Persian writing system is a consonantal alphabet. Nevertheless, it is possible to guess the pronunciation of many words or find clues about how they are read. In fact, Persian texts are more guessable than that of many other languages including English. English pronunciation is quite tricky to learn. English has 24–27 consonants and 13–20 vowels, depending on dialect, whereas its alphabet has only 26 letters. In addition, English spelling contains many variations and irregularities. Therefore, the fact that Persian is written in a consonant-only system does not necessarily make it harder to read than languages written in other types of writing systems.
To form reading clues, we encode Persian letters according to the consonant sound they denote. The letter ا does not denote any particular sound. At word initial, it can denote â/a/e/o. However, it always denotes â in non-initial positions. In these positions, we can encode it as â.
The following list demonstrates the most important hints for guessing the pronunciation of Persian words.
- Only three letters indicate more than one sound: ا - و - ی.
- The letter ا anywhere except the beginning of words, always denotes â.
- The letter ی always denotes y at the beginning of words.
- The letter ی typically denotes i between two letters except for ا and و.
- The letter ی typically denotes i at the end of words.
- The letter و always denotes v at the beginning of words.
- The letter و typically denotes u between two letters except for ا and ی.
- The letter و typically denotes u at the end of words.
- The sequence یی always denotes yi.
- The letter ه typically denotes e at the end of words except before ا, ی and و, .
- The sequence ای typically denotes i at the beginning of words.
The following examples show how to encode Persian words and find clues about how to read them. Sometimes, these clues provide the full pronunciation.