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Romanization of Persian

Romanization of Persian is the means by which the Persian language is represented using the Latin script. Several different romanization schemes exist, each with its own set of rules driven by its own set of ideological goals.

Romanization paradigms

Because the Perso-Arabic script is an abjad writing system (with a consonant-heavy inventory of letters), many distinct words in standard Persian can have identical spellings, with widely varying pronunciations that differ in their (unwritten) vowel sounds. Thus a romanization paradigm can follow either transliteration (which mirrors spelling and orthography) or transcription (which mirrors pronunciation and phonology).


Transliteration (in the strict sense) attempts to be a complete representation of the original writing, so that an informed reader should be able to reconstruct the original spelling of unknown transliterated words. Transliterations of Persian are used to represent individual Persian words or short quotations, in scholarly texts in English or other languages that do not use the Arabic alphabet.

A transliteration will still have separate representations for different consonants of the Persian alphabet that are pronounced identically in Persian. Therefore transliterations of Persian are often based on transliterations of Arabic. Persian-alphabet vowel representation is also complex, and transliterations are based on the written form.

Transliterations commonly used in the English-speaking world include BGN/PCGN romanization and ALA-LC Romanization.

Non-academic English-language quotation of Persian words usually uses a simplification of one of the strict transliteration schemes (typically omitting diacritical marks) and/or unsystematic choices of spellings meant to guide English speakers using English spelling rules towards an approximation of the Persian sounds.

An academic and standardized method for official transliteration of Persian also exists which is called Desphilic Persian Standard Romanization (Desphilic PSR). In this transliteration standard, all Persian words are transliterated to standard Latin-1 characters and therefore can be written using an ordinary English keyboard.


Transcriptions of Persian attempt to straightforwardly represent Persian phonology in the Latin script, without requiring a close or reversible correspondence with the Perso-Arabic script, and also without requiring a close correspondence to English-language phonetic values of Roman letters; for example, letters such as X, Q, C may be reused for Persian-language phonemes that are not present in English phonology or do not have a consistent or single-letter English spelling.

Proposed Roman-alphabet scripts intended to be a primary representation of Persian, for use by Persian speakers as an alternative to the Perso-Arabic script, fall into this category. Some of these proposed scripts are described at Omniglot.

The Persian language (Tehrani dialect) has six vowels and twenty-three consonants. The Persian sounds have two specifications:

  1. every syllable starts with consonants and
  2. it is combination of one consonant and one vowel, as in the chart below:
0 1 2 3 4 5 6
° اَ اِ اُ آ ای او
a e o ā i u
1 ا ع ' 'a 'e 'o 'i 'u
2 ب b ba be bo bi bu
3 د d da de do di du
5 ف f fa fe fo fi fu
4 گ g ga ge go gi gu
6 ه ح h ha he ho hi hu
7 ج j ja je jo ji ju
8 ک k ka ke ko ki ku
9 ل l la le lo li lu
10 م m ma me mo mi mu
11 ن n na ne no ni nu
12 پ p pa pe po pi pu
13 ر r ra re ro ri ru
14 س ص ث s sa se so si su
15 ت ط t ta te to ti tu
16 و v va ve vo vi vu
17 ی y ya ye yo yi yu
18 ز ذ ض ظ z za ze zo zi zu
19 چ ch cha che cho chā chi chu
20 ق غ gh gha ghe gho ghā ghi ghu
21 خ kh kha khe kho khā khi khu
22 ش sh sha she sho shā shi shu
23 ژ zh zha zhe zho zhā zhi zhu

It is important that use of symbols ' like as one alphabet symbol (it is not necessary only at the beginning of the words or between two vowels of words, but is necessary for Persian transcription in other situations).

Comparison of proposed Persian and neighboring Latin-based scripts

IPA Ironik Pk UP EF tk az tr ku ASCII[1] English
/æ/ A a Ä ä Ə ə E e [2] a cat
/ɒː/ O o Á á Â â Ã ã A a [3] aa father[4]
/ʃ/ C c Sc sc Š š Ş ş sh ship
/ʒ/ J j Zc zc Ž ž J j zh[5] vision
/t͡ʃ/ Tc tc C c[6] Ç ç ch church
/d͡ʒ/ Dj dj J j C c j judge
/ɣ/[7] Q q[8] ? Ğ ğ gh[5] none
/χ/ X x[9] ? X x H h X x kh[5] none
/ʔ/ ' [10] ' (not written) ' [5] uh-oh
  1. ^ E.g. when commenting in weblogs or when using cellphones to send SMS. See Fingilish for a similar example.
  2. ^ In Turkish, actually [], but with various allophones: [ɛ]~[æ].
  3. ^ Actually [ä] in Turkish and Turkmen or [ɑ] in Azerbaijani.
  4. ^ Similar to /ɑː/ of Received Pronunciation and /ɑ/ of General American plus additional roundedness, but not like the front // of Australian English.
  5. ^ a b c d Not used for this sound in native English words, but standard in transliterations of foreign languages such as ALA-LC Romanization
  6. ^ Same value as in National Library at Kolkata romanization and other transliterations of Indic scripts, as well as in Malay/Indonesian
  7. ^ When /ɣ/ occurs at the beginning of a word in Iranian Persian, it is realized as a voiced uvular plosive [ɢ]
  8. ^ Different sound than Arabic qāf, but both qaf and ghayn in Arabic words are pronounced with this sound in Iranian Persian
  9. ^ Cyrillic kha and Azeri Roman x look the same and are used for the slightly different voiceless velar fricative sound
  10. ^ Diacritic mark over following vowel added or changed

One common theme is that in transcriptions of Persian, the unmarked letter a is used for the front vowel /æ/, while accented or doubled versions of the letter are used for the back vowel /ɒː/; this is opposite to the conventions in Latin alphabets of Turkic languages, although similar to some romanizations of Arabic.

Romanization schemes

Official Iranian Latin alphabet

In 2012, the United Nations approved a romanization system based on the official guidelines adopted by Iran. This system conforms more closely to Persian phonology than the previous system approved in 1967.[1] The new system is also virtually identical to UniPers, the only notable differences being that UniPers â and c become Iranian ā and č, respectively.

Baha'i Persian romanization

Main article: Bahá'í orthography

Bahá'ís use a system standardized by Shoghi Effendi, which he initiated in a general letter on March 12, 1923.[2] The Bahá'í transliteration scheme was based on a standard adopted by the Tenth International Congress of Orientalists which took place in Geneva in September 1894. Shoghi Effendi changed some details of the Congress's system, most notably in the use of digraphs in certain cases (e.g. sh instead of š), and in incorporating the solar letters when writing the definite article al- (Arabic: ال) according to pronunciation (e.g. ar-Rahim, as-Saddiq, instead of al-Rahim, al-Saddiq).

This transliteration differs significantly from UniPers, especially in vowel presentation. For example, what is in UniPers "Tehran" is presented in many Bahá'í translations as "Tihran". The name of the Bahá'í women's right activist and martyr "Táhirih" would be pronounced in Persian according to the UniPers translation "Tahereh", but never printed as "Tahereh" in Bahá'í books. The use of "i" in the case of "Tahereh", illustrates the Bahá'í system's emphasis on literal correspondence with the Persian script, rather than the pronunciation of the modern national language of Iran. A detailed introduction to the Bahá'í Persian romanization can usually be found at the back of a Bahá'í scripture.

ASCII Internet romanizations

See also: Fingilish

It is common to write Persian language with only English letters especially when commenting in weblogs or when using cellphones to send SMS. One form of such writing is as the following:

Romanization on Internet
A a AA aa B b CH ch D d E e F f G g H h I i
/æ/ /ɒː/ /b/ /tʃ/ /d/ /e/ /f/ /ɡ/ /h/ /i/
J j K k L l M m N n O o P p GH gh R r S s
/dʒ/ /k/ /l/ /m/ /n/ /o/ /p/ /ɣ/ /ɾ/ /s/
SH sh T t U u V v W w KH kh Y y Z z ZH zh '
/ʃ/ /t/ /u/ /v/ /w/ /χ/ /j/ /z/ /ʒ/ /ʔ/

Tajik Latin alphabet

Main article: Tajik alphabet

The Tajik language or Tajik Persian is a variety of the Persian language. It was written in Tajik SSR in a standardized Latin script from 1926 until the late 1930s, when the script was officially changed to Cyrillic. However, Tajik phonology differs slightly from that of Persian in Iran; see Persian phonology#Historical shifts.

The Tajik alphabet in Latin
A a B ʙ C c Ç ç D d E e F f G g Ƣ ƣ H h I i Ī ī
/a/ /b/ /tʃ/ /dʒ/ /d/ /e/ /f/ /ɡ/ /ʁ/ /h/ /i/ /ˈi/
J j K k L l M m N n O o P p Q q R r S s Ş ş T t
/j/ /k/ /l/ /m/ /n/ /o/ /p/ /q/ /ɾ/ /s/ /ʃ/ /t/
U u Ū ū V v X x Z z Ƶ ƶ '
/u/ /ɵ/ /v/ /χ/ /z/ /ʒ/ /ʔ/

Turco-Persian Romanization

Numerals Cardinal number Ordinal number
W A Persian Turkish Persian Persian Turkish Persian
0 ۰ Sefr Sefr صفر Seferom صفرم
1 ۱ Yek Yek یک Avval, Nakhost Evvel, Yekom اول‌، نخست
2 ۲ Do دو dovvom Devvom دوم
3 ۳ Se Se سه sevvom Sevvom سوم
4 ۴ Cāhār Çehar چهار çehārom Çeharom چهارم
5 ۵ Panj Penc پنج pancom Pencom پنجم
6 ۶ Şeş Şeş شش şeşom Şeşom ششم
7 ۷ Haft Heft هفت haftom Heftom هفتم
8 ۸ Haşt Heşt هشت haştom Heştom هشتم
9 ۹ Noh Noh نه nohom Nohom نهم
10 ۱۰ Daḥ De ده dāhom Dehom دهم
11 ۱۱ Yāzdah Yazde يازده yāzdahom Yazdehom يازدهم
12 ۱۲ Davāzdaḥ Devazde دوازده davāzdahom Devazdehom دوازدهم
13 ۱۳ Sizdah Sizde سيزده sīzdahom Sizdehom سيزدهم
14 ۱۴ Cāḥārdah Çeharde چهارده çahārdahom Çehardehom چهاردهم
15 ۱۵ Pānzdah
Panzde پانزده pānzdahom
Panzdehom پانزدهم
16 ۱۶ Şānzdah Şanzde شانزده şānzdehom
Şanzdehom شانزدهم
17 ۱۷ Hefdah Hifde هفده hefdahom Hifdehom هفدهم
18 ۱۸ Hijdah Hicde هیجده hijdahom Hicdehom هیجدهم
19 ۱۹ Nuzdah Nuzde نوزده nūzdahom Nuzdehom نوزدهم
20 ۲۰ Bist Bist بيست bīstom Bistom بيستم
30 ۳۰ Si Si سی sīyom Siyom سی ام
40 ۴۰ Cehel Çehel چهل çehelom Çehelom چهلم
50 ۵۰ Pānjah Pencah پنجاه pancāhom Pencahom پنجا هم
60 ۶۰ Şast Şest شصت şastom Şestom شصتم
70 ۷۰ Haftād Heftad هفتاد haftādom Heftadom هفتادم
80 ۸۰ Haştād Heştad هشتاد haştādom Heştadom هشتادم
90 ۹۰ Navad Neved نود navadom Nevedom نودم
100 ۱۰۰ Sad Sed صد sadom Sedom صدم
200 ۲۰۰ Devist Divist دويست devīstom Divistom دويستم
300 ۳۰۰ Sisad Sised سيصد sīsadom Sisedom سيصدم
400 ۴۰۰ Cāhārsad Çeharsed چهارصد çahār sadom Çehar sedom چهار صدم
500 ۵۰۰ Pān sad
Pun sad
Pan sed پانصد pānsadom
Pansedom پانصدم
600 ۶۰۰ Şeş sad Şeş sed شش صد şeş sadom Şeş sedom شش صدم
700 ۷۰۰ Haft sad Heft sed هفت صد haft sadom Heft sedom هفت صدم
800 ۸۰۰ ḥaşt sad Heşt sed هشت صد haşt sadom Heşt sedom هشت صدم
900 ۹۰۰ Noh sad Noh sed نه صد noh sadom Noh sedom نه صدم
1000 ۱۰۰۰ Hezār Hezar هزار hazārom Hezarom هزارم

"Turco-Persian", among its many definitions, can refer to the code-switching to Persian expressions, Persian literary mannerisms, and heavy use of Persian vocabulary in Anatolian Turkish or Azerbaijani Turkish, especially Ottoman Turkish, which has a long history of subscribing to the Persian language classical literature. Even though Modern Standard Turkish is ostensibly more pure, it nonetheless retains many Persian mannerisms, Persian vocabulary from Ottoman Turkish, and has maintained its peculiar way of transcribing Persian words that is "Turkified" in pronunciation and is quite removed from modern standard pronunciation of Persian.

Following are some examples taken from the Turkish Wikipedia tr:Farsça Sözcükler in explaining differences in spelling between standard Persian transliterated with Turkish Latin Alphabet, and Turco-Persian orthography in the same alphabet:

Following are some lines of Persian poems from the Azeri Wikipedia, with the Azeri Turco-Persian transliteration in bold az:Cahanşah Həqiqi az:Səid Səlmasi az:Məhəmməd Hadi az:Əbül-üla Gəncəvi:


Vüsalını diləram kam ilən ze fəzli-ilah
Məni-şikəstəyə kami-vüsal beylə gərək.
Ey xətin səb'ül-məsani, vey ləbin mai-təhur,
Vey cəmalın pərtövindən sərbəsər aləmdə nur.


Mən on zəmini guhərbari-paki İranəm,
Bə hər bəlayi-cəhalət nişəgəh əst təni mən...


Məkatib cilvəgahi -tələəti-fəyyazi-qüdrətdir,
Məkatib pərtövü-ənvari-şəmsi-sübhi-vəhdətdir


Ey dəsti-sitəmkar, ayə pənceyi-mənhus!..


Mara şәst salәst kәz xake-İran
Bovәd şanzdәh ta be Şirvan fetadәm.

See also

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  1. ^
  2. ^ Effendi, Shoghi (1974). Bahá'í Administration. Wilmette, Illinois, USA: Bahá'í Publishing Trust. p. 43. ISBN 0-87743-166-3. 

External links