The Arabic Alphabet is composed of twenty-eight letters. All of these letters are consonants. Two of them are also used as vowels. In addition to these, there are the alif without hamza and the madda (آ), which is a combination of alif and hamza or two hamazas. So, with these, there are thirty letters in Arabic. As regards vowels, there are six: three short and three long.
The short vowels are not letters; they are diacritical marks. These are: the fatħa which is pronounced as a, the kasra which is pronounced as i, and the Damma which is pronounced as u. The long vowels are the alif which is pronounced as aa, the yaa which is pronounced as ii, and the waaw which pronounced as uu. Therefore, they (the long vowels) are prolonged versions of the short vowels. That is, a corresponds to aa, i corresponds to ii, and u corresponds to uu. In Arabic, the vowels are known as ħarakaat “motions”.
The short vowels are known as al-ħarakaat al-qaSiirah الْحَرَكَاتُ الْقَصِيرَة, and the long vowels are known as al-ħarakaat al-Tawiilah الْحَرَكَاتُ الطَّوِيلَة. The short vowels or al-ħarakaat al-qaSiirah accompany the consonant letters, that is they are added over or below the letters. This results in three different pronunciations for each letter. With the fatħa, which is pronounced as a, the letters are pronounced as ba, ma, wa, fa, tha, … etc, as in the second column in the tables. With the kasrah, which is pronounced as i, the letters are pronounced as bi, mi, wi, fi, thi, …etc., as in the third column in the tables. With Damma, which is pronounced as u, the letters are pronounced as bu, mu, wu, fu, thu, …etc., as in the last column in the tables.
In the next lesson, you will learn how the consonant letters are pronounced when they are followed by long vowels.