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[ت] , [ــة] , or [ــه]: How to Differentiate Betwe

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[ت] , [ــة] , or [ــه]: How to Differentiate Between Them?

For learners of Arabic, as is the case for native speakers, it is normally difficult to distinguish between [ت], [ــة], and [ــه] when they occur at the end of words. [ت] is called taa maftuHah تَاء مَفْتُوحَة, [ــة] is called taa marbuTah تَاء مَرْبُوطَة , and [ــه] is called haa or haa marbuTah هَاء / هَاء مَرْبُوَطة. While native speakers’ problem is mainly orthographic, Arabic learners’ problems is both orthographic and in pronunciation. How is each of these letters pronounced? What are the similarities and differences between them? Does knowing the right pronunciation help with correct spelling?

التاء المربوطة والمفتوحة

image by Ibn al-Yemen

1) Pronunciation and Usage:

  • التَّاء المَفْتُوحَة:

التَّاء المَفْتُوحَة is always pronounced ت regardless of the type of diacritical mark that goes with it, i.e. fatHah, Kasrah, dhammah, or sukoon (see this blogpost) or their corresponding tanween . Therefore, [ت] is always pronounced as ت in all these cases:

بِنْتْ             بِنْتٌ       بِنْتًا        بِنْتٍ       البِنْتَ      البِنْتِ      البِنْتُ

التَّاء المَفْتُوحَة is used with singular nouns, such as بَيْت ‘house,’ and أُخْت ‘sister’; with feminine plural nouns, such as بَنَاتْ ‘girls’ and مُعَلِّمَات ‘female teachers’; and with verbs as a feminine marker, like ذَهَبَتْ ‘she went’ and كَتَبَتْ ‘she wrote’ and as part of verb, such as مَاتَ ‘he died’ and سَكَتَ ‘he stopped talking.’

  • التَّاء المَرْبُوطَة:

التَّاء المَرْبُوطَة is pronounced as هـ when we stop on it (this is called waqf وَقْف  in Arabic, which I will elaborate on in another post); in other words, it has a sukoon on it. With all other diacritical marks, it is pronounced in the same way as التَّاء المَفْتُوحَة, but written as ــة, as in these examples:

  • As [هـ]:

طَوِيلَةْ ‘tall’           الطَّوِيلَةْ               شَجَرَةْ  ‘tree’      الشَّجَرَةْ

  • As [ت]: ­­

طَوِيلَةً        طَوِيلَةٍ     طَوِيلةٌ                 الطَّوِيلَةً               الطَوِيلَةِ               الطَوِيلَةُ

التَّاء المَرْبُوطَة is used as a feminine marker of proper nouns. That is, almost all proper nouns that end in تَاء مَرْبُوطَة are feminine forms. It is also used to derived feminine forms from masculine. For instance, these adjectives and nouns are in masculine form: نَشِيط ‘active’, ذَكِي ‘intelligent’ and أُسْتَاذ ‘teacher’, عَامِل ‘worker’. Feminine forms are formed by appending ــة  to the end, i.e. نَشِيطَة, ذَكِيَّة, أُستَاذَة, and عَامِلَة, respectively.

  • الهَاء:

الهاء is always pronounced as هـ whether accompanied by a diacritical marked or not, as in these examples:

وَجْه  ‘face’ الوَجْهَ     الوَجْهِ     الوَجْهُ     مِيَاه  water’       مِيَاهٌ       المِيَاهُ     المِيَاهَ     المِيَاهِ

الهَاء  can be part of the word, as in وَجْه. It is also a possessive pronounce appended to the end of nouns to indicate possession, as in كِتَابُهُ  ‘his book’ and أُستَاذُه ‘his teacher.’ If added to the end of verbs, it is normally an object pronoun, i.e. the receiver of the action, as in ضَرَبَهُ  ‘he hit him’ and حَبَّتْهُ ‘she loved him.’ It is also add to the end of preposition (called object of a preposition), as in بِهِ  ‘with it’ and إِلَيهِ ‘to him.’

2) Similarities and Differences:

  • [ت] and [ــة]: they are pronounced in the same way when التَّاء المَربُوطَة is accompanied by tanween or any of the three short vowels. The only difference between the two is that التَّاء المَربُوطَة  is pronounced as هـ when we stop on it. Another obvious difference is the way they are written [ت] vs. [ــة]. This is one the difficulties native speakers face. Since they hear ــة  as ـت, they write/misspell it as [ت].
  • [ــة] and [ــه]: التَّاء المَربُوطَة is basically pronounced as هـ when we stop on it. In this sense, they are the same. This, as a result, constitutes a major difficult for native speakers and learners of Arabic; namely in writing. They write التَّاء المَربُوطَة  as هـ  all the time given that adding sukoon to word endings has become a commonplace in Modern Standard Arabic. Therefore, words such as جَمِيلَة ‘pretty’, طَالِبَة  ‘female student’, مُدِيرَة  ‘female manager’ are incorrectly written as جَمِيلَه , طَالِبَه, and مُدِيرَه, respectively.

3) A rule to keep in mind:

  • To distinguish between [ت] and [ــة], use taskeen تَسْكِين (adding of sukoon) as a test. If you add sukoon to the [ــة], it is pronounced as هـ rather than ت. If the pronunciation remains ت despite the taskeen, then it is [ت] not [ــة].
  • To distinguish between [ــة] and [ــه], use taHreek تَحْرِيك (adding of diacritical marks or tanween). If you add a diacritical mark (other than the sukoon) or tanween to [ــة], it pronounced as ت; conversely, if you use taskeen, it is pronounced as ــه. This way we know whether it is a ــة  or a هـ. As cited above, [ــه] is always هـ  regardless of تَسْكِين or تَحْرِيك.

Now, let’s put what just leaned into practice. Paying attention to the presence or absence of final diacritical marks, say these words out loud.

دَجَاجَة    الغُرفَةُ    سُكُوت    قَلمَهُ       سَاعَات   جَامِعَةٍ    المَدْرَسةِ             حَيَاة       حَيَاةٍ       الحَيَاةُ     حَبِيْبَة     سَارَة


Posted by ibn al-Yemen on Apr 24, 2017 in Arabic Language, Grammar, Pronunciation, Vocabulary


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