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Arabic diacritics

Diacritics are symbols applied on the alphabets which change how to pronounced the alphabet e.g. د is pronounced as /dal/ where as دَ is pronounced as /da/. Some of the main diacritics is explained here. Normally diacritics is not used in English with exceptions of: café, résumé etc. These diacritics are:

Fatḥah  ـَ  

Kasrah ـِ

Ḍammah ـُ

Maddah ـٓ

Dagger alif ــٰ

Alif waslah ٱ

Sukun ـْـ

ـٍ ـٌ ـً تَنْوِين

Shaddah ـّـ

These are further explained as below.

Fatḥah  ـَ  

The fatḥah فَتْحَة is a small diagonal line placed above a letter, and represents a short /a/. e.g.

دَ /da/

Kasrah ـِ

A similar diagonal line below a letter is called a kasrah كَسْرَة and designates a short /i/. e.g.

دِ /di/

Ḍammah ـُ

The ḍammah ضَمَّة is a small curl-like diacritic placed above a letter to represent a short /u/. Example:

دُ /du/

Maddah ـٓ

The maddah مَدَّة is a tilde-like diacritic (~) which can appear only on top of an alif and indicates a glottal stop followed by a long /a/ e.g:

قُرْآن

Dagger alif ــٰ

The superscript (or dagger) alif أَلِف خَنْجَرِيَّة (alif khanjarīyah), is written as short vertical stroke on top of a consonant. It indicates a long /aː/ (play) sound where alif is normally not written, e.g:

هٰذَا (hādhā)

رَحْمٰن (raḥmān)

Alif waslah ٱ

Looks like a small letter ṣād on top of an alif ٱ (also indicated by an alif ا without a hamzah). It means that the alif is not pronounced, e.g.

في ٱليمن or في اليمن

Sukun ـْـ

The sukūn سُكُون is a circle-shaped diacritic placed above a letter. It indicates that the consonant to which it is attached is not followed by a vowel; this is a necessary symbol for writing consonant-vowel-consonant syllables, which are very common in Arabic. Example:

(دَدْ) dad

ـٍ ـٌ ـً تَنْوِين

The three vowel diacritics may be doubled at the end of a word to indicate that the vowel is followed by the consonant ‘n’. These may or may not be considered ḥarakāt, and are known as tanwīn.

ـً 

ـٍ 

ـٌ 

Shaddah ـّـ

The shadda or shaddah شَدَّة, or tashdid تَشْدِيد (tashdīd), is a diacritic shaped like a small written Latin “w”. It is used to indicate gemination (consonant doubling or extra length). It is written above the consonant which is to be doubled. Example:

دّ /dd/

Comparing how to speak without shaddah and with shaddah:

madrasah مَدْرَسَة (‘school’) vs mudarrisah مُدَرِّسَة (‘teacher’, female)

Part 6/6: Maddah letters

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