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When people speak, it is common that certain sounds get assimilated, dropped, or blended. In English, for example, “does she” is pronounced as “dushee” in connected speech. In Arabic, the most common assimilation and/or dropping occurs with the definite article ال and with the alif of imperative tri-consonantal verbs (i.e. verbs that have a root of three consonants) and with alif of verbs that have a root of five or more letters. The alif in these cases is called alif al-wasl أَلِفُ الوَصل in Arabic grammar. In isolated words, it is essential that أَلِفُ الوَصْل be pronounced because it is articulatorily impossible to start a word in Arabic with a letter/sound that does not have either fatHah, dhammah, or kasrah on it (see this blog), as in these examples:
However, this alif gets dropped (but is still written) when the preceding letter/sound is part of a preposition, such as فِي , مِن, عَن, و, بـ, كـ etc. or a diacriticized letter, as in these examples:
If the alif is preceded by the preposition لـ ‘for’ it is neither written nor pronounced, as in these examples:
If the alif in the definite article ال is followed by a word that begins with a sun letter (see this post), both the alif al-Wasl and the ل get assimilated (but they are still written), as in these examples:
Alif al-wasl ألِفُ الوَصِل in Arabic is a plain alif, i.e. alif without hamzah ء . If it is written with hamzah (above or below, i.e. أ or إ), it is known as alif al-qaT’ أَلِفُ القَطع. Contrary to أَلِفُ الوَصل, it is not affected by connected speech. That is, it is still pronounced regardless of the preceding or following letters or sounds, as in the following examples:
Knowing these rules help you comprehend the speech of native speakers of Arabic more easily. Besides, putting them into practice makes your speech of Arabic more intelligible. More importantly, you will certainly speak a lot more fluently. To change these rule from mere knowledge about the language to actual linguistic ability in your speech, it is important that you practice them as much as possible so that they become commonplace and automatic for you. This said, let’s put what we just learned into practice.
a) Read loudly paying attention أَلِفُ الوَصل
ذَهَبْتُ إِلَى الشَّرِكَة.
هَذَا مَكْتَبُ اِستِقبَال.
وَضَعْتُ الصُّورَة فَوقَ النَّافِذَة.
b) Distinguish between أَلِفُ الوَصل and أَلِفُ القَطْع
أَنَا أُشَاهِدُ التِّلْفِزِيون.
أَكْرَم وَالوَلَد يَلْعَبَان فِي الحَدِيقَة.
قَالَ بِأَنَّ السَّيَّارَةَ جَدِيدَةٌ.
هَذَا البَاب كَبِيرٌ وتِلْكَ النَّافِذَةُ صَغِيرَة.