The Arabic Alphabet (1)

The Arabic Alphabet الأَبْجَدِيَّة العَرَبِيَّة [al-abjadiiyah al-‘arabiiyah] comprises twenty-eight letters/sounds. Besides the [alif] ا and the [alif al-madd]آ, they are thirty.  Almost all these letters are consonants; that is, some friction occurs in the mouth when they are produced. Here is a list of these sounds ordered according to their place of production, namely from the front to the back of the oral passage / cavity.

The Arabic Alphabet

Unlike many other languages, Arabic has only three vowel sounds in the above inventory. These are: و ، ي ، ا. We call them long vowels الحَرَكَات الطَّوِيْلَة [al-Harakaat aT-Tawiilah] in Arabic. Each of them has a corresponding short vowel. We call the short vowels الحَرَكَات القَصِيْرَة [al-Harakaat al-qaSiirah]. They are not letters, rather diacritical marks. The corresponding short vowel for ا is َ  [fatHah]; the corresponding short vowel for ي is ِ  [kasrah]; and the corresponding short vowel for و is ُ  [DHammah].

The short vowels separately accompany all regular sounds resulting in three different pronunciations for each. With the [fatHa] (pronounced as a), we pronounce them as ba, ma, wa, fa, tha, … etc, as in the second column in the table. With the [kasrah] (pronounced as i), we pronounce them as bi, mi, wi, fi, thi, …etc., as in the third column. With [DHammah] (pronounced as u), we pronounced them as bu, mu, wu, fu, thu, …etc., as in the last column.

In the next lesson, you will learn how these sounds are pronounced if followed by long vowels.

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