- How many vowels does Persian have?
- How many consonants does Persian have?
- How many diphthongs does Persian have?
- How do diphthongs form in Persian?
- Which sounds are denoted with more than one letter?
- Which Latin letters are optimal for writing Persian sounds?
Iranian Persian has six vowel sounds: “â”, “a”, “e”, “i”, “o” and “u”. Since Persian writing system is abjad (consonantal alphabet), vowels do not appear in writing normally.
Persian diphthongs are produced by combining the vowels i and u with other vowels. Iranian Persian has five diphthongs: “ây”, “ey”, “oy”, “uy” and “ow”.
|â + i||ây||/ɒ:j/||ice||چای |
|e + i||ey||/ej/||case||سیل |
|o + i||oy||/oj/||boy||هوی |
|u + i||uy||/u:j/||-||روی |
|o + u||ow||/oʊ/||bone||موز |
There are 23 consonant sounds in Persian. The sounds /t/, /s/, /h/, /z/, /ʔ/ and /ɣ/ are denoted with more than one letter.
- The letters ت - ط denote /t/.
- The letters ث - س - ص denote /s/.
- The letters ح - ه denote /h/.
- The letters ذ - ز - ض - ظ denote /z/.
- The letters ع - ء denote /ʔ/.
- The letters غ - ق denote the same sound in standard Iranian Persian but historically, they have distinct sounds which is still found in many dialects.
|ɣ||French rire||قورباغه |
|kh||خ||x||German Buch |
|r||ر||r||rug (thrilled as in Italian)||روز |
|zh||ژ||ʒ||s in measure |
|ʔ||glottal stop||معنی |
Monograph vs. Digraph
It is best to denote each consonant with a single letter and avoid a combination of two letters to represent one sound. Adjacent consonants do not always merge together to form a single sound. For example, in the word mazhab (مذهب), the consonants z and h are pronounced individually and do not represent the zh sound (/ʒ/). That is, mazhab is pronounced maz-hab and not ma-zhab. I would personally prefer to use the following monographs for writing Persian in Latin alphabet …
… but these monographs are only common in academic books. The average native speaker does not know these letters and would not feel the necessity to adopt them. The digraphs “ch, gh, kh, sh, zh” are what Persian speakers use in everyday life.
In academic books, غ is denoted with ɣ and sometimes with q but none of them is appropriate for non-academic use. Firstly, the letter ɣ belongs to Greek alphabet and is not a letter of Latin alphabet. Secondly, the letter q denotes ق in dialects that differentiate between غ and ق, including Afghan and Tajik Persian. Therefore, q should not be used to denote غ. My proposition is ğ. It is a Latin-based character and in harmony with the digraph-monograph pattern of other letters: sh-š, zh-ž and gh-ğ.
The letter c does not represent any sound per se. Therefore, both c and č can be used in lieu of ch. The letter č is usually used in academic books.
The letter ø, or any other letter that denotes glottal stop, is the sole letter I consider essential to be added to what used by native speakers. The reason is explained in the page about glottal stop.