The syllable structure in Persian is CV(C)(C). “C” stands for a consonant and “V” stands for a vowel or diphthong. CV(C)(C) means that Persian has only three syllable patterns: CV, CVC and CVCC. The second component of a syllable is always a vowel (or a diphthong). Each syllable has only one vowel sound. Therefore, each vowel indicates a syllable.

CV CVC CVCC
na نه kar کر kard کرد
to تو pol پل goft گفت
ke که del دل zesht زشت
ما kâr کار kârd کارد
khu خو mur مور khoshk خشک
si سی sir سیر rikht ریخت
u او az از farsh فرش
in این ârd آرد
âb آب abr ابر

Syllables always begin with a consonant sound. According to Persian phonology, vowels that occur at the beginning of a syllable are articulated with a glottal stop. Therefore, even syllables that begin with a vowel in writing, have a preceding glottal stop merged with their sound in articulation. For example, “u” is actually articulated “øu” and “ârd” is pronounced “øârd”.

Onset

The consonant sound at the beginning of a syllable is called an onset. Since all syllables begin with a consonant, it can be said that in Persian, syllables always have an onset.

Some languages including English, allow multi-consonant onsets like “pr-” and “spl-”. Until Middle Persian, such consonant clusters were found in the language but New Persian restricts onsets to be only a single consonant. New Persian resolves multi-consonant onsets by inserting a vowel. For example, Middle Persian “spêd” (white) has become “sepîd” (سپید) in New Persian. As another example, the loanword “stadium” has transformed into “estâdiyom” (استادیوم) in Persian.

Nucleus and Coda

The vowel or diphthong in the middle of a syllable is called a nucleus. In Persian, the nucleus is always the second element of a syllable. The coda is the consonant sound or sounds of a syllable that follow the nucleus. According to the syllable structure of Persian i.e. CV(C)(C), syllables consist of only an onset and a nucleus with no coda, or an onset, a nucleus and a coda. This means that:

Open and Closed Syllables

A coda-less syllable i.e. a syllable ending in a vowel or diphthong, is called an open syllable. A syllable that has a coda i.e. a syllable ending in a consonant, is called a closed syllable. Persian has one pattern for open syllables (CV) and two patterns for closed syllables (CVC and CVCC). In speech, there is a tendency to convert closed syllables into open syllables by inserting a vowel. For example, پیرزن “pirzan” (pir-zan) is pronounced “pirezan” (pi-re-zan) and مهربان “mehrbân” (mehr-bân) is pronounced “mehrabân” (meh-ra-bân).

Syllabification

Syllabification is the process of breaking a word into its syllables. Given that each vowel indicates a syllable, adjacent vowels fall into separate syllables and are pronounced individually.

Word Pronunciation Syllables Patterns
برنامه barnâme bar-nâ-me CVC-CV-CV
شمعدان shamødân shamø-dân CVCC-CVC
مفعول maføul maf-øul CVC-CVC
جامعه jâmee jâ-me-e CV-CV-CV
سؤال soâl so-âl CV-CVC
نوروز Nowruz Now-ruz CV-CVC
فرهنگ farhang far-hang CVC-CVCC