Tajik alphabet

The Tajik language has been written in three alphabets over the course of its history: an adaptation of the Perso-Arabic script, an adaptation of the Latin script and an adaptation of the Cyrillic script. Any script used specifically for Tajik may be referred to as the Tajik alphabet, which is written as алифбои тоҷикӣ in Cyrillic characters, الفبای تاجیکی with Perso-Arabic script and alifʙoji toçikī in Latin script.

The coat of arms of the Tajik Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic circa 1929. "Tajik Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic" is written (from top to bottom) in Tajik Latin, Tajik Arabic and Russian Cyrillic.
Another version of the 1929 coat of arms without Tajik Latin. The Tajik Arabic reads جمهوریت اجتماعی شوروی مختار تاجیکستان

The use of a specific alphabet generally corresponds with stages in history, with Arabic being used first, followed by Latin for a short period and then Cyrillic, which remains the most widely used alphabet in Tajikistan. The Bukhori dialect spoken by Bukharan Jews traditionally used the Hebrew alphabet but more often today is written using the Cyrillic variant.

Political context

As with many post-Soviet states, the change in writing system and the debates surrounding it is closely intertwined with political themes. Although not having been used since the adoption of Cyrillic, the Latin script is supported by those who wish to bring the country closer to Uzbekistan, which has adopted the Latin-based Uzbek alphabet. The Persian alphabet is supported by the devoutly religious, Islamists, and by those who wish to bring the country closer to Iran, Afghanistan, and their Persian heritage. As the de facto standard, the Cyrillic alphabet is generally supported by those who wish to maintain the status quo, and not distance the country from Russia.


As a result of the influence of Islam in the region, Tajik was written in the Persian alphabet up to the 1920s. Until this time, the language was not thought of as separate and simply considered a dialect of the Persian language. The Soviets began by simplifying the Persian alphabet in 1923, before moving to a Latin-based system in 1927. The Latin script was introduced by the Soviet Union as part of an effort to increase literacy and distance the, at that time, largely illiterate population, from the Islamic Central Asia. There were also practical considerations. The regular Persian alphabet, being an abjad, does not provide sufficient letters for representing the vowel system of Tajik. In addition, the abjad is more difficult to learn, each letter having different forms depending on the position in the word.

The Decree on Romanisation made this law in April, 1928. The Latin variant for Tajik was based on the work by Turcophone scholars who aimed to produce a unified Turkic alphabet, despite Tajik not being a Turkic language. The literacy campaign was successful, with near-universal literacy being achieved by the 1950s.

As part of the "russification" of Central Asia, the Cyrillic script was introduced in the late 1930s.[1][2][3][4][5] The alphabet remained Cyrillic until the end of the 1980s with the disintegration of the Soviet Union. In 1989, with the growth in Tajik nationalism, a law was enacted declaring Tajik the state language. In addition, the law officially equated Tajik with Persian, placing the word Farsi (the endonym for the Persian language) after Tajik. The law also called for a gradual reintroduction of the Perso-Arabic alphabet.[6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16][17]

The Persian alphabet was introduced into education and public life, although the banning of the Islamic Renaissance Party in 1993 slowed down the adoption. In 1999, the word Farsi was removed from the state-language law. As of 2004 the de facto standard in use was the Cyrillic alphabet and as of 1996, only a very small part of the population could read the Persian alphabet.


The letters of the major versions of the Tajik alphabet are presented below, along with their phonetic values. There is also a comparative table below.

Persian alphabet

A variant of the Persian alphabet (technically an abjad) is used to write Tajik. In the Tajik version, as with all other versions of the Arabic script, with the exception of ا (alef), vowels are not given unique letters, but rather optionally indicated with diacritic marks.

The Tajik alphabet in Persian


The front page of Kommunisti Isfara from 15 May 1936.

The Latin script was introduced after the Russian Revolution of 1917 in order to facilitate an increase in literacy and distance the language from Islamic influence. Only lowercase letters were found in the first versions of the Latin variant, between 1926 and 1929. A slightly different version used by Jews speaking the Bukhori dialect included three extra characters for phonemes not found in the other dialects: ů, ə̧, and . (Note that c and ç are switched relative to their usage in the Turkish alphabet, which has formed the basis for other Latin scripts in the former Soviet Union.)

The Tajik alphabet in Latin
A aB ʙC cÇ çD dE eF fG gƢ ƣH hI i
Ī īJ jK kL lM mN nO oP pQ qR rS s
Ş şT tU uŪ ūV vX xZ zƵ ƶʼ

The unusual character Ƣ is called Gha and represents the phoneme /ɣ/. The character is found in the Common Turkic Alphabet in which most non-Slavic languages of the Soviet Union were written until the late 1930s. The Latin alphabet is not used today, although its adoption is advocated by certain groups.


The Cyrillic script was introduced in Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic in the late 1930s, replacing the Latin script that had been used since the October Revolution. After 1939, materials published in Persian in the Persian alphabet were banned from the country. The alphabet below was supplemented by the letters Щ and Ы in 1952.

Text detail from the reverse of the 1 ruble note. The ruble was replaced in 2000 as a result of increasing inflation.
The Tajik alphabet in Cyrillic
А аБ бВ вГ гҒ ғД дЕ еЁ ёЖ жЗ зИ иӢ ӣ
Й йК кҚ қЛ лМ мН нО оП пР рС сТ тУ у
Ӯ ӯФ фХ хҲ ҳЧ чҶ ҷШ шЪ ъЭ эЮ юЯ я

In addition to these thirty-five letters, the letters ц, щ and ы can be found in loanwords, although they were officially dropped in the 1998 reform, along with the letter ь. Along with the deprecation of these letters, the 1998 reform also changed the order of the alphabet, which now has the characters with diacritics following their unaltered partners, e.g. г, ғ and к, қ, etc. leading to the present order: а б в г ғ д е ё ж з и ӣ й к қ л м н о п р с т у ӯ ф х ҳ ч ҷ ш ъ э ю я. In 2010, it was suggested that the letters е ё ю я might be dropped as well. The letters е and э have the same function, except that э is used at the beginning of a word (ex. Эрон, "Iran").

The alphabet includes a number of letters not found in the Russian alphabet:

Description Г with barИ with macronК with descenderУ with macronХ with descenderЧ with descender
Phoneme /ʁ//ˈi//q//ɵː//h//dʒ/

During the period when the Cyrillicization took place, Ӷ ӷ also appeared a few times in the table of the Tajik Cyrillic alphabet.

Transliteration standards

The transliteration standards for the Tajik alphabet in Cyrillic into the Latin alphabet are as follows:

Cyrillic IPA ISO 9 (1995) 1 KNAB (1981) 2 WWS (1996) 3 ALA-LC 4 Allworth 5 BGN/PCGN 6
А а/æ/aaaaaa
Б б/b/bbbbbb
В в/v/vvvvvv
Г г/ɡ/gggggg
Ғ ғ/ʁ/ġghghghgh
Д д/d/dddddd
Е е/jeː, eː/ee, yeeeye‐, ‐e‐e
Ё ё/jɔː/ëyoëëyoyo
Ж ж/ʒ/žzhzhžzhzh
З з/z/zzzzzz
И и/i/iiiiii
Ӣ ӣ/ɘ/īīīīīí
Й й/j/jyĭjyy
К к/k/kkkkkk
Қ қ/q/ķqqķqq
Л л/l/llllll
М м/m/mmmmmm
Н н/n/nnnnnn
О о/ɔː/oooooo
П п/p/pppppp
Р р/r/rrrrrr
С с/s/ssssss
Т т/t/tttttt
У у/u/uuuuuu
Ӯ ӯ/ɵː/ūūūūūŭ
Ф ф/f/ffffff
Х х/χ/hkhkhxkhkh
Ҳ ҳ/h/hxhh
Ч ч/tʃ/čchchčchch
Ҷ ҷ/dʒ/çjjč̦jj
Ш ш/ʃ/šshshšshsh
Ъ ъ/ʔ/''''"'
Э э/eː/èè, eėèeė
Ю ю/ju/ûyui͡ujuyuyu
Я я/jæ/âyai͡ajayaya

Notes to the table above:

  1. ISO 9 — The International Organization for Standardization ISO 9 specification.
  2. KNAB — From the placenames database of the Institute of the Estonian Language.
  3. WWS — From World’s Writing Systems, Bernard Comrie (ed.)
  4. ALA-LC — The standard of the Library of Congress and the American Library Association.
  5. Edward Allworth, ed. Nationalities of the Soviet East. Publications and Writing Systems (NY: Columbia University Press, 1971)
  6. BGN/PCGN — The standard of the United States Board on Geographic Names and the Permanent Committee on Geographical Names for British Official Use.


The Hebrew alphabet (an abjad like the Persian alphabet) is used for the Jewish Bukhori dialect primarily in Samarkand and Bukhara.[18][19] Additionally, since 1940, when Jewish schools were closed in Central Asia, the use of the Hebrew Alphabet outside Hebrew liturgy fell into disuse and Bukharian Jewish publications such as books and newspapers began to appear using the Tajik Cyrillic Alphabet. Today, many older Bukharian Jews who speak Bukharian and went to Tajik or Russian schools in Central Asia only know the Tajik Cyrillic Alphabet when reading and writing Bukharian and Tajik.

The Tajik alphabet in Hebrew
מ םלכּ ךּכ ךיטחז׳זוהד
תשׁרקצ ץפּ ףּפ ףעסנ ן
Sample textCorresponding Cyrillic text

דר מוקאבילי זולם איתיפאק נמאייד. מראם נאמה פרוגרמי פירקהי יאש בוכארייאן.

Дар муқобили зулм иттифоқ намоед. Муромнома – пруграми фирқаи ёш бухориён.


Tajik Cyrillic, Tajik Latin and Persian alphabet

CyrillicLatinPersianHebrewEnglish Translation
Тамоми одамон озод ба дунё меоянд ва аз лиҳози манзилату ҳуқуқ бо ҳам баробаранд. Ҳама соҳиби ақлу виҷдонанд, бояд нисбат ба якдигар бародарвор муносабат намоянд.Tamomi odamon ozod ba dunjo meojand va az lihozi manzilatu huquq bo ham barobarand. Hama sohibi aqlu viçdonand, bojad nisbat ba jakdigar barodarvor munosabat namojand.تمام آدمان آزاد به دنیا می‌آیند و از لحاظ منزلت و حقوق با هم برابرند. همه صاحب عقل و وجدانند، باید نسبت به یکدیگر برادروار مناسبت نمایند.תמאם אדמאן אזאד בה דניא מיאינד ואז לחאז מנזלת וחקוק בא הם בראברנד. המה צאחב עקל וג׳דאננד، באיד נסבת בה יכדיגר בראדרואר מנאסבת נמאינד.All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

For reference, the Persian script variant transliterated letter-for-letter into the Latin script appears as follows:

tmạm ậdmạn ậzạd bh dnyạ my̱ ậynd w ạz lḥạẓ mnzlt w ḥqwq bạ hm brạbrnd. hmh ṣḥb ʿql w wjdạnnd, bạyd nsbt bh ykdygr brạdrwạr mnạsbt nmạynd.

And the BGN/PCGN transliteration of the Cyrillic text:

Tamomi odamon ozod ba dunyo meoyand va az lihozi manzilatu huquq bo ham barobarand. Hama sohibi aqlu vijdonand, boyad nisbat ba yakdigar barodarvor munosabat namoyand.

Tajik Cyrillic and Persian alphabet

Vowel-pointed Persian includes the vowels that are not usually written.

Cyrillicvowel-pointed PersianPersianvowel-pointed HebrewHebrew
Баниодам аъзои як пайкаранд, ки дар офариниш зи як гавҳаранд. Чу узве ба дард оварад рӯзгор, дигар узвҳоро намонад қарор. Саъдӣبَنی‌آدَم اَعضایِ یَک پَیکَرَند، که دَر آفَرینِش زِ یَک گَوهَرَند. چو عُضوی به دَرد آوَرَد روزگار، دِگَر عُضوها را نَمانَد قَرار. سَعدیبنی‌آدم اعضای یک پیکرند، که در آفرینش ز یک گوهرند. چو عضوی به درد آورد روزگار، دگر عضوها را نماند قرار. سعدیבַּנִי־אָדַם אַעְזָאי יַךּ פַּיְכַּרַנְד, כִּה דַר אָפַרִינִשׁ זִ יַךּ גַוְהַרַנְד. ג׳וּ עֻזְוֵי בַּה דַרְד אָוַרַד רוֹזְגָּאר דִגַּר עֻזְוְהָא רָא נַמָאנַד קַרָאר סַעְדִי.בני־אדם אעזאי יך פיכרנד, כה דר אפרינש ז יך גוהרנד. ג׳ו עזוי בה דרד אורד רוזגאר דגר עזוהא רא נמאינד קראר סעדי.
Мурда будам, зинда шудам; гиря будам, xанда шудам. Давлати ишқ омаду ман давлати поянда шудам. Мавлавӣمُردَه بُدَم، زِندَه شُدَم؛ گِریَه بُدَم، خَندَه شُدَم. دَولَتِ عِشق آمَد و مَن دَولَتِ پایَندَه شُدَم. مَولَویمرده بدم، زنده شدم؛ گریه بدم، خنده شدم. دولت عشق آمد و من دولت پاینده شدم. مولویמֻרְדַה בֻּדַם זִנְדַה שֻׁדַם; גִּרְיַה בֻּדַם, כַנְדַה שֻׁדַם. דַוְלַתִ עִשְק אָמַד וּמַן דַוְלַתִ פָּאיַנְדַה שֻׁדַם. מַוְלַוִימרדה בדם זנדה שדם; גריה בדם, כנדה שדם. דולת עשק אמד ומן דולת פאינדה שדם. מולוי

Comparative table

Advertisement in Cyrillic for the admission of the graduate students by the research institutes of the Tajik Academy of Sciences.
A biscriptal sign incorporating an English word, "Zenith", written in the Latin script, and Tajik written in Cyrillic.
An illustration from Kommunisti Isfara, a newspaper published in Isfara in northern Tajikistan, inviting citizens to vote in an election on 29 December 1939. The word for "December", Dekabr is clearly visible.

A table comparing the different writing systems used for the Tajik alphabet. The Latin here is based on the 1929 standard, the Cyrillic on the revised 1998 standard, and Persian letters are given in their stand-alone forms.

Cyrillic Latin Modern Latin script Persian Phonetic
value (IPA)
А а A a A a اَ، ـَ، ـَه /a/ санг = سَنگ
Б б B b B b /b/ барг = بَرگ
В в V v V v و /v/ номвар = ناموَر
Г г G g G g گ /ɡ/ санг = سَنگ
Ғ ғ Ƣ ƣ /ʁ/ ғор = غار, Бағдод = بَغداد
Д д D d D d /d/ модар = مادَر, Бағдод = بَغداد
Е е E e E e ای، ـی /e/ шер = شیر, меравам = می‌رَوَم
Ё ё Jo jo Yo yo یا /jɔ/ дарё = دَریا, осиёб = آسِیاب
Ж ж Ƶ ƶ ژ /ʒ/ жола = ژالَه, каждум = کَژدُم
З з Z z Z z ﺯ، ﺫ، ﺽ، ﻅ /z/ баъз = بَعض, назар = نَظَر, заҳоб = ذَهاب, замин = زَمِین
И и I i I i; 'I, 'i (after vowel) اِ، ـِ، ـِه؛ اِیـ، ـِیـ /i/ ихтиёр = اِختِیار
Ӣ ӣ Ī ī Yí yí ـِی /ˈi/ зебоӣ = زیبائِی
Й й J j Y y ی /j/ май = مَی
К к K k K k ک /k/ кадом = کَدام
Қ қ Q q Q q /q/ қадам = قَدَم
Л л L l L l /l/ лола = لالَه
М м M m M m /m/ мурдагӣ = مُردَگِی
Н н N n N n /n/ нон = نان
О о O o O o آ، ـا /ɔ/ орзу = آرزُو
П п P p P p پ /p/ панҷ = پَنج
Р р R r R r /ɾ/ ранг = رَنگ
С с S s S s ﺱ، ﺙ، ﺹ /s/ сар = سَر, субҳ = صُبح, сурайё = ثُرَیا
Т т T t T t ﺕ، ﻁ /t/ тоҷик = تاجِیک, талаб = طَلَب
У у U u U u اُ، ـُ؛ اُو، ـُو /u/ дуд = دُود
Ӯ ӯ Ū ū Ū ū او، ـو /ɵ/ хӯрдан = خوردَن, ӯ = او
Ф ф F f F f /f/ фурӯғ = فُروغ
Х х X x X x /χ/ хондан = خواندَن
Ҳ ҳ H h H h /h/ ҳофиз = حافِظ
Ч ч C c Ch ch چ /tʃ/ чӣ = چِی
Ҷ ҷ Ç ç J j /dʒ/ ҷанг = جَنگ
Ш ш Ş ş Sh sh /ʃ/ шаб = شَب
ъ ' ' ء; ﻉ /ʔ/ таъриф = تَعرِیف
Э э E e E e ای، ـی /e/ Эрон = ایران
Ю ю Ju ju Yu yu یُ, یُو /ju/ июн = اِیُون
Я я Ja ja Ya ya یَ, یَه /ja/ ягонагӣ = یَگانَگِی


  1. ^ Schlyter, B. N. (2003) Sociolinguistic Changes in Transformed Central Asian Societies
  2. ^ Keller, S. (2001) To Moscow, Not Mecca: The Soviet Campaign Against Islam in Central Asia, 1917-1941
  3. ^ Dickens, M. (1988) Soviet Language Policy in Central Asia
  4. ^ Khudonazar, A. (2004) "The Other" in Berkeley Program in Soviet and Post-Soviet Studies, 1 November 2004.
  5. ^ Perry, J. R. (2005) A Tajik Persian Reference Grammar (Boston : Brill) p. 34
  6. ^ Siddikzoda, S. "Tajik Language: Farsi or not Farsi?" in Media Insight Central Asia #27, August 2002
  7. ^ UNHCHR – Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination – Summary Record of the 1659th Meeting : Tajikistan. 17 August 2004. CERD/C/SR.1659
  8. ^ Library of Congress Country Study – Tajikistan
  9. ^ Perry, J. R. (2005) A Tajik Persian Reference Grammar (Boston : Brill) p. 35
  10. ^ Schlyter, B. N. (2003) Sociolinguistic Changes in Transformed Central Asian Societies
  11. ^ Perry, J. R. (1996) "Tajik literature: Seventy years is longer than the millennium" in World Literature Today, Vol. 70 Issue 3, p. 571
  12. ^ Perry, J. R. (2005) A Tajik Persian Reference Grammar (Boston : Brill) p. 36
  13. ^ Судьба «русских букв» в таджикском алфавите будет решаться
  14. ^ Ido, S. (2005) Tajik (München : Lincom GmbH) p. 8
  15. ^ Rzehak, L. (2001) Vom Persischen zum Tadschikischen. Sprachliches Handeln und Sprachplanung in Transoxanien zwischen Tradition, Moderne und Sowjetunion (1900-1956) (Wiesbaden : Reichert)
  16. ^ IBM – International Components for Unicode – ICU Transform Demonstration


  1. ed. Hämmerle 2008, p. 76.
  2. Cavendish 2006, p. 656.
  3. Landau & Kellner-Heinkele 2001, p. 125.
  4. ed. Buyers 2003, p. 132.
  5. Borjian 2005.
  6. ed. Ehteshami 2002, p. 219.
  7. ed. Malik 1996, p. 274.
  8. Banuazizi & Weiner 1994, p. 33.
  9. Westerlund & Svanberg 1999, p. 186.
  10. ed. Gillespie & Henry 1995, p. 172.
  11. Badan 2001, p. 137.
  12. Winrow 1995, p. 47.
  13. Parsons 1993, p. 8.
  14. RFE/RL, inc, RFE/RL Research Institute 1990, p. 22.
  15. Middle East Institute (Washington, D.C.) 1990, p. 10.
  16. Ochsenwald & Fisher 2010, p. 416.
  17. Gall 2009, p. 785.
  18. Gitelman, Zvi Y (2001). A Century of Ambivalence: The Jews of Russia and the Soviet Union, 1881 to the Present. Indiana University Press. p. 203. ISBN 9780253214188.
  19. Изд-во Академии наук СССР (1975). "Вопросы языкознания". Вопросы языкознания: 39.

See also

  • Language planning
  • Official script
  • Tajik Braille

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