Notes on Persian pronuciation

Notes on Persian pronuciation

There are 8 wovels

a, â, e, ê, o, ô, î, û

a,e(i),o(u)  are historically short vowels,  â, ê, ô, î, û – historically long vowels. In Early New Persian(about 9-13 centuries) they were probably pronounced like resperctive vowels of Italian with respective distinction of length.

1. â is pronounced like “aw” in English

2. In the iranian dialect ê ir ô are pronounced like î and û (ee and oo)

3. In the Tajik dialect  short e ir o are prononced closed as i and u(the same voice quality as î and û; the distinction of length between i,u and î, û is also usually lost – all of them are pronounced long when stressed and short as unstressed),  ê remains intact (pronounced approximately like “ay” ), while  ô turns into a centered sound similar to “u” in Swedish or Japanese(in Northern Tajik) or is pronounced like û(in Southern Tajik)

4. In the Afghan dialect e, o,  ê,  ô are all pronounced as dictinct sounds(respectively like i in “bit”, “u” in “put”, “ay” in say(without diphtonguic glide) “o” in stone(without diphtonguic glide)

5, In the Iranian dialect e and o are pronounced more openly as in Afghan, like “e” in “pet” and “o” in “hot”(as in British English, not American)

6. Iranian short a is pronounced more fronted like “a” in French or “a” in British English in the word “back”. At the end of words it is pronounced as “e” in Iranian, but as “a” in Afghand and Tajik

7. In some regional varieties of Tajik and Afghan, short e and o tend to coalesce in the central vowel shwa [ə]. This pronuciation is considered substandard.

Iranians tend to pronounce long vowels more protractedly and with additional stress. On the other hand, Tajiks and Iranians tend to lengthen short vowels under stress, while in Afghan the distinction of length is better preserved.

9. “kh”(خ) is pronounced like ch in Loch, like “j” in Spain Spanish or like German ach laut. “khw” is usually pronounce as simple “kh”

10. “gh”(غ) and q(ق) are pronounced as the same sound in the Iranian dialect, which is realized as hard uvular stop [G] in the beginning of words and as uvular fricative [γ] (simlar to French “r” or Dutch “g”) inside words, while in Afghan and Tajik there are two distinct sounds – gh as  [γ](in all positions) and q as hard, uvular “k” sound.

Other consonants are pronounced more or less like in English. Where Kabuli Afghans pronounce “w”, Tajiks and Iranians have [v]. Kabuli pronounciations frequently omits “h”(similarly like in British English). The stops p, t, k are heavily aspirated in Iranian, as in English, while they are more French- or Italian-like in Tajik and Afghan(without or with lesser aspiration).

A sample sentence in Persian

ملتی که کتاب نمی‌خواند باید تمام تاریخ‌را تجربه کند

millat-ê ke ketâb na-mê-khwânad bâyad tamâm-e târîkh-râ tajroba konad

people-INDEF CONJ.that book-[DIR.INDEF] NEG-PRES-read-3sg  need entire-LK history-DIR.DEF experience make-3sg

people that reads no books, has to make through their entire history [again]

INDEF – indefinite

3sg – 3rd person singular

PRES- present tense

DIR.INDEF – direct obj. indefinite

DIR.DEF – direct obj. definite

LK – linker

CONJ – conjunction