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Learning Arabic -- The First Long Vowel

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( بسم الله الرحمـٰنِ الرحيم )

 

Learning Arabic -- The First Long Vowel

 

Apart from the three normal vowels, the Arabic alphabet contains three letters which are often considered to be long vowels. They are considered this because they elongate and emphasise the short vowels on the letter before them. The three long vowels are the 'alif', 'waow', and 'yaa'.

 

As for the 'alif', it is always empty of vowels. (Se lesson 12 for details on lack of vowels.) Even though we have learned that each letter in the alphabet may be given one of the three vowels, the 'alif' is an exception. And whenever we see the 'alif' with a vowel, this letter is not an 'alif'; rather it is a 'hamza'. This is why we have been seeing the 'alif' with a small 'hamza' above or beneath it in each of the charts with the omission of the actual 'hamza' from the end.

 

This letter always necessitates a fathha before it. That is to say that we will never see an 'alif' before which there is a dhamma or a kasra. The job of the this letter is to lengthen the stretch of the fathha on the letter before it, and it is for this reason that it is known as a long vowel. For example, the letter 'baa' with a fathha atop it sounds like 'ba'. But adding the 'alif' causes it to sound like 'baa'.

 

The other two long vowels are the 'waow' and the 'yaa'. These letters are not always considered to be long vowels. This is because they may have vowels themselves; in this case, they are treated as consonants. However, if these letters are empty of all vowels, they may be considered to be long vowels. When they are empty of vowels, there are two situations; either they are preceded by their appropriate haraka (dhamma for 'waow', and kasra for 'yaa'), or they have a fathha before them. Never will the 'waow' be preceded by a kasra.

 

In the case of them being preceded by a fathha, the letters are not considered long vowels; they are called 'waow' leen and 'yaa' leen. But if they are preceded by their appropriate vowels, they are considered long vowels and they are called 'waow' maddah and 'yaa' maddah. They emphasise the sound of the preceding haraka. For example, the letter 'baa' with a dhamma on it sounds like 'bu' and with a kasra on it sounds like 'be'. Adding a 'waow' to the former and a 'yaa' to the latter causes the letter to sound like 'buu' and 'bee'.

 

 

The 'alif', 'waow' maddah, and 'yaa' maddah may occur in the middle of words. The same applies for the 'waow' leen and 'yaa' leen. The leen will not be discussed as they are like any other letter. Read the alphabet carefully and attempt the practice regarding the 'alif'. Notice that the 'alif' has been brought before the other two long vowels. This is because this letter is more fundamental.

 

To listen to the letters' first long vowel click on the letter in this page http://www.shariahprogram.ca/Arabic-alphabet9.shtml

 

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