Persian: Pronunciation of words ending in ﻩ (he)

tarkshya

Senior Member
Marwari
There are many Persian words which end in a(he), such as شاهزاده (prince), هفته (week), داروخانه (pharmacy), دوبارِه (again), هَميشِه (always) etc. These words eventually found their way into Hindi too during the medieval period.


In Hindi the pronunciation of these words always end in a long aa sound (IPA /ɑː/), without any hint of an h sound. So is شاهزاده is shahzaadaa, هفته is haftaa, داروخانه is daarukhaanaa, دوبارِه is dobaaraa and هَميشِه is hameshaa. The fact that in Devanagri these words are written with an explicit aa vowel (IPA /ɑː/) means that most Hindi speakers are not even aware that in the "native" script these words are written with a h class consonant.


So my question is


1. What is the modern Iranian pronunciation of these words? Are they pronounced with a long aa vowel sound (IPA /ɑː/) sound, just like in Hindi, or do Iranians pronounce them with an "uh" sound in the end, or with an "eh" sound?


2. What was the historical pronunciation of these words in Persian? The reason I ask this is because some sources on Internet vaguely suggest that there has been a pronunciation shift from medieval to modern times, but it is not clear how. I would like some native Persian speaker to offer some opinion.
 
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  • Qureshpor

    Senior Member
    Panjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    I think your preamble is not completely accurate. These words are indeed found in Modern Hindi but in terms of "medieval period", they have come into Modern Hindi via a language which came to be known as Urdu. The examples of words you have given can be given sources in which they were first recorded in Urdu. I don't know if you are able to give dates when these words first found their way in Modern Hindi. This aside..

    I know these words are written with a long a in Devanagri in Modern Hindi. But, in my humble submission these words are not actually pronounced with a long -aa, neither in Hindi nor in Urdu.

    I know you have asked for native Persian input. I am sure you will get this too. In the meantime, allow me to give my two pence worth.

    1) Modern Persian, based on the accent in Tehran, practically* all words ending in ہ are pronounced as "e", like the izaafat, as in jaan-e-man.

    2) Classical Persian pronunciation was the short vowel pronunciation. shaah-zaada, aahista, dubaara, hamesha

    *Exceptions are such words like dah (ten). nuh/noh (nine).
     
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    mundiya

    Senior Member
    Hindi, English, Punjabi
    I know these words are written with a long a in Devanagri in Modern Hindi. But, in my humble submission these words are not actually pronounced with a long -aa, neither in Hindi nor in Urdu.

    I feel the opposite: they are pronounced with -aa in both Hindi and Urdu, and are no different than words ending with -aa in Perso-Arabic script. This is also the view of many scholars. But this thread concerns Persian pronunciation, so ...
     
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    Jervoltage

    Senior Member
    1) Modern Persian, based on the accent in Tehran, practically* all words ending in ہ are pronounced as "e", like the izaafat, as in jaan-e-man.

    Of course only if the ه in question is های بیان حرکت. That is not the case with such words as مه (meh), سیاه (siyaah), ده (deh; = village), etc.

    2. What was the historical pronunciation of these words in Persian? The reason I ask this is because some sources on Internet vaguely suggest that there has been a pronunciation shift from medieval to modern times, but it is not clear how. I would like some native Persian speaker to offer some opinion.

    I just read a bit about this on the net. From what I can gather, های بیان حرکت comes from the Middle Persian suffix /-ag/ or /-ak/. The گ in جامگان (jaame + plural suffix aan) or خانگی (khaane + adjectival suffix i) is a vestige of the old pronunciation. This reversion to the old pronunciation happens when a morpheme is added to a word ending in های بیان حرکت.
     

    Qureshpor

    Senior Member
    Panjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    I feel the opposite: they are pronounced with -aa in both Hindi and Urdu, and are no different than words ending with -aa in Perso-Arabic script. This is also the view of many scholars. But this thread concerns Persian pronunciation, so ...
    What you feel and understand is of course your prerogative.

    Indeed it does and I have tackled the questions posed concerning Persian pronunciation. Hindi pronunciation was also mentioned in the preamble. so....
     

    Qureshpor

    Senior Member
    Panjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Of course only if the ه in question is های بیان حرکت. That is not the case with such words as مه (meh), سیاه (siyaah), ده (deh; = village), etc.[...]
    Yes, I did give a couple of examples. My list of course was not meant to be exhaustive.
     

    marrish

    Senior Member
    اُردو Urdu
    I think the OP's question is more about whether the final -h is ever pronounced in words which he gave as examples.
     

    Dib

    Senior Member
    Bengali (India)
    I think the OP's question is more about whether the final -h is ever pronounced in words which he gave as examples.

    I think Jervoltage's post #4, second section is relevant in this respect. It was -ag/-ak in Middle Persian, but the final consonant became silent at some point. Whether there was a phase with -ah on the way hasn't yet been pointed out by anybody though (and I don't know myself).
     

    marrish

    Senior Member
    اُردو Urdu
    You are right and I know that it's not pronounced in those words (cf. No. 2) but the problem is neither I, you or QP is a native Persian speaker :D
     

    Jervoltage

    Senior Member
    Yes, I did give a couple of examples. My list of course was not meant to be exhaustive.

    I did notice that. I just wanted to point out that it would not be strictly accurate to state that nearly all words ending in ه are pronounced with an /e/ as there are too many examples to the contrary.

    I think the OP's question is more about whether the final -h is ever pronounced in words which he gave as examples.

    In Persian, the words provided by the OP are, as Qureshpor Sb said, pronounced with an /e/.
     

    Qureshpor

    Senior Member
    Panjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    Here is a layman's way of looking at this issue, without any knowledge or expertise in etymology.

    If Middle Persian's ag/ak has ended up as Classical -ah where the h is not pronounced, then logically what is left to pronounce is simply an "-a". However, as final "i" as in the izaafat has drifted to an "e" vowel (majhuul) and final "u" as in "mard-u-zan" has drifted to an "o" (majhuul), it is logical to assume that the final "-a" has ended up being a kind of "majhuul" alif/a. The ma3ruuf alif, vaa'o and ye would be -aa,-ii and -uu respectively. Through this reckoning, the majhuul alif (if there is such a thing:)) is not the same as a ma3ruuf alif (آ ).
     

    tarkshya

    Senior Member
    Marwari
    Thanks Jervoltage. So the conclusion I am drawing from yours and Qureshpor's reply is that the IPA /e/ is most common - but not universal - modern pronunciation of words ending in ﻩ. You also corroborated Qureshpore's observation that the 5 words which I randomly picked from Hindi are all pronounced as /e/ in modern Persian. I want to limit my discussion to these 5 words only, so we can leave aside the exceptions mentioned by you such as مه (meh), سیاه (siyaah), ده (deh; = village), etc

    Can you also confirm Qureshpore's other observation, that classical pronunciation of these words was like shaah-zaada, aahista, dubaara, hamesha, i.e., with a schwa sound at the end.


    Of course only if the ه in question is های بیان حرکت. That is not the case with such words as مه (meh), سیاه (siyaah), ده (deh; = village), etc.



    I just read a bit about this on the net. From what I can gather, های بیان حرکت comes from the Middle Persian suffix /-ag/ or /-ak/. The گ in جامگان (jaame + plural suffix aan) or خانگی (khaane + adjectival suffix i) is a vestige of the old pronunciation. This reversion to the old pronunciation happens when a morpheme is added to a word ending in های بیان حرکت.

    Can you elaborate more on this part. What does phrase های بیان حرکت mean in layman's English? Do you mean to say that words which have an
    at the end were pronounced /-ag/ or /-ak/ in Middle Persian? If so, When did the transition to /-ah/ sound happen. The only conclusion I can draw is that at some point of time these words must have been spoken with an /-ah/ sound due to the presence of the conspicuous ﻩ.


     

    mundiya

    Senior Member
    Hindi, English, Punjabi
    However, as final "i" as in the izaafat has drifted to an "e" vowel (majhuul) and final "u" as in "mard-u-zan" has drifted to an "o" (majhuul), it is logical to assume that the final "-a" has ended up being a kind of "majhuul" alif/a.

    It seems you had a contradictory view in post 2. You mentioned the words ending in ہ (besides the exceptions) are now “pronounced as "e", like the izaafat, as in jaan-e-man.”
     
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    eskandar

    Moderator
    English (US)
    Can you also confirm Qureshpore's other observation, that classical pronunciation of these words was like shaah-zaada, aahista, dubaara, hamesha, i.e., with a schwa sound at the end.
    They were pronounced with a short 'a' at the end. It may not necessarily have been a schwa. In my opinion it's difficult or even impossible to know with certainty the exact pronunciation of vowels in the past.

    Can you elaborate more on this part. What does phrase های بیان حرکت mean in layman's English? Do you mean to say that words which have an
    at the end were pronounced /-ag/ or /-ak/ in Middle Persian? If so, When did the transition to /-ah/ sound happen. The only conclusion I can draw is that at some point of time these words must have been spoken with an /-ah/ sound due to the presence of the conspicuous ﻩ.
    The phrase های بیان حرکت means a haa (ه) which is solely there to express a final vowel. For example خانه ends with a های بیان حرکت because the word is khaane (or khaana if you prefer); the haa is silent. This is to be compared with a word like ده deh whose final haa is pronounced. Most words ending with the های بیان حرکت originally ended in /-ag/ or /-ak/. There was never an /-ah/ pronounced at the end as far as I'm aware. The final consonant (g or k) was dropped and the words ended with the vowel that preceded it, so earlier naamag became naama (today's naame in Iranian Persian pronunciation). However there needed to be some way to mark this final vowel, so a silent haa was used as a 'helping letter' to carry the final vowel.
     

    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    Jervoltage and Eskandar have given good answers to this question. The terms maʻrūf and majhūl apply to different LONG vowels (ī and ū, versus ē and ō, a distinction lost in all varieties of modern Persian westward of Herat) and it is not helpful, indeed confusing, to use these technical terms with reference to short vowels. The word for “house” is pronounced [xāna] in Eastern (Afghan or Tajik) Persian, but as [xānɛ] or [xunɛ] in Western (Tehruni) Persian. For my ears at least this [ɛ] is more open than the [e] in the first two syllables of [del-e man]. At a phonological level there is an argument for regarding [ɛ] as an allophone of /a/ and not of /e/.
     
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    Qureshpor

    Senior Member
    Panjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    It seems you had a contradictory view in post 2. You mentioned the words ending in ہ (besides the exceptions) are now “pronounced as "e", like the izaafat, as in jaan-e-man.”
    No, I did n't have a contradictory view. Perhaps it is my explanation or your understanding at fault. Please read my posts again. If you still feel I have expressed contradictory views, then I shall endeavour to remove your concerns.
     

    Qureshpor

    Senior Member
    Panjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    They were pronounced with a short 'a' at the end. It may not necessarily have been a schwa. In my opinion it's difficult or even impossible to know with certainty the exact pronunciation of vowels in the past.

    The phrase های بیان حرکت means a haa (ه) which is solely there to express a final vowel. For example خانه ends with a های بیان حرکت because the word is khaane (or khaana if you prefer); the haa is silent. This is to be compared with a word like ده deh whose final haa is pronounced. Most words ending with the های بیان حرکت originally ended in /-ag/ or /-ak/. There was never an /-ah/ pronounced at the end as far as I'm aware. The final consonant (g or k) was dropped and the words ended with the vowel that preceded it, so earlier naamag became naama (today's naame in Iranian Persian pronunciation). However there needed to be some way to mark this final vowel, so a silent haa was used as a 'helping letter' to carry the final vowel.
    A very valid point. I have hinted towards this line of thinking in post 12 of this thread.

    http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=2187529&highlight=hunch

    I do believe that du دُ became دو and ِک became کھ and نَ became نھ where the و and ہ are "helping letters", as you put it, bearing in mind that the script normally does n't show short vowels.
     

    mundiya

    Senior Member
    Hindi, English, Punjabi
    No, I did n't have a contradictory view. Perhaps it is my explanation or your understanding at fault. Please read my posts again. If you still feel I have expressed contradictory views, then I shall endeavour to remove your concerns.

    Fdb jii has explained it fine, so it's clear now. But with regards to your explanation, in post 2 you said words ending in ہ (for example, the words listed in the OP) are pronounced as "e"; however, in post 13 you differentiated between the pronunciation of "e" and the so-called majhuul alif (from Classical -ah).
     
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    Qureshpor

    Senior Member
    Panjabi, Urdu پنجابی، اردو
    ^ Fdb jii has explained it fine, so it's clear now. But with regards to your explanation, in post 2 you said words ending in ہ (for example, the words listed in the OP) are pronounced as "e"; however, in post 13 you differentiated between the pronunciation of "e" and the so-called majhuul alif (from Classical -ah).
    That is so, in Modern (Tehran based) Persian. The Classical Persian -ah/a pronunciation is what I have described as drifting towards a "majhuul alif/a" just as Classical "i" has ended up as "e" (as in jaan-i-man > jaan-e-man) and Classical "u" as in "du" (two) has become "o" as in "do".
     

    Jervoltage

    Senior Member
    ...The word for “house” is pronounced [xāna] in Eastern (Afghan or Tajik) Persian, but as [xānɛ] or [xunɛ] in Western (Tehruni) Persian. For my ears at least this [ɛ] is more open than the [e] in the first two syllables of [del-e man]...

    To me, /ɛ/ just doesn't sound right. I'm not even convinced that it's a lowered /e/.
     

    tarkshya

    Senior Member
    Marwari
    They were pronounced with a short 'a' at the end. It may not necessarily have been a schwa. In my opinion it's difficult or even impossible to know with certainty the exact pronunciation of vowels in the past.

    The phrase های بیان حرکت means a haa (ه) which is solely there to express a final vowel. For example خانه ends with a های بیان حرکت because the word is khaane (or khaana if you prefer); the haa is silent. This is to be compared with a word like ده deh whose final haa is pronounced. Most words ending with the های بیان حرکت originally ended in /-ag/ or /-ak/. There was never an /-ah/ pronounced at the end as far as I'm aware. The final consonant (g or k) was dropped and the words ended with the vowel that preceded it, so earlier naamag became naama (today's naame in Iranian Persian pronunciation). However there needed to be some way to mark this final vowel, so a silent haa was used as a 'helping letter' to carry the final vowel.

    So how does one determine if a final ه is a های بیان حرکت, i.e. it has to treated as an /e/ vowel, and when it should be treated as /h/ consonant. In other words, how does a non native Persian reader supposed know that خانه should be pronounced as khaane , while ده should be pronounced as deh. Is there any rule of thumb here?
     

    eskandar

    Moderator
    English (US)
    There's no real rule, you just have to memorize pronunciations. You can safely assume that the ه at the end of most words is an /e/ vowel, and then memorize the exceptions. It's always pronounced in words ending with an alif followed by haa (eg. سیاه siyaah, راه raah, آگاه aagaah, etc).
     

    Jervoltage

    Senior Member
    There's no real rule, you just have to memorize pronunciations. You can safely assume that the ه at the end of most words is an /e/ vowel, and then memorize the exceptions. It's always pronounced in words ending with an alif followed by haa (eg. سیاه siyaah, راه raah, آگاه aagaah, etc).

    Better, you can safely assume that ه is not pronounced (hence the other name, ه غیر ملفوظ) if the preceding vowel is an /e/, and then memorize the exceptions (e.g. فرمانده /farmaandeh/, له /leh/, etc.). If preceded by any vowel other than /e/, ه is always pronounced (e.g. گروه /goruh/, له له /lah-lah/, چاه /chaah/, که /kah/, که /koh/, etc.).
     
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    colognial

    Senior Member
    Persian
    There's no real rule, you just have to memorize pronunciations. You can safely assume that the ه at the end of most words is an /e/ vowel, and then memorize the exceptions. It's always pronounced in words ending with an alif followed by haa (eg. سیاه siyaah, راه raah, آگاه aagaah, etc).

    Also, in these words: gereh (گره = knot), deh (ده = village), dah (ده = ten), noh (نه = nine), massaabeh (مثابه, a word used in the phrase 'به مثابه' = as, in the position of), keh (که = little, slight), meh (مه = large, great).

    I am not sure how these words where the 'alif' rule of thumb obviously does not hold, as well as some other words like these, have come to be pronounced differently. The only thing I do know is the 'h' remains sonorous even when there is a liaison. For instance, we (Iranian speakers of Persian) tend not to add the ی after (or above) the letter h where there is usually a 'kasre', so that, for instance we have the following:

    Gerehe koor (گره کور = a tight knot) - You may hear people say gereye koor, but they never write it with a ی.

    Assare honari be massabehe kaalaaye tejaari (اثر هنری به مثابه کالای تجاری = work of art as a commodity)
     

    Jervoltage

    Senior Member
    The only thing I do know is the 'h' remains sonorous even when there is a liaison. For instance, we (Iranian speakers of Persian) tend not to add the ی after (or above) the letter h where there is usually a 'kasre', so that, for instance we have the following:

    Gerehe koor (گره کور = a tight knot) - You may hear people say gereye koor, but they never write it with a ی.

    Assare honari be massabehe kaalaaye tejaari (اثر هنری به مثابه کالای تجاری = work of art as a commodity)

    I think it just stands to reason that there needn't be an extra ی as there is already a (pronounced) consonant to start the new syllable with. As for the pronunciation of گره کور, gere-ye kur, as you suggested, is a colloquial pronunciation (and not a good one, in my opinion).
     

    Sheikh_14

    Senior Member
    English- United Kingdom, Urdu, Punjabi
    They were pronounced with a short 'a' at the end. It may not necessarily have been a schwa. In my opinion it's difficult or even impossible to know with certainty the exact pronunciation of vowels in the pastl.

    Any idea as to how ancient or recent this ah/eh transition has been in Iranian most especially Tehranii Persian?
     
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