Posted by Rezwan Razani on Sep 25, 2013 at 08:39 PM

Good news and bad news about Persian vowels.  Good news:  There are only six vowel sounds!  Bad news:  You only spell out half of them.  That’s right. Hlf f thm.  Th thr hlf dn’t shw.  You have to guess which vowel sound will be there in the word.

Good News:  Six Simple Vowel Sounds

The good news is that the Persian (a.k.a. fArsi) language has six vowel sounds that are consistent throughout word usage.  a, e, o, A, u, i

That’s right.  Six.  Vowel. Sounds.  That’s IT.  This makes pronunciation in Persian SIMPLE.  Pure. So crisp and simple, you can explain the pronunciation of all of them in ONE tweet. That’s 140 characters or less!  Retweet, please:

Really Simple.  I can’t get over how simple.  Compare six sounds to English where the letter “a” alone can represent up to 40 sounds.  See the sidebar for more English vowel madness. 

Because the Persian language has only 6 vowel sounds, we only need six letters to represent those sounds.  This means that texting in fArsi - that’s #textingfArsi - can be incredibly accurate.  If people start to consistently use these six letters for the corresponding Persian vowel sound, everyone will be able to accurately pronounce Persian texts.  Even computerized text readers would render beautiful pronunciation. 

Bad News:  zir-o-ze-bar

The bad news is that the three short vowels in the Persian language (a, e, o) are rarely shown in writing. These vowels are represented by “zir-o-ze-bar” (“below and on top”) - vowel signs - as follows:

fat-he: A slash placed just above the consonant it follows. Gives the short “a” sound as in “man” or “apple”. a 
kasreh: A slash placed just below the consonant it follows. Gives the short “e” sound as in “bed”. Note, the short “e” sound is used to connect words that modify each other. When it does this, it’s called the “ezAfe”.  e 
zammeh: A mini"vAv” placed above the consonant it follows. Gives a short, quick “o” sound as in “oh” o 

Perhaps this is in keeping with simplicity. 

A Sentence With Invisible Short Vowels

A literate person is expected to know how to read a word without seeing the short vowels. Even dictionaries often don’t show them. What does that feel like?

Try this English sentence without its vowels:

Th ct st n th mt.

What does that say? “The Cat Sat On the Mat”, of course.

In our transliteration section, we explain why we don’t use zirozebar in our Persian Word Magnet Kits. Two reasons:  One, to help your mind identify words without the marks, and two, because a consonant string that makes up a word can have different vowels and be different words. Click here to go to the transliteration page for more explanation.

Let the Buddha in the Benz Explain

Rather than laboriously explain vowels,  I will refer you to the Buddha in his Benz for a look at the six vowels in action.  Watch out for that Willow!


Important note about modifiers: In Persian, the modifier and the modified are connected with an “ezAfe”. This is an “eh” sound which is never shown but always pronounced that comes at the end of the modifier. While it looks like “Pedar shomA”, you have to sound it out as “Pedar-e shomA”. It can be translated to mean “of” (e.g., “father of you”).


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