Pashto alphabet

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Excerpt from Khayr ul-Bayān, the oldest known document written in Pashto, written in Nastaliq in 1651

The Pashto alphabet (Pashto: پښتو الفبېpax̌to alifbe) is a modified form of the Persian alphabet known as Perso-Arabic, which is itself a derivative of the Arabic alphabet, with letters added to accommodate phonemes used in Pashto that are not found in Arabic and Persian.


The Pashto alphabet

The seventeenth century saw the rise of a polemic debate that was also polarized along lines of script. The heterodox Roshani movement wrote their literature mostly in the Persianate style called Nastaʿlīq script. The followers of the Akhund Darweza, and the Akhund himself, who viewed themselves as defending the religion against the influence of syncretism, wrote Pashto in the Arabicized Naskh, which is the generally used script in the modern era of Pashto with some individualized exceptions because of its greater adaptability for typesetting. Even lithographically reproduced Pashto has been calligraphied in Naskh as a general rule, since it was adopted as standard.[citation needed]

The Pashto Alphabet
Two of the special Pashto letters: x̌in/ṣ̌in and γ̌ē/ẓ̌e

The Pashto alphabet has several letters which do not appear in any other Arabic script. For example, the letters representing the retroflex consonants /ʈ /, /ɖ /, / / and /ɳ / are written like the standard Arabic te, dāl, re and nun with a "panḍak", "ğaṛwanday" or also called "skəṇay" attached underneath, which looks like a small circle: ړ, ډ, ټ, and ڼ, respectively. The letters ښ and ږ (x̌īn/ṣ̌īn and ǵe/ẓ̌e) look like sīn (س) and re () respectively with a dot above and beneath. The letters representing t͡s and d͡z look like a ح with three dots above and an hamza (ء) above; څ and ځ, and are also specific to Pashto, although څ was also used in the related extinct language of Khwarezmian to represent both /t͡s/ and /d͡z/. Pashto has ی, ې, ۀ, and ۍ for additional vowels and diphthongs as well.

Pashto uses all 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet, and shares 3 letters (چ, پ, and ژ) with Persian and Urdu in the additional letters.


Pashto has 45 letters and 4 diacritic marks. The Southern (S), Central (C) and Northern (N) dialects of Pashto are included.

Transliteration Latin Unicode
Contextual forms Isolated
Final Medial Initial
alif [ɑ], [ʔ]1 ā, ʾ ā, ʾ Ā ā, nothing U+0627,
ـا ـﺎ آ, ا آ, ا
be [b] b b B b U+0628 ـﺐ ـﺒـ بـ ب
pe [p] p p P p U+067E ـﭗ ـﭙـ پـ پ
te [t̪] t t T t U+062A ـﺖ ـﺘـ تـ ت
ṭe [ʈ] ṭ (or tt) U+067C ـټ ـټـ ټـ ټ
se2 [s] s S s U+062B ـﺚ ـﺜـ ثـ ث
jīm [d͡ʒ] j j (or ǰ) J j U+062C ـﺞ ـﺠـ جـ ج
če [t͡ʃ] ch č Č č U+0686 ـﭻ ـﭽـ چـ چ
he2 [h] / [x]3 h H h U+062D ـﺢ ـﺤـ حـ ح
xe [x] kh x X x U+062E ـﺦ ـﺨـ خـ خ
ce [t͡s] / [s] ts (or c) C c U+0685 ـڅ ـڅـ څـ څ
źim [d͡z] / [z] ż dz (or j) Ź ź U+0681 ـځ ـځـ ځـ ځ
dāl [d̪] d d D d U+062F ـﺪ ـﺪ د د
ḍāl [ɖ] ḍ (or dd) U+0689 ـډ ـډ ډ ډ
zāl2 [z] z Z z U+0630 ـﺬ ـﺬ
re [r] r r R r U+0631 ـﺮ ـﺮ
ṛe4 [ɺ̢] (, ɭ̆), [ɻ] ṛ (or rr) U+0693 ـړ ـړ ړ ړ
ze [z] z z Z z U+0623 ـﺰ ـﺰ
že [ʒ] / [d͡z] zh ž Ž ž U+0698 ـﮋ ـﮋ ژ ژ
ẓ̌e (S)
ǵe (C, N)
[ʐ] (S)
[ʝ] (C)
[ɡ] (N)
ẓh (S)
g'h (C)
g (N)
ẓ̌ (S)
γ̌/ǵ (C)
g (N)
Ǵ ǵ (or Ẓ̌ ẓ̌) U+0696 ـږ ـږ ږ ږ
sīn [s] s s S s U+0633 ـﺲ ـﺴـ سـ س
šīn [ʃ] sh š Š š U+0634 ـﺶ ـﺸـ شـ ش
ṣ̌īn (S)
x̌īn (C, N)
[ʂ] (S)
[ç] (C)
[x] (N)
ṣh (S)
k'h (C)
kh (N)
ṣ̌ (S)
x̌ (C)
x (N)
X̌ x̌ (or Ṣ̌ ṣ̌) U+069A ـښ ـښـ ښـ ښ
swād2 [s] s S s U+0635 ـﺺ ـﺼـ صـ ص
dwād / zwād2 [z], [d̪] z, d Z z, D d U+0636 ـﺾ ـﻀـ ضـ ض
twe2 [t̪] t T t U+0637 ـﻂ ـﻄـ طـ ط
zwe2 [z] z Z z U+0638 ـﻆ ـﻈـ ظـ ظ
ayn2 [ʔ] ʻ ʻ nothing U+0639 ـﻊ ـﻌـ عـ ع
ğayn [ɣ] gh gh (or γ) Ğ ğ U+063A ـﻎ ـﻐـ غـ غ
fe2 [f] / [p]5 f f F f U+0641 ـﻒ ـﻔـ فـ ف
qāf [q] / [k]6 q q Q q U+0642 ـﻖ ـﻘـ قـ ق
kāf [k] k k K k U+06A9 ـک ـکـ کـ ک 7
gāf [ɡ] g g G g U+06AB ـګ ـګـ ګـ ګ 8
lām [l] l l L l U+0644 ـﻞ ـﻠـ لـ ل
mīm [m] m m M m U+0645 ـﻢ ـﻤـ مـ م
nūn [n] n n N n U+0646 ـﻦ ـﻨـ نـ ن
ṇūn [ɳ] ṇ (or nn) U+06BC ـڼ ـڼـ ڼـ ڼ
wāw [w], [u], [o] w, ū, o w, ū, o W w, Ū ū, O o U+0648 ـﻮ ـﻮ و و
gərda he
[h], [a] h, a h, a H h, A a U+0647 ـﻪ ـﻬـ هـ ه
kajīra he
[ə] ə ə Ə ə U+06C0 - - ۀ13
klaka ye
[j], [i] y, ī y, ī Y y, Ī ī U+064A ـﻲ ـﻴـ يـ ي
pasta ye
[e] e ē E e U+06D0 ـﯥ ـﯧـ ېـ ې 9
nārīna ye
[ai], [j]10 ay, y ay, y Ay ay, Y y U+06CC ـی ـ ـ ی 9
x̌əźīna ye
[əi] ạy əi Əi əi U+06CD ـۍ ـ ـ ۍ 10
fāiliya ye
[əi], [j]12 ạy, y əi, y Əi əi, Y y U+0626 ـئ ـئـ ئـ ئ 9,12


  • ^1 In the beginning of a word, آ (alif with madda) represents the long vowel /ɑ/ in words borrowed from other languages (e.g. آغا - āğā, a title).[1] In the beginning of a word, the alphabet ا (alif) represents the consonant /a/, e.g. اسپه - aspa, "mare".[2] In the middle or end of a word, ا represents the long vowel /ɑ/ which is following a consonant (e.g. کال - kāl, "year"; and نيا - nyā, "grandmother").[3][4] In the beginning of a word, the alphabet Alif can also be used with a diactric mark [often not written] e.g. اِ (alif with a zer) as in اِسلام - Islām, "Islam (the religion)".[5]
  • ^2 Ten letters, ق ف ع ظ ط ض ص ح ﺫ ث, appear only in loanwords which of Arabic origin through Persian borrowings. Eight of these, ع ظ ط ض ص ح ﺫ ث, represent no additional phonemes of Pashto, and their pronunciation is replaced with other phonemes.
  • ^3 ح /h/ tends to be omitted in pronunciation when at the end of a word, e.g. اصلاح is always pronounced as [isˡlɑ].
  • ^4 The letter ړ represents /ɺ̢/ if it is not at the final position of a syllable; if it is final, it represents /ɻ/.
  • ^5 The phoneme /f/ ف occurs only in loanwords. It tends to be replaced with /p/ پ.
  • ^6 The phoneme /q/ ق occurs only in loanwords. It tends to be replaced with /k/ ک.
  • ^7 It is also common to write the letter ک as ك.
  • ^8 It is also common to write the letter ګ as گ.
  • ^9 In informal texts, ی as well as ې, ۍ and ئ are sometimes replaced by the letter ے, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In some official texts, edited till to the middle of the 20th century, the ے corresponds only to ې, while ۍ and ئ (if only the grammatical use of the latter is not lacked) are used as in official typing nowadays.
  • ^10 ی represents /ai/ when it is following a consonant (e.g. لرګی - largay, "wood"), and represents /j/ when it is following a vowel (e.g. دوی - duy, "they").
  • ^11 The letter ئ represents /j/ after a vowel, e.g. جدائي - judāyī, "separation".
  • ^12 It is also common to write with the hamza over the right side of the letter - ٸ.
  • ^13 The letter ۀ is only represented at the end of a word, e.g. تېرۀ - terə, "sharp". The vowel /ə/ when present between consonants is unrepresented by the ۀ alphabet , e.g. ننوتل - nənawatəl, "to enter".

Historical letters now in disuse[edit]

The superscribed element of the letter ځ in earlier varieties was not hamza-shaped, but was very similar to little kāf of the letter ك.[6] Such shape of the upper element of the letter is hard to find in modern fonts.

In the earliest known Pashto manuscript written in 1651 CE,[7] ڊ (dāl with subscript dot) was used for /t͡s/ and /d͡z/, which was still used in the Diwan of Mirza written in 1690 CE, but this sign was soon replaced by ,څ which was first attested in 1696-7 CE. څ is now used for only /t͡s/.

Another rare glyph for /d͡z/ is ج֗, a ج with the same dot above.

Diacritic marks[edit]

The Pashto diacritic marks: zwarakay, pēš, zēr, and zwar

The four diacritic marks are:

Diacritic Unicode Name Translit. IPA Latin
َ U+064E zwar a [a] a
ٙ U+0659 zwarakay ə [ə] ə
ِ U+0650 zer i [i] i
ُ U+064F peš u [u] u


  • The diacritic marks are not considered separate letters. Their use is optional and are usually not written; they are only occasionally used to distinguish between two words which would otherwise appear similar.
  • In Arabic loanwords, the tanwin fatha (ً) can be used, e.g. مَثَلاً - masalan, "for example".

"Ye" letters[edit]

"Ye"-letters in Pashto alphabet
Letter Name Transliteration IPA Position in a word Example
ي klaka ye y, ī [j], [i] can appear anywhere يم
yəm ('I am')
ې pasta ye e [e] middle or end يې
ye ('you (sing.) are')
ی nārīna ye1 ay
when following a consonant
[ai] end ستوری
storay ('star')
when following a vowel
[j] end دوى
duy ('they')
ۍ x̌əźīna ye2 əi [əi] end وړۍ
waṛəi ('wool')
ئ fāiliya ye3 əi [əi] end يئ
yəi ('you (plur.) are')
y [j] middle جدائي
judāyī ('separation')


  • ^1 If ى follows a consonant in a word, it indicates the word is masculine singular and in the direct case.
  • ^2 ۍ always indicates the word it occurs in is feminine.
  • ^3 If ئ occurs at the end of a verb, it indicates the verb is in second person plural form. Note, that sometimes the grammatical ئ was lacked either in the typing as in the alphabet and replaced with the ۍ.

See also[edit]



  • Awde & Sarwan (2002). "Pashto dictionary & phrasebook", page 24.

External links[edit]