The Persian alphabet (Persian: الفبای فارسی alefbā-ye fārsi) or Perso-Arabic alphabet is a writing system based on the Arabic script and used for the Persian language. It has four letters more than the Arabic alphabet: پ [p], چ [t͡ʃ], ژ [ʒ], and گ [ɡ].
- Other characters
- Novel letters
- Differences from the Arabic writing system
- Word boundaries
The Persian script is an abjad and is exclusively written cursively. That is, the majority of the letters in a word connect to each other. This is also implemented on computers. Whenever the Persian alphabet is typed, the computer automatically connects the letters to each other. Words are written from right to left. Also, vowels are underrepresented in writing; see below for details.
The replacement of the Pahlavi scripts with the Persian alphabet in order to write the Persian language was done by the Tahirid dynasty in ninth century Greater Khorasan.
Below are the 32 letters of the modern Persian alphabet. Since the script is cursive, the appearance of a letter changes depending on its position: isolated, initial (joined on the left), medial (joined on both sides), and final (joined on the right) of a word.
The names of the letter are mostly the ones used in Arabic, except for the Persian pronunciation. The only ambiguous name is he, which is used for both ﺡ and ه. For clarification, these are often called ḥe-ye jimi (literally "jim-like ḥe" after jim, the name for the letter ج that uses the same base form) and he-ye do-češm (literally "two-eyed he", after the contextual middle letterform ﻬ), respectively.
Seven letters – و, ژ, ﺯ, ﺭ, ﺫ, ﺩ, ﺍ – do not connect to a following letter as the rest of the letters of the alphabet do. These seven letters have the same form in isolated and initial position, and a second form in medial and final position. For example, when the letter ا "alef" is at the beginning of a word such as اینجا "injā" (here), the same form is used as in an isolated "alef". In the case of امروز "emruz" (today), the letter ﺮ "re" takes the final form and the letter و "vāv" takes the isolated form, though they are in the middle of the word, and ﺯ also has its isolated form, though it occurs at the end of the word.
Persian script has adopted a subset of Arabic diacritics which consists of zabar /æ/ (fatḥah in Arabic), zir /e/ (kasrah in Arabic), and pesh /ou̯/ or /o/ (ḍammah in Arabic, pronounced zamme in Western Persian), sukūn, tanwīn nasb /æn/ and shadda (gemination). Other Arabic diacritics may be seen in Arabic loan-words.
The following are not actual letters but different orthographical shapes for letters, and in the case of the lām alef, a ligature. As to ﺀ hamze, it has only a single graphic, since it is never tied to a preceding or following letter. However, it is sometimes 'seated' on a vāv, ye or alef, and in that case the seat behaves like an ordinary vāv, ye or alef respectively. Technically, hamze is not a letter but a diacritic.
Although at first glance they may seem similar, there are many differences in the way the different languages use the alphabets. For example, similar words are written differently in Persian and Arabic, as they are used differently.
The Persian alphabet adds four letters to the Arabic alphabet, /p/, /ɡ/, /t͡ʃ/ (ch in chair), /ʒ/ (s in measure):
Differences from the Arabic writing system
Many Arabic letters represent sounds not present in Persian; they are typically only employed in loanwords and native Persian sounds replace them, such as ذ, ض, and ظ all being pronounced the same as historical ze ز z.
Vowel notation is simple but its history is complicated. Classical Arabic has a vowel length distinction; in writing, long vowels are normally written ambiguously by letters known as matres lectionis while short ones are normally omitted entirely (although certain diacritics are added to indicate them in special circumstances, notably in the Quran). Middle Persian also had vowel length, and noted ā with alif ا, ē and ī with yāʾ ی, and ō and ū with wāw و. Short vowels (a, e, i, o and u) were normally not written.
The length distinction of Middle Persian no longer exists in modern Persian. The results of its collapse vary between Western Persian, Dari, and Tajiki, with eight- or six-vowel inventories. However, the alphabet retains the original spellings of most words so that فارسي Fārsī "Persian" is pronounced in the Tehrani dialect fɒrsi and شير shēr "lion" and شیر shīr "milk" is ʃir, while in Dari, these same words appear as Persian pronunciation: [fɒrsi] but ʃer "lion", ʃir "milk".
The following is a list of differences between the Arabic writing system and the Persian writing system:
- A hamze (ء) is not written above or below an alef (ا), unlike in Arabic.
- The Arabic letter tāʾ marbūṭah (ة), unless used in a direct Arabic quotation, is usually changed to a te (ت) or he ه,in accordance with its actual pronunciation. Tāʾ marbūṭa, used in feminine nouns in Arabic, is a combined form of hāʾ with the dots marking tāʾ and represents a [t] that is dropped in word-final position. Since Persian does not have this grammatical issue (or grammatical gender), tāʾ marbūṭa is not necessary and is kept only to maintain fidelity in Arabic loanwords and quotations.
- Two dots are removed in the final ye (ی). Arabic differentiates the final yāʾ with the two dots and the alif maqsūra except in Egyptian, Sudanese and Maghrebi Arabic usage, which is written like a final yāʾ without two dots. Because Persian drops the two dots in the final ye, the alif maqsura cannot be differentiated from the normal final ye. For example, the name Mūsá "Moses" is written موسی. In the final letter in Mūsá, Persian does not differentiate between ye and the Arabic alif maqsūra.
- The letters pe (پ), che (چ), že (ژ), and gāf (گ) are added because Arabic, lacking the phonemes represented by these letters, has no letters for them.
- Wāw (و) is used as vâv for [v], because Arabic has no [v], and standard Iranian Persian has [w] only within the diphthong [ow].
- In the Arabic alphabet hāʾ (ﻩ) comes before wāw (و), however in the Persian alphabet, he (ﻩ) comes after vâv (و).
- It is more standard to write the nunation in this order in Persian: ـً (fatḥa tanwīn or fatḥatān) then ا (alef). In Persian, the order is reverse - ا, then ـً, i.e. Arabic ـًا becomes ـاً in Persian. e.g. عصًا ʿaṣan is written عصاً ʾasan in Persian. Writing ـاً in Arabic is also very common.
Typically words are separated from each other by a space. Certain morphemes (such as the plural ending '-hâ') are written without a space. When writing on a computer, they are separated from the word using the zero-width non-joiner.