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I Need Help with Alif ا

Alif is really confusing me. It seems to have arbitrary and sporadic transliterations. The most common one I see is "aa" which sounds like A as in Late, but I also hear it translated as "ah" like a as in "yawn".

Are there rules for when it sounds like "ā" and when it sounds like "ah"? If so, what are these rules?

August 6, 2019


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To start with, the speech machine provided for the Arabic course here is not good. So, I wouldn't be surprised if there were mistakes indeed in saying some words or vowels.
Alif can be used in both ways, either as a consonant (glottal stop) or as a long vowel (á). I might need to see a real word in front of me to tell how it should sound. Anyhow, hopefully these tips would help:
1. Alif without Hamza (ء) on it or under it, at the beginning of the word, as the case with الـ is sometimes called Hamzat Wassl (همزة وصل, Hamza of connection), ironically though there is no Hamza on it. This kind of Alif is approximated to a Schwa. It has a short length and gives way to the preceding vowel (if there is any) to take over (and hence you would hear two words connected together, e.g. the man's house منزلُ الرّجل manzilu-rrajul).
2. Alif with Hamza under it or on top of it (إ أ) is always a glottal stop "a" (even at the middle of the word). If the Hamza is on top then it is (A) if the Hamza is under then it is (I).
3. Sometimes, you might see a special kind of Hamza, called Hamzat Mad (lengthening Hamza) which is like آ and this is like a glottal stop followed by a long vowel "A" so anyway it does not differ much from (á) when its in the beginning of the word, but when it comes in the middle of the word, the glottal stop must be apparent (e.g. Al-2aan الآن meaning Now).

Hope these tips help. And if there is any particular word you are wondering about I might help with it if you can post it here :)


I see. Thank you :)

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