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Writing in Arabic: Hamza sitting on Waaw and Yaa

Updated on May 11, 2017

Hamza on Waaw and Yaa

Hamza is unique in Arabic, as it represents the absence or break of sound, or what linguists call a glottal stop, such as the halt in "uh-oh." Furthermore, any word beginning with a vowel, in fact, begins with this glottal-stop, although we are not attuned to hearing this in English.

Therefore, while a word may sound in Arabic as though it begins with a vowel, it in fact begins with a hamza. When hamza occurs at the beginning of a word, it “sits” on or below the letter alif (ا ). If the hamza occurs in the medial or final position of a word, it may sit on alif, waaw, yaa or on the line.

– on the line ء

–“sitting” on alif: أ

–”sitting” on waaw: ؤ

–”sitting” on yaa: ئ

...but which seat?

If hamza may sit on waaw or yaa when in the medial or final position, how is this seat determined? The seat that hamza takes is determined by the other long and/or short vowels surrounding it in that word. According to this rule, yaa and kasra are the strongs, waaw and Damma are middle strength and alif and fatHa are the weakest.

... can I see an example?

How does this help us determine the “seat” for hamza? Let’s take it apart with the example word, "airplane": طائِرة


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