New Persian is about 1200 years old and naturally, its phonological features have not remained unchanged over this long period. Phonologically, New Persian can be divided into two distinct variants: classic and modern. Classic pronunciation has the same phonological features as in Middle Persian. Modern pronunciation reflects the received pronunciation in today's Iran.

Vowels in Modern Persian

Modern Iranian Persian has 6 vowels: 3 long and 3 short.

VowelLengthIPA
âlong/ɒ:/
ashort/æ/
eshort/e/
îlong/i:/
oshort/o/
ûlong/u:/

In academic books, long vowels are marked by placing a macron over vowels: ā, ē, ī, ō, ū. In common alphabets, the circumflex is usually used to mark long vowels: â, ê, î, ô, û. For example, in French and in the Latin alphabet used for writing Kurdish. I will also use the circumflex to denote the long vowels of Persian e.g. â instead of ā.

Regarding the long vowels î and û, since their short variant does not exist in modern pronunciation, they can be written as i and u.

Vowels in Classic Persian

In the classic pronunciation of Persian, there are 5 long vowels and 3 short vowels, exactly the same vowels as in Middle Persian.

VowelLengthIPA
âlong/ɒ:/
ashort/æ/
êlong/e:/
ishort/ɪ/
îlong/i:/
ôlong/ø:/
ushort/ʊ/
ûlong/u:/

This classic vowel system has been preserved in many regional dialects of Persian in Iran as well as in Afghanistan and Tajikistan. The classic vowel system does not have short o and short e. These vowels are only found in the modern variant of Iranian Persian. Additionally, modern vowel system has lost long e, short i, long o and short u of classic Persian. The following table shows the historical shifts in the vowels of New Persian and how each classic vowel can be mapped onto its modern equivalent:

Classic VowelModern Vowel
ââ
aa
êî
ie
îî
ôû
uo
ûû

Classification of Vowels

Among the characteristics of vowels, only vowel height and vowel backness have phonemic value in Persian language. Vowel roundedness is not a distinctive or contrastive feature.

FrontBack
Close
(High)
îû
Mid
(True-mid)
eo
Open
(Low)
aâ

In close vowels, the tongue is positioned close to the palate and high in the mouth. That is why close vowels are also called high vowels. In open vowels, the jaw is open and the tongue is positioned low in the mouth. That is why open vowels are also called low vowels. In front vowels, the tongue is positioned towards the front of the mouth. In back vowels, the tongue is positioned towards the back of the mouth.

Vowel roundedness is about the amount of rounding in the lips during its articulation. Front vowels are articulated with the lips spread. The amount of spreading depends on the height of the vowel.

Rounded Spread
â a
o e
û î

Plosive Consonants

BilabialDentalPalatalUvularGlottal
Voiced
Soft
ب
b
د
d
گ
g
غ ق
gh
Unvoiced
Hard
پ
p
ت ط
t
ک
k
ع ء
ø

Fricative Consonants

Labio-dentalAlveolarAlveo-palatalUvularGlottal
Voiced
Soft
و
v
ز ذ ض ظ
z
ژ
zh
Unvoiced
Hard
ف
f
س ث ص
s
ش
sh
خ
kh
ه ح
h

Affricate Consonants

Alveo-palatal
Voiced
Soft
ج
j
Unvoiced
Hard
چ
ch

Trill Consonants

Alveolar
Voiced
Soft
ر
r

Nasal Consonants

BilabialAlveolar
Voiced
Soft
م
m
ن
n

Liquid Consonants

AlveolarPalatal
Voiced
Soft
ل
l
ی
y

Classification of Consonants

BilabialLabio-dentalDentalAlveolarAlveo-palatalPalatalUvularGlottal
Plosiveب
b
پ
p
ت ط
t
د
d
ک
k
گ
g
غ ق
gh
ء ع
ø
Fricativeف
f
و
v
س ث ص
s
ز ذ ض ظ
z
ش
sh
ژ
zh
خ
kh
ه ح
h
Affricateچ
ch
ج
j
Trillر
r
Nasalم
m
ن
n
Liquidل
l
ی
y