Screenshot from a book that confuses me. Why fatha is between ta and alif?

Thank you!

screenshot from a book that confuses me

3 Answers 3


Convention, really.

You're right that a medial alif with no diacritics unambiguously means ā. However, some books like to use harakat "fully"—that is, putting a vowel marker or sukun on every single consonant—and in this tradition, the long vowels ā ī ū are written fathah-alif, kasrah-ya', dammah-waw.

Is it strictly necessary? Not at all; you could get rid of all sukun and all harakat before long vowels without introducing any ambiguity. But if you ask most Arabic-speakers, harakat in general aren't strictly necessary, and people get by just fine without them. They're mostly used in religious texts and texts for language-learners, and in those contexts, the additional clarity is considered to be worth the extra ink.

  • Awesome answer, thank you! Nov 25, 2019 at 17:50
  • I'm actually confused by the use of vowel diacritics in Arabic. I also thought they were not normally used, but then an Egyptian fellow I know says they are used in virtually every modern thing, including digital communication if I understood him correctly. May also vary depending on the country, I guess...
    – LjL
    Nov 25, 2019 at 18:47
  • Much the same thing (mutatis mutandis) can be said about Masoretic vowel points in Hebrew. Modern Hebrew writers rarely use them, but they're always available.
    – jlawler
    Nov 25, 2019 at 23:44

Traditional Arabic grammar analyses the phoneme /a:/ as the ḥarika “fatḥ” followed by ʼalif sākina. This is fully reflected by the vocalised spelling.


If you omit sukun and harakat, you cannot correctly read رأس or تأشيرة. Of course, native speakers don't need that help.

  • There are no native speakers of al-ʽarabiyya al-fuṣḥā. It is learnt in school.
    – fdb
    Nov 26, 2019 at 10:27

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