Smithsonian Freer Gallery Sackler Gallery National Museum of Asian Art Gallery Guide Arts of the Islamic World
Introduction calligraphypage 1page 2page 3page 4Abstract DesignArts of the Book The Art of the Object

One of the most significant aspects of the Arabic script is its adaptability. It can be altered to accommodate any surface or scale and still maintain its visual integrity. Written from right to left, its twenty–eight letters are also used with some minor changes for Persian, Urdu, and Ottoman Turkish among other languages. The letters are made of seventeen basic forms that consist of simple vertical and horizontal strokes. These are modified with a series of dots above and below. Four of the letters serve as long vowels, while short vowels appear as diacritical marks. The letters are usually linked together and have different configurations depending on whether they appear at the beginning, the middle, or the end of a word. Certain letters can only be linked to the one preceeding them.
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