Diacritics in Arabic (2)

In the previous lesson, you learned that Arabic certainly has vowels, but they are not written, especially in Modern Standard Arabic, because they are diacritical, i.e. not actual letters. These vowels are called short vowels or الحَرَكَات القَصِيْرَة al-Harakaat al-qaSiirah. Besides them, there are other diacritical marks in Arabic. What are they? This lesson will answer this question.

The above table includes all the diacritical marks in Arabic. The most basic of these are the three short vowels—the fatHah, the kasrah, and the DHammah. The fatHah, pronounced as a, and the DHammah, pronounced as u, are put on the letter, while the kasrah, pronounced as i, is put under it. The sukuun simply means the absence of the three short vowels. For an illustration, if we add these four diacritical marks to the letter ف, here is how it will be pronounced:

فْ  =  f

فُ  =  fu

فِ  =  fi

فَ  =   fa

The shaddah means doubled letter. It is normally a sequence of two identical letters, the first with sukuun and the second with a short vowel. For instance, the letter ن with a shaddah will be written and pronounced in four different ways, as in this example:

نْ نْ  =  نّ  =  nn

نْ نُ  =  نُّ  =  nnu

نْ نِ  =  نِّ  =  nni

نْ نَ  =  نَّ = nna

The tanween is double fatHah on top of each other, pronounced as an, double kasrah on top of each other, pronounced as in, or double DHammah next to each other, pronounced as un. It is always put on the last letter of singular nouns. Its function has to with the grammar, which you will learn in future lessons.

The shaddah with tanween is also double letters that should occur only at the end of nouns. The first letter has a sukuun and the second has a tanween, so they are combined into one with the tanween.

In the next lesson, you will learn about the roles and functions of these diacritical marks.

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