By ArabicTree | June 21, 2008
If you’ve been studying Arabic for a while, you’ll notice something very interesting with respect to alif, waw, and ya.
As a rule, every single time you see the letter alif, the letter before it takes fatha–and the alif just lengthens the “aa” sound.
And the same with waw and yaa–waw is preceded by damma, and yaa is preceded by kasra.
However, there is one exception–the word mi’atun (مِائَةٌ), which has a kasra before the alif. And what’s more, it’s not even pronounced! What’s up with that?
Recall that Arabic writing evolved in stages before reaching what it is today. Earlier additions were quite different–fonts and style aside–in that they contained no nuqat (dots) or tashkeel (vowels).
And Arabs could read and understand, subhanallah, like that!
But, take a look at this–say you remove the extra alif in mi’atun. With nuqat and tashkeel, it looks like this: مِئَةٌ
Once you remove the nuqat and tashkeel, it looks like this: مئه
And notice the word minhu–with nuqat and tashkeel, it looks like this: مِنهُ and without it … it looks exactly the same as minhu: منه
So to get around this, the Arabs added an extra alif to mi’atun. It’s not maatun, or miaatun; the alif is merely there because it disambiguates.
Wallahu ta’ala ‘alim.
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