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Lesson 8: Arabic Alphabet: Vowels III (Short Vowels & Shadda)

Short vowels are literally spoken at a shorter duration than the long vowels.

Short Vowels
Short Vowel Transcription
َX (فتحة , fat7a) a, e
ُX (ضمّة , Damma) o, u
ِX (كسرة , kasra) i, e

The fat7a is pronounced like ‘hat’ or ‘shot’; the Damma in pronounced like ‘so’ or ‘dupe’; the kasra is pronounced like ‘sit’ or ‘bet’. Note that these pronunciations are not only shorter in duration than their long vowel equivalents, but also slightly different in pronunciation.

Short vowels are written above and below the consonants that precede the vowel. These markings are called diacritics. They are not written in Egyptian Arabic and only rarely in Standard. If you have experience in Standard Arabic then you’ll have an idea of the proper pronunciation of words in Egyptian, however the Egyptian dialect almost always omits short vowels in writing. Keep an ear open and an eye on the transcriptions for proper pronunciation.

There is also a diacritic that indicates the absense of a vowel where two consonants are clustered together. For example, the first two letters (consonants) ‘s’ and ‘p’ in the English word ‘spelling’ form a consonant cluster. This is called the sukuun: ـْـ , which is a small circle placed above and between the two consonants to indicate a consonant cluster.

The shadda is another diacritic that can appear above every letter except the alif. The shadda doubles the length of a consonant. This means that you literally pronounce the consonant twice as long as you would otherwise. This fact is reflected in the transcription. You’ve already seen the shadda in Nonconnected letters II:

English Transcription Egyptian Arabic
how ezzaay ازّاي

The shadda appears here over the zaay (ز). It is written like a slanted ‘w’.

Look at this blown up version: زّNote that when the shadda appears over a waaw (و) or yaa2 (ي), the consonant form is doubled (only the consonant form; never the vowel form).


Now let’s look at basic names of places in the  Egyptian Arabic.

English Transcription Egyptian Arabic
university gam3a جامعة
home beet بيت
School madrassa مدرسة
Street shari3 شارع
flat sha2a شقة
bathroom 7amam حمام
kitchen maTba7′ مطبخ
swimming pool 7amam siba7a حمام سباحة
Square medan ميدان
room 2oda اوضة