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Question about diacritics

In the Arabic lessons, diacritics are constantly used to help learn the pronunciation of certain words. I was wondering if diacritics are actually used in normal Arabic writing. I often see Arabic words written without them, but are pronounced as if they have them.

Are words that sound like they would have diacritics in them words that you just have to memorize the pronunciation of? Or do some places or occasions use diacritics while some others don't?

A thing I like to do is go on Google Maps to Arab countries to try and read/pronounce the names of cities and towns. A lot of the time the pronunciation of the word adds vowels in between letters that are written.

Here is an example: The city "Tabuk" in Saudi Arabia is written like "تبوك". If you were to translate that directly, it would be "tbuk," even though it is pronounced as "tabuk," which would be تَبوك with a diacritic over the ت.

One thing that contradicts this observation is I also see some people use diacritics while typing online. I am in a Discord server that features an Arabic chat, and I sometimes go in and read what they are saying. They often speak with diacritics.

Are diacritics purely an Internet thing, or do you think that everyone in that chat is only using them because they too are rusty with Arabic and find it easier? Or is it just a random thing that are sometimes used? Or are they rarely used and you just have to memorize the pronunciation and spelling of specific words?

August 9, 2019


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Diacritics, or harakat, are essential part of the Arabic language and writing. However, because we as Arabs are used to the language, we can read without them and we can differentiate between words of the same shape but different meaning by the context as well. I'm not sure what "Discord" server is, but anyway, even in official letters at work or ads we don't typically type diacritics unless we want to emphasize something, depending on the context. For example, let's suppose I'm typing an article for some newspaper and I typed the word يعرف (ya3rif: he knows). Someone might read it right away as (ya3rif). However, let's suppose I didn't mean that way but I wanted the passive form, then I would just bring the attention to this point and type it as يُعرف (yu3raf: he is known) - I just placed Dhamma on the first letter because this is how the passive is spelled and to bring attention that this is yu3raf and not ya3rif.

Hopefully in time you will get used to it. Ancient Arabic used to be written without dots even and people were fine with that and could read it depending on the shapes of the letters alone. Now, dots are an essential part of the Arabic letter. Diacritics also gone through some changes until the recent shape we have now, but generally speaking, in daily life we don't use it unless to be specific about something.
About your example for تبوك ... just remember one rule for proper Arabic: A word never starts with a stable consonant or a consonant cluster; Meaning there must be a vowel (short or long) for the first letter of the word, always. This is for proper Arabic; Dialects now break this rule.


Ok, thanks for the help :)


No diacritics are basically the vowels of arabic, they're used a lot. I'm moroccan, my mother tongue is dialecet arabic which we call darija, a bit more complicated than arabic. In my primary books, we had them all over but once in middle school, we remembered the words we had a large vocabulary so we just managed to read without them, writing without them is easy as well. We had a special class called الشكل where we chose which one fits best on each letter and it'd be like a text. So for example Fatima is فاطمةwith شكلit's فَاطِمَة. The chakl of the last letter or two often depends on the use of the word, if it's subject, object etc. I hope this helps. One more thing, just be patient with yourself, it's a very difficult language, I was born into it, I've learned French, English and I'm pretty good at them but i still face troubles with arabic, even though it's the one I've known the longest

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