breath group

Persian phonology

The Persian language has six vowels and twenty-three consonants, including two affricates, /tʃ/ and /dʒ/.


Diachronically, Persian possessed a distinction of length in its underlying vowel inventory, contrasting the long vowels /iː/, /uː/, /ɒː/ with the short vowels /e/, /o/, /æ/ respectively.

Word-final /o/ does not occur frequently (except for to - 'thou'), and word-final /æ/ is very rare in Iranian Persian (except for - 'no'). The word-final /æ/ in Early New Persian mostly shifted to /e/ in contemporary Iranian Persian (often romanized as ), but is preserved in the Eastern dialects.

The chart below reflects the vowels of many educated Persian speakers from Tehran.


Persian has two diphthongs, /eɪ/ and /oʊ/.


> >
Phoneme (in IPA) Letter Romanization Example(s)
/æ/ َ , ا a, æ /næ/   نه   no
/ɒː/ آ , ا a, aa, ā, â, A /tɒː/   تا   till
/e/ ِ , ا e /ke/   که   that
/iː/ ی i, ee, y /kiː/   کی   who
/o/ ا , ُ , و o /to/   تو   thou, you (singular)
/uː/ و u, oo, ou /tuː/   تو   in
/eɪ/ ی ey, ei, ay, ai /keɪ/   کی   when
/oʊ/ و ow, au /noʊ/ نو   new

Historical shifts

Early New Persian had eight vowels: i, ī, ē, u, ū, ō, a, ā (in IPA: /i,iː,eː,u,uː,oː,æ,ɒː/). The following chart describes their shifts into Tajik, Afghan Dari, and contemporary Iranian Persian.

Tajik      i  e  u  ů a o
          ┌↑┐ ↑ ┌↑┐ ↑ ↑ ↑
Early NP  i ī ē u ū ō a ā
          ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓ ↓
Afghan    e i ē o u ō a ā
          ↓ └↓┘ ↓ └↓┘ ↓ ↓
Iranian   e  ī  o  ū  a ā

See also: Tajik vowels


Labial Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n [ŋ]
Plosive ɢ [ʔ]
Fricative h
Tap [ɾ]
Trill r
Approximant l j
(Where symbols appear in pairs, the one to the right represents a voiced consonant. Allophones are in phonetic brackets.)


Phoneme Sound (in IPA) Letter Romanization Example(s)
/p/ [p] پ p پارسی
/b/ [b] ب b بانو
/t/ [t] ت , ط t توران
/d/ [d] د d دنيا
/k/ [k] ک k كشور
/ɡ/ [ɡ] گ g گروه
/ʔ/ [ʔ] ء , ع ' , Ø معنا، جزء
/tʃ/ [tʃ] چ ch, č, c چوب
/dʒ/ [dʒ] ج j, جوان
/f/ [f] ف f فارسی
/v/ [v] و v ويژه
/s/ [s] س , ص, ث s سايه
/z/ [z] ز , ذ , ض , ظ z آزاد
/ʃ/ [ʃ] ش sh, š شاه
/ʒ/ [ʒ] ژ zh, ž پژوهش
/x/ [x] خ kh, x خانواده
/ɣ/ [ɣ] غ , ق gh, q, ġ باغ
/ɣ/ [ɢ] غ , ق q, gh قلم
/h/ [h] ه , ح h حال
/m/ [m] م m نام
/n/ [n] ن n نان
/l/ [l] ل l لب
/ɾ/ [ɾ] ر r ايران
/ɾ/ [r] ر r رستوران
/j/ [j] ی y يا

Alveolar stops and are either apico-alveolar or apico-dental. The unvoiced stops are aspirated much like their English counterparts: they become aspirated when they begin a syllable, though aspiration is not contrastive.

When occurs at the beginning of a word, it is realized as a voiced uvular plosive . In Classical Persian, غ and ق denoted [ɣ] and [q], respectively. In modern Tehrani Persian (which is used in the Iranian mass media), there is no difference in the pronunciation of غ and ق (both of them representing [ɣ] or [ɢ], depending on their position in the word). However, the classic pronunciation difference (for غ and ق) is preserved in the eastern variants of Persian (i.e. Dari and Tajiki), as well as the southern dialects of the modern Iranian variety (e.g. Yazdi and Kermani dialects).

Voiced alveolar can have a trilled allophonic variant at the beginning of a word.


Syllable Structure

Syllables may be structured as (C) V (C) (C) .


One syllable in each word (or breath group) is stressed, and knowing the rules is conducive to proper pronunciation.

General rule:

I. Stress falls on the last stem syllable of most words.

Exceptions and clarifications:

II. Stress falls on the first syllable of interjections, conjunctions and vocatives. E.g. /'bale/ "yes", /'nakheir/ "no indeed", /'vali/ "but", /'cerā/ "why", /'agar/ "if", /'mersi/ "thanks", /'xānom/ "Ma'am", /'āqā/ "Sir"; cf. IV-3 īnfrā.

III. Never stressed are: 1) personal suffixes on verbs (-am "I do..", -i "you do..", .., -and "they do..") (with one exception, cf. IV-1 īnfrā); 2) a small set of very common noun enclitics: the ezāfe (-e/-ye) "of", -rā "[direct object marker]", -i "a, an", -o "and"; 3) the possessive and pronoun-object suffixes, -am, -et, -esh, &c.

IV. Always stressed are: 1) the personal suffixes on the positive future auxiliary verb (the single exception to III-1 suprā); 2) the negative verb prefix na-/ne-, if present; 3) if na-/ne- is not present, then the first non-negative verb prefix (e.g. mi- "-ing", bi- "Do!", and the prefix noun in compound verbs (e.g. kār in kār mi-kardam); 3) the last syllable of all other words, including the infinitive ending -an and the participial ending -te in verbal derivatives, noun suffixes like -i "-ish" and -egi, all plural suffixes (-hā, -ān), adjective comparative suffixes (-tar, -tarin), and ordinal-number suffixes (-om). Nouns not in the vocative are stressed on the final syllable: /xā'nom/ "lady", /ā'qā/ "gentleman"; cf. II suprā.

In transcription, enclitics (like the ezāfe) and personal suffixes should be written separated from their words by a hyphen, to show that they are unstressed. Stressed prefixes should be joined with a hyphen. Interjections &c. should be marked with an acute diacritic on their initial syllable.

Colloquial Iranian Persian

When spoken formally, Iranian Persian is pronounced as written. But colloquial pronunciation as used by all classes makes a number of very common substitutions. They include:

  • Written -ɒn- is nearly always pronounced /-un-/. The only common exceptions are high prestige words, like the Qur'an [ɢorʔɒn], and Iran [ʔirɒn], which are pronounced as written. A few words with -ɒm- are pronounced /-um-/, especially the verb "to come".
  • The unstressed direct object suffix marker is pronounced /ro/, or /o/ after a consonant.
  • The stems of many verbs have a short colloquial form, especially æst "he/she is" is colloquially pronounced /e/ after a consonant.
  • The 2nd and 3rd person plural suffixes -id and -ænd become /-in/ and /-æn/, respectively.
  • Many frequently-occurring verbs become shortened, such as mixɒhæm "I want" to mixɒm, and mirævæm "I go" to miræm.


Broad IPA Transcription Native orthography Gloss

یک روزی باد شمال با خورشید با هم دعوا می‌کردند که آیا کدام یکی قویتر است [One day] the North Wind and the Sun were disputing which was the stronger.


See also

External links

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