This article is about the Semitic letter. For other uses, see Aleph (disambiguation).
Position in alphabet
Alphabetic derivatives of the Phoenician
Aleph is the first letter of the Semitic abjads, including Phoenician ‘Ālep , Hebrew ‘Ālef א, Aramaic Ālap , Syriac ʾĀlap̄ ܐ, Arabic Alif ا, and Persian.
The Phoenician letter is derived from an Egyptian hieroglyph depicting an ox’s head and gave rise to the Greek Alpha (Α), being re-interpreted to express not the glottal consonant but the accompanying vowel, and hence the Latin A and Cyrillic А.
In phonetics, aleph /ˈɑːlɛf/ originally represented the onset of a vowel at the glottis. In Semitic languages, this functions as a weak consonant allowing roots with only two true consonants to be conjugated in the manner of a standard three consonant Semitic root. In most Hebrew dialects as well as Syriac, the glottal onset represented by Aleph is an absence of a true consonant although a glottal stop ([ʔ]), which is a true consonant, typically occurs as an allophone. In Arabic, the Alif has the glottal stop pronunciation when occurring initially. In text with diacritical marks, the pronunciation as a glottal stop is usually indicated by a special marking, hamza in Arabic and mappiq in Tiberian Hebrew. (Although once thought to be the original pronunciation of Aleph in all cases where it behaves as a consonant, a consistent glottal stop appears to have been absent in ancient Semitic languages such as Akkadian and Ugaritic besides being absent in Syriac and Hebrew.) Occasionally, the Aleph was also used to indicate an initial unstressed vowel before certain consonant clusters, without functioning as a consonant itself, the prosthetic (or prothetic) aleph. In later Semitic languages, Aleph could sometimes function as a mater lectionis indicating the presence of a vowel elsewhere (usually long). The period at which use as a mater lectionis began is the subject of some controversy, though it had become well established by the late stage of Old Aramaic (ca. 200 BCE). Aleph is often transliterated as U+02BE ʾ , based on the Greek spiritus lenis ʼ, for example, in the transliteration of the letter name itself, ʾāleph. 
2.1 Arabic variants