More on Persian/Farsi and the Latin alphabet

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

After my post on the subject a few days ago I started a thread on Unilang to get some opinions/advice on the subject. Persian doesn't seem to be the most lively forum on Unilang but the first person to respond showed me a link to a site that promotes using the Latin alphabet for Persian called UniPers. Taking a look at the site it's pretty much the same thing I said on my previous post except for a part where they claim that languages like Japanese technically should switch over to the Latin alphabet but don't have to simply for their large economic power and educational system. In fact, Japanese wouldn't really work with the Latin alphabet because the system it uses right now is a syllabary, not an alphabet, homonyms are far too rampant (the word seika for example has a few dozen meanings depending on how you write it) and the language is too connected with kanji to make it possible. The word omou (to think) for example can mean something different depending on how you write it:
思う - to think
想う - to think of a memory
偲う - to think of a dead person (remembering the dead). Usually it's shinobu but it's also read omou sometimes.

Persian, on the other hand, already uses an alphabet and the only information that would be lost in a switchover from what I can tell is whether a word is an Arabic loanword or not, which is no big deal. There are even some native Persian words that are written with letters that are usually reserved for Arabic loanwords (can't think of one off the top of my head but when I come across one again I'll include it here) so even that isn't foolproof. Some Arabic loanwords are written with letters usually reserved for native Persian words too.

So here's some of what the site says:
3. Lack of short vowels: the short vowels: a, e, and o are not part of the body of a word. In rare occasions, usually reserved for beginners, three floating symbols are used in their place. These in addition to 6 other symbols, make up the 9 secondary symbols of the Perso-Arabic alphabet. Without the short vowels, exact or correct pronunciation of the words is difficult and only possible with prior knowledge. New or unfamiliar words such as foreign ones are impossible to pronounce correctly. The lack of these vowels results in many examples of words with different pronunciations sharing the same spelling. The only way to distinguish these words is by the context of the sentence in which they appear.

Examples of words with equivalent spellings but differing pronunciations:
(sar or ser or sor), (dar or dorr), (rastam or rostam).
Exactly! And:
10. The conjunction "-e" is one of the most frequently occurring sounds in the Persian language. Yet, it is either not written, because of the absence of the short vowels, or can appear as a (yeh) or (hamze), following a word that ends with an "h" that is pronounced as "e" or "a".

As in two ways of writing or (xâneye man - my house).
That's right! And:

18. The same alphabet is prevalent in all Islamic lands and all historic, cultural, thoughtful, legal, economic, social, literary, and artistic works are written and kept in this alphabet. The language of all these Islamic countries is based in Arabic the language of the Koran.

The above statement is completely false. Several Muslim countries use the Latin alphabet. For example, Turkey and Indonesia. Does this make Turks and Indonesians less Islamic? The answer is a resounding NO. Language is again distinct from writing. The Persian language belongs to the Indo-European family of languages but is written in the Arabic script. The Turkish language belongs to the Turkic family of languages which is related to Mongolian, but is written in the Latin script. There are many other examples of Muslim countries with different languages and writing systems.

Very, very true, and exactly what I wrote two days ago.

Their site is also written in standard (Arabic script) Persian and UniPers, so it serves as a good example for what the language would look like in a Latin script. Here for example is the above quote in both scripts:

۱۸. در هـمـه ى سـرزمـيـنـهـاى اسـلـامــى ، يـك الـفـبـا فـراگـيــر اسـت كـه هـمـه ى كـارهـاى تـاريـخــى ، فـرهـنـگــى ، مـنـشــى ، قـانــونــى ، انـجـمـنــى ، ادبــى ، و هـنـرى بـه آن نــوشـتـه شـده و نـگـهــدارى مـيـشـونـد . زبـانـهـاى هـمـگــى ايــن كـشــورهـاى اسـلـامــى بـر پـايـه ى زبـان قــرآن كـه عـربــى بـاشـد ، بـنـيـاد نـهـاده شـده انـد .

آونـد بـالـا كـامـلـا نـادرسـت اسـت . چـنــديـن كـشــور اسـلـامــى الـفـبـاى لـاتـيـن را بـه كـار مـيـبـرنـد . بـراى نـمــونـه مـيـتـوان تـركـيـه و انــدونــزى را نـامـيـد . آيـا چــونـيـن چـيــزى از اسـلـامــى بــودن تـركـان و انــدونــزيـان كـاسـتـه اسـت ؟ پـاسـخ چـشـمـگـيــر ايـن پـرسـش ، نـه مـيـبـاشـد . بـاز بـايـد گــوشــزد كـرد كـه زبـان و نــوشـتـن د و چـيــزنـد . زبـان پـارســى پـيــوسـتـه بـه خـانــواده ى زبـانـهـاى هـنـد و اروپـايــى اسـت ولــى بـه دبـيــره ى عـربــى نــوشـتـه مـيـشـود . زبـان تـركــى از خـانــواده ى زبـانـهـاى تـركــى مـغــولــى اسـت ، ولــى بـه دبـيــره ى لـاتـيـن نـگـاشـتـه مـيـگـردد . نـمــونـه هـاى فـراوانــى از كـشــورهـاى اسـلـامــى كـه الـفـبـاهـاى گــونـاگــونــى را بـه كـار مـيـبـرنـد وجــود دارد .

now in UniPers:

18. Dar hameye sarzaminhâye Eslâmi, yek alefbâ farâgir ast ke hameye kârhâye târixi, farhangi, maneši, qânuni, anjomani, adabi, va honari be ân nevešte šode va negahdâri mišavand. Zabânhâye hamegiye in kešvarhâye Eslâmi bar pâyeye zabâne Qor'ân ke Arabi mibâšad, bonyâd nahâde šodeand.

Âvande bâlâ kâmelan nâdorost ast. Candin kešvare Eslâmi alefbâye Lâtin râ be kâr mibarand. Barâye nemune mitavân Torkiyevo Andonezi râ nâmid. Âyâ conin cizi az Eslâmi budane Torkâno Andoneziyân kâste ast? Pâsoxe cašmgire in porseš, NA mibâšad. Bâz bâyad gušzad kard ke zabâno neveštan do cizand. Zabâne Pârsi peyvaste be xânevâdeye zabânhâye Hendo-Orupâyist vali be dabireye Arabi nevešte mišavad. Zabâne Torki az xânevâdeye zabânhâye Torki-Moqolist, vali be dabireye Lâtin negâšte migardad. Nemunehâye farâvâni az kešvarhâye Eslâmi ke alefbâhâye gunâguni be kâr mibarand vojud dârad.

So that was nice to see. I don't think Persian should switch over to the Latin alphabet *now* per se (other more crucial tasks at hand at the moment) but I do believe it would be a stronger language in the future with the Latin script. Persian is quite the easy and logical language, lacking most of the complications that other Indo-European languages have, and without this difficult-looking exterior (even with the Arabic alphabet it's still not that hard) I think we'll be able to see more and more people deciding to learn the language, and as an IAL supporter I think that's just great.


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