Tiberian Masorah. Atlanta47-48: SBL Press.
  4. Thompson, Deborah B. (2019). "Teaching Otiot Meshunot from Scribal Biblical Hebrew Texts" (PDF). Hebrew Higher Education. 21: 50–64. Retrieved 2 September 2019.
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