Dari Language Project


The Dari writing system

Dari is traditionally not a written language. While some speakers may informally use the Farsi script to write down their language, an official orthography has never been developed by the Zoroastrian community.

In our dictionary and text database, we use a modified Latin alphabet that adheres to certain linguistic principles. First, its vowel symbols are similar to the phonetic alphabet used by linguists around the world, so linguists from elsewhere will find it easier to read. And, second, the writing system we use is what linguists call "phonemic" (it represents all the contrasts of sound in the language with distinct symbols or combinations of symbols).

Whatever writing system you prefer to use, it is important to keep in mind that a writing system is just a way of representing speech and that different writing systems can be used for the same language. If you are learning a language, what is most important is to learn to speak it well. Written material can help, but nothing is better than listening to fluent speakers and trying to imitate the way they talk.


Dari has eight distinct vowel sounds. They are listed in the table below along with a few words to illustrate how they sound (click to listen to a recording of the word).

Letter Sound (IPA) Example
i /i/ miz 'hair', xin 'blood'
e /e/ svesh 'louse', del 'stomach, heart'
è /ɛ/ yènog 'woman', mè 'I'
a /æ/ mas 'big', chash 'eye'
u /u/ puz 'nose', gusht 'meat'
ù /ʊ/ mù 'we', pù 'foot'
o /o/ ostâ 'bone', shox 'horn'
â /a/ svâ 'dog', shâv 'night'

For speakers of Farsi or English, one of the hardest vowel sounds to hear and make correctly in Dari is the one that we write as ù. It is found in the word pù 'foot', which is very similar to—and yet it is distinct from—the u sound, found in the word puz 'nose'. Do you hear the difference?


Dari has about twenty consonant sounds. They are again listed in the table below with examples for each sound.

Letter Sound (IPA) Example
p /p/ pù 'foot'
b /b/ xib 'good'
t /t/ tash 'fire'
d /d/ del 'stomach, heart'
k /k/ ki 'who'
g /g/ gusht 'meat'
ch /ʧ/ chash 'eye'
j /ʤ/ tojah 'new'
f /f/
v /v/ ùv 'water'
s /s/ sor 'red'
z /z/ zâni 'knee'
sh /ʃ/ shâv 'night'
x /x/ xin 'blood'
h /h/ hezvun 'tongue'
m /m/ mas 'big'
n /n/ num 'name'
r /r/ râvè 'oil'
l /l/ lop 'mouth'
y /j/ yènog 'woman'

All of these sounds are found either in English or Farsi. Some elderly speakers have an additional sound which we write as ð. It sounds like the first sound of the English word that. Listen to this elderly Zoroastrian woman say the word puð 'nose'.