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Hamza

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Hamza

Hamza (Arabic: همزة‎, hamzah) (ء) is a letter in the Arabic alphabet, representing the glottal stop [ʔ]. Hamza is not one of the 28 "full" letters, and owes its existence to historical inconsistencies in the standard writing system. It is derived from the Arabic letter ‘ayn. In the Phoenician and Aramaic alphabets, from which the Arabic alphabet is descended, the glottal stop was expressed by aleph (), continued by alif ) in the Arabic alphabet. However, alif was used to express both a glottal stop and a long vowel /aː/. To indicate that a glottal stop, and not a mere vowel, was intended, hamza was added diacritically to alif. In modern orthography, under certain circumstances, hamza may also appear on the line, as if it were a full letter, independent of an alif. In Unicode it is at the codepoint U+0621 and named 'ARABIC LETTER HAMZA'.

Etymology

Hamzah is a noun from the verb هَمَزَ hamaz-a meaning ‘to prick, goad, drive’ or ‘to provide (a letter or word) with hamzah’.[1]

Hamzat waṣl

The hamza letter on its own always represents hamzat qaṭ‘ (همزة قطع); that is, a phonemic glottal stop. Compared to this, hamzat waṣl or hamzat al-waṣl (همزة الوصل) is a non-phonemic glottal stop produced automatically at the beginning of an utterance. Although it can be written as alif carrying a waṣlah sign ٱ, it is usually indicated by a regular alif without a hamza. It occurs, for example, in the definite article al-, ism, ibn, imperative verbs and the perfective aspect of verb forms VII to X, but is not pronounced following a vowel: (e.g. al-baytu l-kabīru for written البيت الكبير). It occurs only at the beginning of a word following a preposition or the definite article.

Orthography

The hamza can be written alone, as if it was a letter, or with a carrier, in which case it becomes a diacritic:

  • Alone: (only one isolated form, the same form being also sometimes used in initial positions without perching it over an alif, and without joining with any following letter like most Arabic letters in initial positions):
  • By itself as a high hamza (not used in Arabic language; only one isolated form, but actually used in medial and final positions where it will be non joining), after any Arabic letter (if that letter has an initial or medial form, these forms will be changed to isolated or final forms respectively):
  • Combined with a letter:
  • Above or below an alif:
Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form: ـأ أ
Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form: إ ـإ ـإ إ
  • Above a wāw:
Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form: ؤ ـؤ ـؤ ؤ
  • Above a dotless yā’, also called hamzah ‘alá nabrah / yā’ hamzah. Joined medially and finally in Arabic, other languages written in Arabic-based script may have it initially as well (or it may take its isolated or initial shape, even in Arabic, after a non-joining letter in the same word):
Position in word: Isolated Final Medial Initial
Glyph form: ئ ـئ ـئـ ئـ

Summary

  • Initial hamza is always placed over or under an alif, or sometimes over a dotless yā’. Otherwise, surrounding vowels determine the seat of the hamza – but, preceding long vowels or diphthongs are ignored (as are final short vowels).
  • i- over u- over a- if there are two conflicting vowels that "count"; on the line if there are none.
  • As a special case, ā’a, ū’a and aw’a require hamza on the line, instead of over an alif as one would expect from rule #1. (See III.1b below.)
  • Two adjacent alifs are never allowed. If the rules call for this, replace the combination by a single alif-maddah.

Detailed description

  • Logically, hamza is just like any other letter, but it may be written in different ways. It has no effect on the way other letters are written. In particular, surrounding long vowels are written just as they always are, regardless of the "seat" of the hamza—even if this results in the appearance of two consecutive wāws or yā’s.
  • Hamza can be written in four ways: on its own ("on the line") or over an alif, wāw, or yā’, called the "seat" of the hamza. When written over yā’, the dots that would normally be written underneath are omitted.
  • When, according to the rules below, a hamza with an alif seat would occur before an alif which represents the vowel ā, a single alif is instead written with the maddah symbol over it.
  • The rules for hamza depend on whether it occurs as the initial, middle, or final letter (not sound) in a word. (Thus, final short inflectional vowels do not count, but when -an is written as alif + nunation, it does count and the hamza is considered medial.)

I. If the hamza is initial:

  • If the following letter is a short vowel: fatḥah (a) (as in أفراد afrād) or ḍammah (u) (as in أصول uṣūl), the hamza is written over a place-holding alif; kasrah (i) (as in إسلام islām) the hamza is written under a place-holding alif. This is called "hamza on a wall."
  • If the letter following the hamza is an alif itself: (as in آكل ākul) alif maddah will occur.

II. If the hamza is final:

  • If a short vowel precedes: the hamza is written over the letter (alif, wāw, or yā’) corresponding to the short vowel.
  • Otherwise: the hamza is written on the line (as in شيء shay’ "thing").

III. If the hamza is medial:

  • If a long vowel or diphthong precedes, the seat of the hamza is determined mostly by what follows:
  • If i or u follows, the hamza is written over yā’ or wāw, accordingly.
  • Otherwise, the hamza would be written on the line. If a yā’ precedes, however, this would conflict with the stroke joining the yā’ to the following letter, so the hamza is written over yā’. (as in جئت)
  • Otherwise, both preceding and following vowels have an effect on the hamza.
  • If there is only one vowel (or two of the same kind), that vowel determines the seat (alif, wāw, or yā’).
  • If there are two conflicting vowels, i takes precedence over u, u over a, so mi’ah 'hundred' is written مئة, with hamza over the yā’.
  • Alif-maddah will occur if appropriate.

Not surprisingly given the complexity of these rules, there is some disagreement.

  • Barron’s 201 Arabic Verbs follows these rules exactly (although the sequence ū’ū does not occur; see below).
  • John Mace’s Teach Yourself Arabic Verbs and Essential Grammar presents alternative forms in almost all cases when hamza is followed by a long ū. The motivation appears to be to avoid two wāws in a row. Generally, the choice is between the form following the rules here, or an alternative form using hamza over yā’ in all cases. Example forms are mas’ūl, yajī’ūna, yashā’ūna. Exceptions:
  • In the sequence ū’ū; e.g., yasū’ūna, the alternatives are hamza on the line, or hamza over yā’, when the rules here would call for hamza over wāw. Perhaps the resulting sequence of three wāws would be especially repugnant?
  • In the sequence yaqra’ūna, the alternative form has hamza over alif, not yā’.
  • The forms yabṭu’ūna, ya’ūbu have no alternative form. (But note yaqra’ūna with the same sequence of vowels.)
  • Haywood and Nahmad’s A new Arabic Grammar of the Written Language does not write the paradigms out in full, but in general agrees with John Mace’s book, including the alternative forms—and sometimes lists a third alternative where the entire sequence ’ū is written as a single hamza over wāw instead of as two letters.
  • Al-Kitaab fii Taʿallum... presents paradigms with hamza written the same way throughout, regardless of what the rules above say. Thus yabda’ūna with hamza only over alif, yajī’ūna with hamza only over yā’, yaqra’īna with hamza only over alif, although this is not allowed in any of the previous three books. (This appears to be an over-generalization on the part of the al-Kitaab writers.)

Hamza in other Arabic-based scripts

Urdu / Shahmukhi script

In Urdu script, hamza does not occur at the initial position over alif since alif is not used as a glottal stop in Urdu. In the middle position if hamza is surrounded by vowels then it indicates a diphthong between the two vowels. In the middle position if hamza is surrounded by only one vowel then it takes the sound of that vowel. At the final position hamza is either silent or it produces a glottal sound as in Arabic.

In Urdu in most cases hamza is used to represent a diphthong between two vowels. It rarely acts like the Arabic hamza, usually only in a few loanwords from Arabic.

Hamza is also added at the last letter of the first word of ezāfe compound to represent -e- if the first word ends with yeh or with he or over bari yeh if is added at the end of the first word of the ezāfe compound.

In Urdu hamza is always written on the line in the middle position unless in waw if that letter is preceded by a non-joiner letter, in which case it is seated above waw. Hamza is also seated when written above bari yeh. In final form Hamza is written in its full form. In ezāfe, hamza is seated above he, yeh or bari yeh of the first word to represent the -e- of ezāfe compound.

Latin representations

There are different ways to represent hamza in Latin transliteration:

See also

References

  1. ^

External links

  • Interactive lesson for learning hamza
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