Re: Pashto yeh characters

From: Mansour, Kamal (
Date: Tue Jul 27 2010 - 17:11:52 CDT

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    Ron, as you've already noticed, there can be multiple conventions for the orthography of a single language.

    For the Yeh repertoire, typically the following are used:

    For a current corpus, have a look at BBC News ( and Deutsche Welle (


    On 2010.7.22 10:17, "" <> wrote:


    This is a query I had originally sent to the Linguist List, modified
    based on feedback I got there. I am hoping that someone in the Unicode
    community can help resolve this.

    I'm interested in knowing if there is a standard way to encode the
    various Pashto yeh-characters in Unicode, and if so, what it is. This
    question is a bit more complicated than it sounds, so here's the

    Pashto is written using a derivative of the Arabic script. The Arabic
    language uses a single character for both /j/ and /i:/ sounds. Like
    many Arabic characters, this one is composed of a base form (which
    changes shape based on its position in a word) and dots (in this case,
    two dots below the base form). In most of the Arabic-speaking world
    the dots are present with both the medial and final form, though in
    Egypt (and possibly other places) the convention is to have two dots
    on the medial form but leave them off the final form. The standard
    arrangement of the two dots is horizontal, but they can be placed
    vertically or diagonally with no change in meaning.

    Persian also uses a single character for /j/ and /i:/, with the
    convention of two dots on the medial form, no dots on the final form
    (same as in Egypt).

    The two conventions for the /j/-/i:/ character were given distinct
    code points in unicode despite the fact that they do not contrast;
    documentation is scarce, but presumably this was done in order to
    allow writing both Arabic and Persian in the same document. Therefore,
    Unicode has the following code points (I'm not giving the names, but
    rather the typical visual representation of the glyphs and typical use).

    U+064A two dots medially and finally (/j/-/i:/ Arabic convention)
    U+06CC two dots medially, none finally (/j/-/i:/ Persian convention)

    There are a few additional yeh-base code points defined, some of which
    are relevant to Pashto (see below).

    U+0649 no dots medially or finally (Arabic /a/ from etymological /j/)
    U+0626 hamza above medially and finally (Arabic glottal stop in
    certain contexts)
    U+06D0 two dots medially and finally in vertical arrangement
    U+06CD tail and no dots in final position

    As it so happens, there is much confusion in how these characters are
    used in actual electronic documents, which is not surprising given
    that U+06CC looks like U+064A in medial position but like U+0649 in
    final position. There is an excellent article by Jonathan Kew that
    sorts out what this means for various languages that use derivatives
    of the Arabic script. <>

    Unfortunately, this article does not discuss Pashto. I have little
    knowledge of the language, but here's what I managed to understand
    from the inspection of a few documents and with the help of friendly
    people on the Linguist List (and please correct me if I'm wrong).

    Traditionally, Pashto used a single character with the same convention
    as in Persian, of two dots in the medial form and none on the final
    form, and with no significance attached to the visual arrangement of
    the dots. The character was 3-ways ambiguous between the sounds /j/,
    /i:/ and /e/. In recent decades (probably since the 1970s or 1980s)
    there has been some differentiation, partly due to changes in the
    typesetting process and partly due to a deliberate effort of the
    Pashto Academy at the University of Peshawar, Pakistan.

    One convention that has gained fairly wide acceptance is a distinction
    between a horizontal arrangement of the dots, representing /j/ or /i:/
    as in Arabic and Persian, and a vertical arrangement representing the
    sound /e/. This distinction is the same as in Uighur, and the
    character with vertical dots has been codified as U+06D0. Additional
    conventions include a hamza (U+0626) or tail (U+06CD) to represent /j/
    at the end of a word in certain grammatical markers. All of these are
    quite standard by now and do not pose much of a problem.

    However, a further convention appears to have arisen, which as far as
    I can tell is unique to Pashto in that it distinguishes between /j/
    and /i:/ (though only in word-final position):

    /j/ is written with two dots medially, none finally
    /i:/ is written with two dots both medially and finally

    I have never seen this codified explicitly, but this is the impression
    I get from examining a few recent Pashto documents. Which brings me to
    my original question, of how to represent these characters in Unicode.
    The linguist in me notices a correspondence between sounds and Unicode
    code points (which, given the history I have just described, is most
    certainly accidental):

    /j/ corresponds to U+06CC
    /i:/ corresponds to U+064A

    The wikipedia article on the Pashto alphabet gives a different
    correspondence, based on visual appearance:

    forms with dots: U+064A (/i:/ and /j/ medially, /i:/ finally)
    forms without dots: U+0649 (only /j/ in word-final position)

    And there is yet a third convention, which I encountered in an
    electronic lexicon and also appears in the following document:

    U+06CC: medial forms with dots (/i:/ and /j/) and dotless final form (/j/)
    U+064A: final form with dots (/i:/)

    To wrap up, are my observations about the Pashto writing conventions
    correct? And is there a standard for assigning the Pashto characters
    representing /j/ and /i:/ to Unicode code points?


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