Baháʼí orthography
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Texts of the Baháʼí Faith use a standard system of orthography to romanize Persian and Arabic script. The system used in Baháʼí literature was set in 1923, and although it was based on a commonly used standard of the time, it has its own embellishments that make it unique.
Shoghi Effendi, head of the religion from 1921 to 1957, created the system of Baháʼí orthography and shared a list of examples of common terms with Baháʼís around the world in several letters in 1923.[1] The stated need for standardized transliteration was to "avoid confusion in future, and insure in this matter a uniformity which is greatly needed at present in all Baháʼí literature."[2] According to the standard, the most common terms are "Baháʼí," "Baháʼís," "Báb," "Baháʼu'lláh," and "ʻAbdu'l-Bahá," using accent marks to distinguish long vowels, and raised turned versus raised commas to distinguish ayin and hamza, respectively.[3]
Since the Baháʼís adopted their system, Middle Eastern scholars have modified the standard academic system adopted in 1894 in various ways, and have created a separate, related system for writing Persian (a principal change being use of e and o). The Baháʼí system, however, has now been used to print thousands of books and pamphlets in many languages, hence modifying it would create confusion and force authors to use two different spelling systems (one in passages being quoted exactly, the other in the rest of the text).
Western Baháʼís in the lifetime of ʻAbdu'l-Bahá used a variety of transliterations from Arabic. For example, Baháʼu'lláh – the Faith's founder, was written in a variety of spellings. ʻAbdu'l-Bahá in 1906 instructed to write the term Bahaʼo'llah, and later in 1921 requested that it be written Baha ʼUllah.[4]
The Baháʼí transliteration scheme that Shoghi Effendi adopted was based on a standard adopted by the Tenth International Congress of Orientalists which took place in Geneva in September 1894.[4][5] Shoghi Effendi changed some details of the Congress's system, most notably in the use of digraphs in certain cases (e.g. ⟨s͟h⟩ instead of ⟨š⟩), and in incorporating the solar letters when writing the definite article al- (Arabic: ال‎‎) according to pronunciation (e.g. ar-Raḥím, aṣ-Ṣaddíq, instead of al-Raḥím, al-Ṣaddíq).[4] He also introduced certain spelling variations that reflect Persian pronunciation (e.g. ⟨v⟩ instead of ⟨w⟩), specifically an Isfahani accent (e.g. ⟨Mihdí⟩ instead of ⟨Mahdí⟩).[4]
A list of frequently used words using the new system was first shared in 1923 and later published in The Baháʼí Yearbook of 1926.[4] Minor updates were published in The Baháʼí World volumes III (1930)[6] and VII (1939).[7] The system has been widely adopted by Baháʼí publishers.[8] The underdots, underscores, and sometimes the accents are frequently omitted online and in less formal writing due to the difficulty in rendering text.[8]
Perso-Arabic script
LetterArabic NamePersian NameTransliteration[9]Value (IPA) [a]
اʼalifʼalefá, a[aː], [a](Arabic); [ɒː], [æ](Persian)
ثt͟háʼt͟h [c][θ](Arabic); [s](Persian)
حḥáʼ[ħ](Arabic); [h](Persian)
ذd͟hálzáld͟h[ð](Arabic); [z](Persian)
صṣádsád[](Arabic); [s](Persian)
ضḍádzád[](Arabic); [z](Persian)
طṭáʼ[](Arabic); [t](Persian)
ظẓáʼ[ðˤ](Arabic); [z](Persian)
عʻaynʼaynʻ [d][ʕ](Arabic); [ʔ](Persian)
غg͟haynqayng͟h[ɣ](Arabic); [ɢ]~[ɣ](Persian)
قqáfqáfq[q](Arabic); [ɢ]~[ɣ](Persian)
وwáwvávú, v[uː]; [w](Arabic); [v](Persian)
ي [b]
yáʼí, y[iː], [j]
ءhamzahhamzéʼ [d][ʔ]
Comparison to common Latinizations
The Baháʼí transliteration can often differ markedly from versions commonly in use in English.
Baháʼí OrthographyCommon English RepresentationPersian pronunciationArabic pronunciationPerso-Arabic Spelling
Fáṭimih[11]Fatima[fɒːteˈme][fɑːˈtˤɪmæ, ˈfɑːtˤɪmæ]فاطمه
S͟hog͟hí[12]Shawki[ˈʃoːɣi][ˈʃæwʔi, ˈʃɑwqi]شوقی
While the accent and phonemic diacritic marks in the word "Baháʼí" indicate a three syllable pronunciation as [bæhɒːˈʔiː], the official pronunciation guide of the Baháʼí World News Service gives a two syllable pronunciation of "ba-HIGH" /
/ for English.[14][failed verificationsee discussion] The realization of the English pronunciation varies. The Oxford English Dictionary has /
/ ba-HAH-ee, Merriam-Webster has /
/ bah-HAH-ee (reflecting in the first syllable the difference between the UK and the US with the 'pasta' vowel), and the Random House Dictionary has /
/ bə-HAH-ee, all with three syllables.[15]
  1. ^ See letters of 12 March 1923, 9 April 1923, and 26 November 1923, published in Effendi 1974.
  2. ^ Effendi 1974, p. 43.
  3. ^ The apostrophe and the two apostrophe-like letters are distinguished in the name ʻAbdu'l-Baháʼ. All three are typically ignored when speaking in English, but reflect different pronunciations in Arabic and Persian (Winters 2002).
  4. ^ a b c d e Momen 1991.
  5. ^ Plunkett, G. T. (1894). Report of the Transliteration Committee. Tenth International Congress of Orientalists. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Geneva. pp. 879–892. JSTOR 25207765.
  6. ^ World 1930, pp. 256–257.
  7. ^ World 1939, pp. 614–615.
  8. ^ a b Jonah Winters, 2002, Diacritics and transliteration
  9. ^ Marzieh Gail, Guide to Transliteration and Pronunciation of the Persian Alphabet: together with the Numerical Value of the letters (Abjad Reckoning). Published in Baháʼí Glossary, Wilmette, IL: Bahaʼi Publishing Trust, 1957
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-05-01. Retrieved 2016-05-04.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-04-12. Retrieved 2016-05-04.
  12. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-04-12. Retrieved 2016-05-04.
  13. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2016-04-12. Retrieved 2016-05-04.
  14. ^ "Style guide, glossary and pronunciation guide | Bahá'í World News Service (BWNS)". Bahá’í World News Service.
  15. ^ See Banani, Amin, A Bahaʼi Glossary and Pronunciation Guide (MP3), Baháʼí Study and Shahrokh, Darius, "Windows to the Past Series", Baháʼí Library – A Guide to Pronunciation part 1 and 2, for more pronunciation instructions.
External links
Last edited on 15 May 2021, at 08:53
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