Arabic Vowels – Arabic All about vowels

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Arabic All about vowels
Arabic has three main vowels. Luckily, they’re very simple to pronounce
because they’re similar to English vowels. However, it’s important to realize
that Arabic also has vowel derivatives that are as important as the main
vowels. These vowel derivatives fall into three categories: double vowels, long
vowels, and diphthongs. In this section, I walk you through all the different
vowels, vowel derivatives, and vowel combinations.

Main vowels

Fathah –  Damma – Kasra – TENVIN 
The three main Arabic vowels are:
 fatHah: The first main vowel in Arabic is called a fatHa (feht-hah). A fatHa
is the equivalent of the short “a” in “hat” or “cat.” Occasionally, a fatHa
also sounds like the short “e” in “bet” or “set.” Much like the other vowels,
the way you pronounce a fatHa depends on what consonants come before
or after it. In Arabic script, the fatHa is written as a small horizontal line
above a consonant. In English transcription, which I use in this book, it’s
simply represented by the letter “a,” as in the words kalb (kah-leb; dog) or
walad (wah-lahd; boy).
 damma: The second main Arabic vowel is the damma (dah-mah). A
damma sounds like the “uh” in “foot” or “book.” In Arabic script, it’s
written like a tiny backward “e” above a particular consonant. In English
transcription, it’s represented by the letter “u,” as in funduq (foon-dook;
hotel) or suHub (soo-hoob; clouds).
 kasra: The third main vowel in Arabic is the kasra (kahs-rah), which
sounds like the long “e” in “feet” or “treat.” The kasra is written the
same way as a fatHa — as a small horizontal line — except that it goes
underneath the consonant. In English transcription, it’s written as an “i,”
as in bint (bee-neht; girl) or ‘islaam (ees-lahm; Islam).
Double vowels
One type of vowel derivative is the double vowel, which is known in Arabic as
tanwiin (tahn-ween). The process of tanwiin is a fairly simple one: Basically,
you take a main vowel and place the same vowel right next to it, thus creating
two vowels, or a double vowel. The sound that the double vowel makes
depends on the main vowel that’s doubled. Here are all possible combinations
of double vowels:
 Double fatHa: tanwiin with fatHa creates the “an” sound, as in ‘ahlan
wa sahlan (ahel-an wah sahel-an; Hi).
 Double damma: tanwiin with damma creates the “oun” sound. For
example, kouratoun (koo-rah-toon; ball) contains a double damma.
 Double kasra: tanwiin with kasra makes the “een” sound, as in SafHatin
(sahf-hah-teen; page).
Arabic Long vowels
Long vowels are derivatives that elongate the main vowels. Seeing as Arabic
is a very poetic and musical language, I believe a musical metaphor is in
order here! Think of the difference between long vowels and short (main)
vowels in terms of a musical beat, and you should be able to differentiate
between them much easier. If a main vowel lasts for one beat, then its long
vowel equivalent lasts for two beats. Whereas you create double vowels by
writing two main vowels next to each other, you create long vowels by adding
a letter to one of the main vowels. Each main vowel has a corresponding consonant
that elongates it. Here are a few examples to help you get your head
around this long-vowel process:
 To create a long vowel form of a fatHa, you attach an ‘alif to the consonant
that the fatHa is associated with. In English transcription, the long
fatHa form is written as “aa,” such as in kitaab (kee-taab; book) or baab
(bahb; door). The “aa” means that you hold the vowel sound for two
beats as opposed to one.
 The long vowel form of damma is obtained by attaching a waaw to
the consonant with the damma. This addition elongates the vowel “uh”
into a more pronounced “uu,” such as in nuur (noohr; light) or ghuul
(roohl; ghost). Make sure you hold the “uu” vowel for two beats and
not one.
 To create a long vowel form of a kasra, you attach a yaa’ to the consonant
with the kasra. Just as the ‘alif elongates the fatHa and the waaw
elongates the damma, the yaa’ elongates the kasra. Some examples
include the “ii” in words like kabiir (kah-beer; big) and Saghiir (sah-reer;
small).
Arabic Name of the Explanation
Character Character
‘alif To create a long vowel form of a fatHa
waaw To create a long vowel form of a damma
yaa’ To create a long vowel form of a kasra

 

The Arabic Alphabet: Vowels

Name Character Explanation Pronunciation Example Transcription
Damma  ُ Damma is an apostrophe-like shape written above the consonant which precedes it in pronunciation. It represents a short vowel u (like the “u” in “but”). u بُت but
Wāw و Wāw is the long vowel ū (like the “oo” in “moon”). It also represents the consonant w. When Waw is used to represent the long vowel, damma appears above the preceding consonant. ū بُوت būt
Fatha  َ Fatha is a diagonal stroke written above the consonant which precedes it in pronunciation. It represents a short vowel a (a little like the “u” in “but”; a short “ah” sound). a بَت bat
Alif ا Alif is the long vowel ā (a long “ahh” sound as in English “father”). ā بات bāt
Kasra  ِ Kasra is a diagonal stroke written below the consonant which precedes it in pronunciation. It represents a short vowel i (like the “i” in English “pit”). i بِت bit
Ya’ ي Ya’ is the long vowel ī (like the “ee” in English “sheep”). It also represents the consonant y. When Ya’ is used to represent the long vowel, kasra appears above the preceding consonant. ī بِيت bīt
Sukūn  ْ Whenever a consonant does not have a vowel, it receives a mark called a sukūn, a small circle which represents the end of a closed syllable (CvC or CvvC). It sits above the letter which is not followed by a vowel. بِنْتُ bintu
Shadda (or tashdīd)  ّ Shadda represents doubling (or gemination) of a consonant. Where the same consonant occurs twice in a word, with no vowel between, instead of using consonant + sukūn + consonant, the consonant is written only once, and shadda is written above it. ثَبَّتَ thabbata

 fatha (a) َ

ا
1 alif (aa)  

  dumma (u) ُ

و
2 waaw (uu)

  xasra (i) ِ

ى
3 yih (ii)