Vowels in Arabic: The Long Vowels, Alif, Waw and Ya

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Vowels in Arabic: The Long Vowels, Alif, Waw and Ya

To learn vowels is to learn to speak… says Kaleela. Well, we obviously just made this up. BUT, we all know how important it is to use and say vowels properly. Imagine telling someone you look fat, instead of fit. It is a life or death situation. There are known Arabic long vowels that we are going to breakdown through examples, one by one. This is an easy Arabic vowels lesson for beginners.

Let’s start with the vowels meaning in Arabic, which is harakat for short vowels, written حركات, and harf illa for long vowels, written حرف علة.

Alif

We all know it is the first letter of the alphabet, but it also happens to be the first long vowel in the Arabic language.

Phonetically speaking, alif, written الف, is represented like this /ā/. The short vowel /a/ is taken from the Arabic vowel /ā/. The word “sat” is a perfect example for this long vowel.

Alif is presented like this: ا

For example, the letter فis pronounced /fa’/, however, with the long vowel alif, it becomes فا pronounced /fā /. It takes the letter up. Let’s look at an example:


WordTransliterationMeaning
فارس/fāris/Knight


Waw

Our second long vowel is waw.

Waw, واو, is the long /u/ sound, represented like this /ū/. For example, the word “spoon” sounds out the /ū/ sound. This vowel is written like this: و

Let’s take the same letter ف, pronounced /fa’/, and add our second long vowel واو, it becomes فو pronounced /fū /. It forces the lips to be rounded in order to make the sound properly. The short vowel damma is taken from the long vowel waw. Here is the example:  


WordTransliterationMeaning
فولاذ/fūlāth/Steel  

Notice that this example has both the waw and alif long vowels, respectively.  

Ya

Last but not least, the ya long vowel. 

Represented using /ī/ symbol, Ya orياء, is the third and last long vowel in the Arabic language. The exact sound can be heard in the word “deep” and it is written like this: ي

Again, we are going to take the letter ف. We will see that it transforms from /fa’/ into /fī/ once we add the ي vowel to it. The short vowel kasra is taken from this long vowel. Let take a look at the example:


WordTransliterationMeaning
فيل/fīl/Elephant

These vowels are applicable to every consonant in the Arabic language. For example:  


فارس  /fāris/ Knightفولاذ /fūlath/ Steelفيل /fīl/ Elephant
راقي /rāqi/ Elegantرومان / rūmān/ Romansريم /rīm/ Reem (name)
تكاثر  /takāthur/ reproductionكورة /kūra/ Ballكيس  /kīs/


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