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I recently had to explain to one of my students the reason I sometime pronounce the tied-up taa’ ـة , which is found at the end of a word, and sometimes I don’t! This blog post will provide you with some tips so you can recognise the two often-confused forms of the bound-up taa’: the one that is pronounced and the one that is NOT – the silent one.
What’s the problem?
The struggle that many learners of Arabic face may with this particular letter (tied-up taa’) is usually to do with the lack of distinction between the two forms this letter takes. The tied-up taa’ is either pronounced, thus written as ة ـة or not (silent), thus written as ه ـه . However, many native speakers don’t pay attention to this difference and write it the same, even though they would make a clear distinction in the pronunciation, depending on the context.
When to pronounce it – ‘at’ – and when to leave it out – ‘ah/a’?
1- In everyday, spoken Arabic, the tied-up taa’ is hardly pronounced! The silent form (ah/a) is more common ـه ه
This is mainly because inflection in often dropped in spoken/colloquial Arabic, and therefore, word endings are not marked with any inflection and so they are mostly silent.
So, it’s more likely that you hear :
pronounced as ‘fataa’ rather than ‘fataat‘
even if it was in the middle of a sentence where it would usually be inflected.
However>> If for example, it (the words fataa) is used in a formal setting, e.g. news programme, it’s usually pronounced because it needs to be inflected, according to Standard Arabic rules. Depending on its function in the sentence (which determines the inflection needed), it could be pronounced as:
فتاةْ – فتاةَ – فتاةِ – فتاةُ
fataat – fataata – fataati – fataatu
2- The tied-up taa’ is usually silent when nothing comes after it.
So, if I ask you ‘what number is this? [Referring to five], your answer should be:
Khamsah or khamsa
But if it’s followed by another word, such as:
خمسة تفاحات (Five apples)
the tied-up taa’ in khamsa should be pronounced>> Khmsat tuffaahaat
*Exception to this rule: in colloquial Arabic, the tied-up taa’ here is silent> khamsah tuffaahaat
3- Finally, the tied-up taa’ is pronounced in the case of ‘Idaadah’ إضافة or addition, when referring to a relation of possession.
on its own is pronounced as ‘hadeeqah’
but if you add another word to it, such as ‘The neighbourhood’ – as in the park belongs to the neighbourhood or it’s the neogihbourhood’s park:
Here, the tied-up taa’ should be pronounced:
(The neightbourhood’s park)