Word stress in MSA follows a precise set of rules, which are described consistently in various Arabic grammar textbooks, e.g. Ryding's "A Reference Grammar of Modern Standard Arabic" (2005). However, none of the textbooks I have consulted describes what happens to the stress when the word starts with an elided hamza ("hamzat al-waSl").

Consider the following examples:

  1. اقرا iq-ra' ("Read!" [2nd person, male])

    According to the rules, the first syllable should get the stress, however the presence of an elided hamza indicates that the "i" sound is auxiliary, so logically the stress should fall on the second syllable. Is this the case?

  2. واقرا هذه الكليمات waq-ra' haa-dhi-hi l-ka-li-maa-ti ("... And read these words!" [2nd person, male])

    Unlike the first example, here the hamza actually gets elided. Where does the stress fall? If it falls on the first syllable, it means that the conjunction "and" gets the stress, but it seems unnatural that a particle would get the stress. So does the stress fall on the second syllable?

  3. اب وابن a-bun wa-bnun ("A father and a son.")

    In this case both the first syllable and the second syllable (of both words) are auxiliary, so where do the stresses fall?

  4. اخذت ابنا وذهبت a-khadh-tu bnan wa-dha-hab-tu ("I grabbed a son and walked away.")

    In this case the first syllable is elided, and the second syllable is auxiliary, so that the actual word is reduced to zero syllables. Where does the stress fall in this case?

  • 1
    Welcome to Ling.SE. Questions such as this one are considered off-topic here: linguistics.stackexchange.com/help/on-topic
    – prash
    Jun 22, 2014 at 2:39
  • @prash: I see. Do you have any suggestion where else I might post this question that would be appropriate?
    – Evan Aad
    Jun 22, 2014 at 8:28
  • 2
    @EvanAad: At this point the best you can do is to throw your weight into either of both of the proposed sites languishing on Area 51 where this question would be on topic: Arabic Language and Languages. The latter proposal is to cover non-linguistic questions on any language that doesn't have enough support for a standalone site all to itself. Jun 22, 2014 at 9:57
  • 4
    I don't see why this is off topic. But why don't you try the Semitic languages/Arabic forum on wordreference.com. I will answer if you ask there.
    – fdb
    Jun 22, 2014 at 10:39
  • 1
    @fdb: the explanations are here: meta.linguistics.stackexchange.com/questions/121/…
    – prash
    Jun 23, 2014 at 0:48

2 Answers 2


i am Arabic but i don't now those rules, so if it's not for some exams you don't really need to bother yourself with them. there is no problem if you pronounce them all. it's like US English, some letter in some words can be felt even if not pronounced.
i can tell a simple rule for hamza, we always pronounce it if it's at the start of the phrase. and we don't, when you feel that it sounds like you have pronounced it even if you didn't, you will get the feeling with practice. the words that obligate it's pronunciation change meaning if it's not pronounced.

ex: ابن وابن sound : ibn wa-bn, it will never be mestaked with another word in any context in the phrase.
ex: اخذت واخذت sound : akhadtu wa akhadtu, if we pronounce it as wakhadtu it will be mistaken with another verb wakhada or if there isn't other word it will be difficult or impossible to understand what you say.

  • 4
    I don't think it's an issue of "bothering", rather it is a potentially interesting linguistic question regarding how stress is assigned in case, for instance, a vowel is epenthetic. The colloquial languages vary in terms of the opacity of epenthetic vowels. The problem as I see it is that MSA is not the language that people grow up speaking, so one would have to device an observational experiment that controlled facts of local dialect, to see if definite answered emerged.
    – user6726
    Nov 15, 2015 at 22:13

Actually there is rules for what we call hamzat al wasl, that we don't pronounce in middle, and most specifically after some letters(considered a word) like و ف ل ب أ

  • 3 letters verbs: in order like(كتب أكتب - kataba oktob - write)
  • 5, and 6 letters verbs: in order and past (انطلق - intalaka - went), and their root(source) (انطلاق - start going).

list of this nouns :

  • ابن، ابنة، ابنان، ابنتان
  • اثنان، اثنتان
  • امرؤ، امرأة، امرأتان، امرآن
  • اسم، اسمان

but any way this thing is one of the thing that you can ignore, you will catch it without knowing if you learn the basics, as you may know that we don't use vowels because Arabic has magical phrase structures, you will assume them without problems, same happen with a lot of thing, if you learn the basics you will find you self capable of doing a lot of thing.

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    This really doesn't answer the question, which you'll notice is about stress.
    – user6726
    Nov 18, 2015 at 17:51
  • OK i get it wrong but what does the stress means, if you know Arabic could you translate this word so i could understand better? Nov 19, 2015 at 11:38
  • It means the syllable whose vowel is most prominent, (maybe highest pitch or loudest volume or some combination, depending on the language). Wiktionary seems to say the translation is نَبْر, but I wouldn't trust that very far - it doesn't give me a back-translation.
    – Colin Fine
    Apr 17, 2016 at 20:38

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