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Diacritics

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As you might have noticed the Arabic alphabet does not represent short vowels, and the letters that represent long vowels such as waw also represent semi-vowels (e.g., w in we and y in yes). Short vowels can be represented by diacritics placed above or below the letter, as you will learn in this lesson. However, remember that most Arabic texts do not use diacritics.

There are six vowels in Arabic: three long ones (/a:/ as in part, /i:/ as in sleep, /u:/ as in moose) as well as three short ones (/a/ as in had, /i/ as in fit, and /u/ as in foot). Note that the Arabic short vowels have roughly the same length as their English counterparts, yet the Arabic long vowels are at least twice as long as the English ones. There is also variation in the quality of the vowels depending on the preceding and following consonants.

Diacritics for the short vowels