Praise & Disparagement
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If a letter 'alif is following another letter, it will be a long A vowel if it lacks the sign of hamza(t) ا and a glottal stop (hamza(t)) if the sign is present أ .
Examples, click on the Arabic syllable to hear it:
You can see that the figure of the hamza(t) is related to the short vowel preceding it. This is explained in detail here.
Pronouncing a still hamza(t) '< may be approximated by saying an extremely short a (or any other vowel.) If you can say an a and terminate it before it leaves your throat (zero duration,) you will have mastered the still hamza(t).
However, if the 'alif is the first letter of a word, it must be a hamza(t); a long A denoting 'alif cannot come first in any Arabic word. The difference between ا and أ when they are the first letter of a word was explained in the previous page.
Arabic words cannot begin with a "still" letter (a letter that is not followed by a vowel); this is why the ا hamza(t) is added in front of certain types of words that otherwise would be beginning with still letters.
A common terminal structure in Semitic nouns is a long A vowel followed by a weak letter (-aaw or -aay). In Arabic, the final weak letter of such structures is almost always turned into a glottal stop or hamza(t). Hence, the structure -aa'< ــاء is common in Arabic nouns.
Examples, click on the word to hear it:
*Note: the classical teaching of Arabic grammar considers the original endings of these three nouns to be -aaw not -aay.
When a long A vowel (aa) occurs terminally in any word, it will often not get full pronunciation but it will have shorter duration than usual. This shorter duration can be described as a middle duration between the durations of a short A (a) and a long A (aa). However, it will often sound closer to the duration of a short A than to a long A. This is why a terminal aa is called in Arabic a shortened 'alif أَلِفٌ مَقْصُوْرَةٌ .
The other long vowels (ee and oo) will also be shortened when they occur terminal in words, and they will often sound closer to the corresponding short vowels too (i and u).
►Waaw & Yaa'<
A letter و or ي following another letter can be denoting a long vowel or not depending on the short vowels. A long vowel-denoting و or ي must be still (not followed by a vowel) and preceded by the corresponding short vowel.
Examples, click on the word to hear it:
The letter taa'< t has two versions at the end of a word:
The tied taa'< الْتَّاْءُ المَرْبُوْطَةُ is always preceded by a short A (-at); it occurs in nouns (and adjectives) and often serves as a feminine marker in singular nouns, but it can also occur in verbids and irregular plural nouns without being a feminine marker. This kind of taa'< is dropped from pronunciation or pronounced as -h rather than -t when it is the last thing pronounced, but it is pronounced fully as -t when it is followed by other talking. This is similar to the French "liaison."
The open taa'< الْتَّاْءُ الْمَفْتُوْحَةُ occurs in the end of some conjugations of perfective verbs and pronouns, but can also occur at the end of some rare nouns as a feminine marker (e.g. بِنْتٌ , أُخْتٌ). This kind of taa'< is always pronounced -t.
One last thing remains about Arabic transcription, which is this mark: ّx
It is called shadda(t) شَدَّةٌ = "stress." It indicates double consonants with no vowel in between (i.e. the first consonant is still).
م + م = مّ
m + m = mm
Examples, click on the word to hear it:
Accent is just as important in Arabic as in English. In English, it is usually impossible to tell which syllable of a word should be stressed, and English is especially complicated in this, since the stress can fall on virtually any syllable, whereas in most languages there, are restrictions on where accents are allowed to fall.
The best way of getting a sense of the stress patterns of any language, of course, is to listen to native speakers and to build up an intuitive sense of rhythm for the language. This is just as true for Arabic as for any other language. But there are some clear guidelines about Arabic stress.
The first thing to note is that Arabic syllables are divided into two kinds: long and short. A short syllable is simply a single consonant followed by a single short vowel. The word kataba = "(he) wrote" for instance, is composed of three short syllables: ka-ta-ba. Any syllable that is not short is considered long.
There are various ways a syllable can be long: a consonant plus a long vowel; a consonant plus a diphthong; a consonant followed by a short vowel followed by another consonant. For instance, kitaab = "book' has two syllables, one short ki- and one long -taab. Another example: maktaba(t) = "library" has three syllables. The first one is long mak-, the second short -ta-, the third short -ba. Finally, take maktoob = "written;" it has two long syllables mak- and -toob.
Now, the basic rule of Arabic stress is this: the accent falls on the long syllable nearest to the end of the word. If the last syllable is long, then that syllable is stressed: kitaab, accent on the last syllable. If the second-to-last syllable of a word is long and the last is short, then the second-to-last syllable is stressed: 'aboohu = "his father," accent on the second-to-last syllable. If there is no long syllable in the word (like kataba), then the accent is on the third-to-last syllable. This will be the case with the great majority of past verbs, since these usually take the form of three consonants separated by short vowels (kataba, darasa, taraka, and so on - all accented on the first syllable).
Last point: the accent is not allowed to fall any further back than the third syllable from the end. So if you have a word of four (or more) short syllables, the stress has to fall on the third syllable from the end. For example: katabahu = "(he) wrote it" has four short syllables; the stress will therefore fall on the third syllable back: katαbahu.
While we're on the subject of accent, we should note one other thing: in Arabic every syllable, long or short, should be clearly and distinctly pronounced, given its due weight. In this Arabic is like Spanish, and not like American English. Syllables do not disappear or get slurred just because they are unstressed.
In Arabic, the pronunciation of word endings differ when they are followed by other talking (the state of junction الْوَصْلُ) from when they are the last thing pronounced, or when they are followed by a pause (the state of pause الْوَقْفُ).
We have seen an example of this already when we talked about the pronunciation of the tied taa'< ـَة , which is pronounced -at when not terminal in pronunciation, and -ah or -a when terminal in pronunciation or followed by a pause.
Another important rule of pause in Arabic is that any terminal short vowel of any word must be dropped from pronunciation when followed by a pause.
For example, a terminal -lu , -ba, or -ni will be pronounced as follows:
Note that the rules of pause regard only the pronunciation but not the transcription of any word ending.
The rule of dropping a terminally pronounced vowel regards only the short vowels, but not the long vowels. We mentioned before that terminal long vowels are usually shortened in pronunciation, but this happens in all states not only at pause.
In Arabic terminology, letters that are followed by short vowels are called "moving letters." Letters that are not followed by short vowels are called "still letters."
The rule says that the final letter pronounced of any word must be "still" and cannot be "moving." A final moving letter must be turned into still by dropping the short vowel following it in pronunciation (which is not a letter itself short vowels are not letters in Arabic).
This is the classic Arabic saying:
"Arabs do not stop on a moving" العَرَبُ لا تَقِفُ عَلَىْ مُتَحَرِّكٍ.
Try reading the following words on your own, then you can hear them by clicking them. (Ignore the rules of pause only for this exercise.)