Arabic Grammar – 50

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►II.12. SHORTENED ʔalif

It was mentioned in §II.4.C.b. that terminal long vowels are pronounced short. This is probably the reason for why terminal vowel-denoting ʔalif was called by grammarians “the shortened ʔalif” الْأَلِفُ الْمَقْصُورَةُ . The term “shortened ʔalif” was applied by grammarians not only to vowel-denoting ʔalif but also to this letter ى , which differs from yȃʔ ي  only by lacking the two dots below. (Note, however, that in Egypt the two dots of yȃʔ are usually left unwritten.)

In origin the symbols ى  and ي  both represented the same letter, which is yȃʔ. However, when a terminal yȃʔ was preceded by a short vowel a in an unstressed syllable the terminal yȃʔ was dropped from speech in most dialects of Classical Arabic. That is to say, unstressed terminal –ay was reduced to –a (in many dialects the actual pronunciation was –ey > –e, and this still exists today) (see §II.19. & §II.21.A.h.η.). Thus, original –ay and –ȃ both merged phonetically as –a. This is the reason why grammarians applied the term “shortened ʔalif” to both terminal ـــَـــا and ـــَـــــى .

On this website the shortened ʔalif which looks ى will be transliterated ·y (a y preceded by a dot).

Syllable Transliteration Sound
كَيْ kay kaj
كَىْ ka·y ka


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