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Long vowels

Previously we went over the 'alif which can be used as the long vowel 'aa' in the middle or end of a word but is just used as a "seat" for the hamza and a short vowel if it occurs as the first letter in a word.

This lesson we will cover the two remaining long vowels: waaw and yaa'. These two letters always represent a consonant when used as the first letter of a word but can represent either a consonant or long vowel when used elsewhere.

waaw - و
The letter waaw represents a 'w' sound if it occurs at the beginning of a word. If it occurs in the middle of a word it can represent either a 'w' or the long vowel 'uu'.


Transliteration: uu or w. Other texts may use ū for uu.It is a non-connecting letter so it only has two forms:

Independent Final

yaa' - ي
Like waaw the letter yaa' represents a consonant ('y') when it is the beginning of a word but it can represent either 'y' or the long vowel 'ii' when it occurs in the middle or end of a word.

Transliteration: ii or y.

It is a connecting letter and therefore has four forms:

Independent Final Medial Initial

As you can see the primary characteristic of yaa' is two dots below the line. Don't confuse this with taa' which has two dots above the line.

Long vowel or consonant?
So if waaw and yaa' can be either a consonant or a vowel how can you tell which one it is?

There are two answers:
  • If the text has all the diacritics written out then you will be able to tell by the adjacent diacritics.
  • If you are reading the 95% of all texts which don't have diacritics written out then you will need to know the word and recognize it.
Let's go over some examples:

Example 1: baa' + yaa' + taa'

House - bayt

Pronunciation: Here we start of with a baa' that has a fatHa so we know it is pronounced 'ba'. Next is a yaa' in the middle of a word so it could be either 'y' or 'ii'. However since the short vowel 'a' before it does not match the long vowel 'ii' then it must be used as the consonant 'y'.

Writing: Since all the letters used are connecting letters the entire word is written connected.

Example 2: taa'+ waaw + taa'

Mulberry - tuut

Pronunciation: Here we start with taa' and damma so we know the word starts with 'tu'. So is the waaw afterwards being used as a long vowel 'uu' or the consonant 'w'? Since the previous vowel 'u' does match the long vowel and since there is no other diacritic over the waaw then it is being used as the long vowel 'uu'.

Note that if one of the other short vowels (a or i) was written over the waaw then it would mean waaw was being used as a consonant and the word would be pronounced tawt or tiwt.

Writing: Since the waaw in the middle is non-connecting the letter to its left (taa') ends up written in independent form.