Extended Arabic script
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.
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 (ﺭ) 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.
Below are the 44 letters of the Pashto alphabet. The Southern (S), Central (C) and Northern (N) dialects of Pashto are included.
|alif||[ɑ], [ʔ]1||ā, ʾ||ā, ʾ||Ā ā, nothing||U+0627,
|ـا||ـﺎ||آ, ا||آ, ا|
|ṭe||[ʈ]||ṭ||ṭ (or tt)||Ṭ ṭ||U+067C||ـټ||ـټـ||ټـ||ټ|
|jīm||[d͡ʒ]||j||j (or ǰ)||J j||U+062C||ـﺞ||ـﺠـ||جـ||ج|
|he2||[h] / [x]3||ḥ||h||H h||U+062D||ـﺢ||ـﺤـ||حـ||ح|
|ce||[t͡s] / [s]||ṡ||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|
|ḍāl||[ɖ]||ḍ||ḍ (or dd)||Ḍ ḍ||U+0689||ـډ||ـډ||ډ||ډ|
|ṛe4||[ɺ̢] (, ɭ̆), [ɻ]||ṛ||ṛ (or rr)||Ṛ ṛ||U+0693||ـړ||ـړ||ړ||ړ|
|že||[ʒ] / [d͡z]||zh||ž||Ž ž||U+0698||ـﮋ||ـﮋ||ژ||ژ|
ǵe (C, N)
|Ǵ ǵ (or Ẓ̌ ẓ̌)||U+0696||ـږ||ـږ||ږ||ږ|
x̌īn (C, N)
|X̌ x̌ (or Ṣ̌ ṣ̌)||U+069A||ـښ||ـښـ||ښـ||ښ|
|dwād / zwād2||[z], [d̪]||z̤||z, d||Z z, D d||U+0636||ـﺾ||ـﻀـ||ضـ||ض|
|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]||q||q||Q q||U+0642||ـﻖ||ـﻘـ||قـ||ق|
|kāf||[k]||k||k||K k||U+06A9||ـک||ـکـ||کـ||ک 6|
|gāf||[ɡ]||g||g||G g||U+06AB||ـګ||ـګـ||ګـ||ګ 7|
|ṇūn||[ɳ]||ṇ||ṇ (or nn)||Ṇ ṇ||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|
|[h]/[ʔ], [a], [ə]||h, a, ə||h, a, ə||H h, A a, Ə ə||U+0647||ـﻪ||ـﻬـ||هـ||ه|
|[j], [i]||y, ī||y, ī||Y y, Ī ī||U+064A||ـﻲ||ـﻴـ||يـ||ي|
|[e]||e||ē||E e||U+06D0||ـﯥ||ـﯧـ||ېـ||ې 8|
|[ai], [j]9||ay, y||ay, y||Ay ay, Y y||U+06CC||ـی||ـ||ـ||ی 8|
|[əi]||ạy||əi||Əi əi||U+06CD||ـۍ||ـ||ـ||ۍ 8|
|[əi], [j]10||ạy, y||əi, y||Əi əi, Y y||U+0626||ـئ||ـئـ||ئـ||ئ 8,11|
- ^1 In the beginning of a word, آ (alif with madda) represents the long vowel /ɑ/ (e.g. آس - ās, "horse"), and ا (alif) represents the consonant /ʔ/ (e.g. اسلام - ʾislām or islām, "Islam"). 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").
- ^2 Ten letters, ق ف ع ظ ط ض ص ح ﺫ ث, appear only in loanwords which are mostly of Arabic origin. Eight of these, ع ظ ط ض ص ح ﺫ ث, represent no additional phonemes of Pashto, and their pronunciation merges 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 merge with /p/ پ.
- ^6 It is also common to write the letter ک as ك.
- ^7 It is also common to write the letter ګ as گ.
- ^8 In informal texts, ی as well as ې, ۍ and ئ are sometimes replaced by the letter ے, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
- ^9 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").
- ^10 The letter ئ represents /j/ after a vowel, e.g. جدائي - judāyī, "separation".
- ^11 It is also common to write ﺉ with the hamza over the right side of the letter - ٸ.
Historical letters now in disuse
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. Such character is hard to find in modern fonts.
In the earliest known Pashto manuscript written in 1651 CE, 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/.
The four diacritic marks are:
- 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".
|Letter||Name||Transliteration||IPA||Position in a word||Example|
|ي||klaka ye||y, ī||[j], [i]||it can be anywhere||يم
yəm ('I am')
|ې||pasta ye||e||[e]||it is at middle or end||يې
ye ('you (sing.) are')
when following a consonant
|[ai]||it is always at end||ستوری
when following a vowel
|[j]||it is always at end||دوى
|ۍ||x̌əźīna ye2||əi||[əi]||it is always at end||وړۍ
|ئ||fāiliya ye3||əi||[əi]||it is always at end||يئ
yəi ('you (plur.) are')
|y||[j]||it is at middle||جدائي
- ^1 If ى follows a consonant in a word, it indicates the word is masculine singular and in 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.
- Awde & Sarwan (2002). "Pashto dictionary & phrasebook", page 24.