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(2) (the four possible shapes of

hamza on a yaa? reading from
right to leftinitial,medial,
final, separate)

Most native speakers agree that the choice of the written form
of the hamza is determined by rules, but it is clear that they neither
agree on the rules nor apply them consistently. The rampant variation
to be observed in hamza use has led to full-scale language academy
studies and calls for hamza reform.
The rules for hamza writing most commonly taught to learners
of Arabic in the United States are:
A. Hamzas at the beginning of a word are written above an alif if the
following vowel is afatha (a) as in example 3a, or a damma (u) as in
example 3b, and under an alif if the following vowel is a kasra (J) as
in example 3c. If the following vowel is uu or // (examples 3d and
3e), the hamza is also above or below the alif, but if the following
vowel is aa (alif) as in example 3f, the whole thing is written as one
alif with a madda (" ) instead of a hamza.

. Hamzas in the middle of a word follow a 'strength' rule, with i

being the strongest vowel, u the next strongest, and a the weakest, and
with vowels on both sides of the hamza being considered for
determining the seat. The seat chosen (yaa?, waaw, or alif is the one
which corresponding to the strongest corresponds to the strongest
nearby vowel. In other words, the rule looks at the vowels both
before and after the hamza, determines which one is strongest
according to the hierarchy /, w, a, and then chooses the seat that
corresponds to that vowel (yaa? for i, waaw for u, and alif for a).
Examples (a) through (f) in 4 show the various possibilities of
preceding and following vowels, and the corresponding form of the
hamza predicted by the rule. The only exception is that a hamza after
a long vowel other than yaa? and followed by a fatha or alif would be
written on the line (examples 4g-4k). A hamza preceded by afatha or
sukuun and followed by a long alif would change to a madda, as it
does at the beginning of the word (example 41).

C. Hamzas at the end of a word also follow the strength rule, but only
preceding vowels are counted in this position. This is apparently to
avoid having the case-marking vowels (the harakaat al-iYraab), which
change according to the usage of the word in the sentence, constantly
affect the shape of the hamza. Thus final hamzas after any long vowel
or after a consonant with no vowel {sukuun) are written on the line
with no seat (examples 5a-5d), while those preceded by a short vowel
take the seat corresponding to that vowel (examples 5e-5g). If a
pronoun or verbal ending is added to a word ending with hamza, the
hamza is no longer at the end of the word, and middle of the word
rules apply (example 5h).


Although complicated-looking at first glance, these rules are
actually rather simple and straightforward. These are not the only
rules available, however. The Arabic Language Academy in Cairo, in
a recent publication (Hijazi 1987), devoted over 50 pages to the hamza
'problem' and suggestions for hamza reform. Readers were informed
that after heated discussion, the Academy had decided on a set of
specific proposals. These were to be implemented in schoolbooks, and
attempts would be made to have them adopted by the publishing
community generally. The proposals involved a statement something
like the above rules, but with the following exception:
D. Two waaws in a row are to be avoided, even if one has a hamza on
it. Thus, when a hamza that would otherwise be written on a waaw is
followed by a waaw, it will be written on the line if the preceding
letter is a non-connector1 (example 6a), and on a yaa? if the preceding
letter is a connector (examples 6b and 6c).

Besides the variability caused by the acceptance or rejection of

this exception, several other types of variability are also commonly
found. Most of these are related to hamza at the end of the word when
a pronoun-ending, verb-ending, or other grammatical 'addition' is