The Persian Writing System

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  • Topic: Arabic alphabet, Latin alphabet, Persian language
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  • Published : January 12, 2013
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The Writing System
The Persian alphabet, like the alphabets of many Muslim nations, is based on the 28letter alphabet of Arabic. It has 32 letters and is written from right to left. Four of these letters are devised exclusively for Persian. We shall see these letters later. The Persian alphabet does not use capital letters. It does, however, use a modified version of the Western punctuation system. Unlike the alphabet, the Persian numbers are written from left to right. Persian uses the same figures as Arabic, the language from which the Arabic numerals of English are derived. The Persian numbers, thus, can be easily compared with those in English. We shall discuss the numerals later. In the pages that follow, the alphabet is divided into a number of letter groups. Each letter group uses a basic form. After explaining each basic form, and the manner in which that form is made, individual letters are introduced and discussed. These individual letters are different from the basic form in the number of dots and the type of diacritics or symbols that may accompany them. The sequence used in the earlier stages of this study is not the same as the native sequence of letters taught in the schools in Iran. Once the students are familiar with the mechanism for producing letters and letter blocks, the native sequence will be introduced and memorized. This latter sequence is the one used in all alphabetizing of telephone directories, dictionaries, and other such manuals using the Persian alphabet. The entire Persian alphabet is presented on the next page. The letters are in their independent or isolated form. The sequence is the native sequence mentioned above in relation to the use of dictionaries, directories, etc. The following information is provided for each letter: the Persian name of the letter, the pronunciation or sound that the letter represents,1 the transliteration used to symbolize that letter in the Latin script (transliteration is an aid for the graduate student undertaking research using secondary materials in the field),2 and information as to whether a given letter is a connector or a nonconnector. The symbol (+) marks a connector. The symbol (-) marks a nonconnecting letter. More information on connectors and nonconnectors will follow.




In the pages that follow, this list, and the characteristics of each letter or group of letters, will be discussed in detail. Before beginning the discussion of letter groups, however, there are three points that must be mentioned. First, not all the letters of the Persian alphabet connect to the letters that follow them. There are seven letters known as the nonconnectors. They connect only to connecting letters that precede them. Second, depending on where in a block of letters a connecting letter is used (it is necessary to make the distinction between a block of letters and a word, since most Persian words are made up of two or three blocks of letters where each block, except possibly the last, ends in a nonconnecting letter), the shape of the letter may undergo a substantial amount of reduction--in most cases a modified form of the initial portion of the letter is used. Third, a group of letters may share the same basic form. In such cases dots and other diacritics distinguish one letter from another. The major distinction to be made is the connector/nonconnector distinction. Since the English alphabet does not make this distinction, the principle underlying letter blocks as formative components of words sometimes escapes American students. Letter Persian name Pronunciation/ transcription see vowel letters transliteration connected/ nonconnected + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Z [ ~ \ ] ^  _ ` a b c d Ä e f g h i

ælef be pe


Çe he xe dal zal re ze Ûe sin Íin sad zad ta

b p t s j Ç h x d z r z Û s Í s z t

a b p t £ j Ç ˙ x d ¢ r z Û s Í ƒ ™ †...
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