Use of zero-width non-joiner outside Nastaliq

Panceltic

Senior Member
Slovenščina
Hello all,

I don’t speak any Persian but I’m intrigued by the orthography/typography of the language. I have come across the zero-width non-joiner (ZWNJ) which is apparently used extensively in the language, and I was just wondering how the speakers perceive it when Persian is written in the Naskh style (like here on the forum for example).

For instance, in the word رئیس‌جمهور it is certainly incorrect to write رئیسجمهور, and رئیس جمهور is also discouraged, but seeing س‌ج together just looks so ‘broken’ and doesn’t suit the ‘spirit’ of Arabic writing at all, if you know what I mean. Another example is شب‌ها where it is also quite jarring. Now, in Nastaliq this seems to pose no problem because letter stack vertically as well so having a ZWNJ is not that obvious but in Naskh it really catches my eye.

What are your thoughts/comments on this, how do Persian speakers deal with this, is it an issue at all?

Thanks :)
 
  • fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    The so-called “zero-width non-joiner” is a very recent innovation; I think it was introduced not much more than 20 years ago. I agree that it is extremely ugly.
     

    Aryamp

    Senior Member
    Persian
    No, Sorry I don’t know what you mean by the ‘spirit’ of Arabic writing. In Persian half-space or ZWNJ looks totally fine when used correctly. To some extent it also depends on the font. Unfortunately, the forum doesn’t have dedicated Persian font, so Persian text doesn’t look that nice here anyway. Also, without ZWNJ a word might break into the new line at the wrong place.

    Overall, it is a very useful feature that improves readability. I don’t use it when typing messages because implementing it is not that easy but if I were to type an important text then I’d definitely make use of it.
     

    Abu Talha

    Senior Member
    Urdu
    I don’t know what you mean by the ‘spirit’ of Arabic writing.
    I understand this to mean that Arabic writing, at its base, is the dot-less consonants (ا ٮ ح د ر س ص ط ع ڡ ٯ ک ل م ں ه و ی) , the rules for connecting them, and a space to separate joined letters. Everything else, including the dots, are diacritics. Additional diacritics are fair game as language extensions but the basic script grammar should not be affected, to be consistent with the spirit of Arabic writing.

    So I agree with the OP that the ZWNJ is against this spirit. But I don't hold anything against it. It does, in fact, improve reading comprehension. (Now if only they could mandate writing the ezafe somehow..)

    The modern Uyghur Arabic script seems to have taken this modifying of the basic Arabic script much further.

    Interestingly, it seems to me that Arabic itself has made at least one innovation. Previously the space between words may have been identical to the space between disjoint letters within a word. So كتابة العربية may have been written as كتا بة ا لعر بية .
    Also, without ZWNJ a word might break into the new line at the wrong place.
    I believe a no-break space (U+00a0) would be one way to solve this.
     
    Last edited:

    Panceltic

    Senior Member
    Slovenščina
    Thanks to all for your comments. With the spirit of Arabic writing, I meant to say that when letters س and ج come together, it is natural to connect them (سجـ) but with ZNWJ they look like س‌جـ i.e. too close together and with a final-form in the middle of the word which goes against the usual rules.
     

    Aryamp

    Senior Member
    Persian
    Thanks to all for your comments. With the spirit of Arabic writing, I meant to say that when letters س and ج come together, it is natural to connect them (سجـ) but with ZNWJ they look like س‌جـ i.e. too close together and with a final-form in the middle of the word which goes against the usual rules.
    Interesting, I have kind of the opposite view. The spirit of Arabic letters is that you can be flexible with the spacing, I mean otherwise it seems pointless to have final-forms! I can write something like سلام‌چطوری‌خوبی؟ and no one will have any difficulty reading it, that's why in calligraphy you can do so much creative stuff. With Latin alphabet youcantnormallydothis.
    Also it's important to note that Arabic has a derivational system so you don't really need ZNWJ, whereas Persian is inflectional and that means you have so many affixes that need to stay close to the stem for aesthetic reasons and better readability.
     

    Panceltic

    Senior Member
    Slovenščina
    I can write something like سلام‌چطوری‌خوبی؟ and no one will have any difficulty reading it, that's why in calligraphy you can do so much creative stuff.

    Fair enough, but what about س‌ل‌ام‌چ‌ط‌وری‌خ‌وب‌ی؟ ? That looks a bit more atrocious, doesn’t it? :) But as I said, I am purely an outsider observer, I don’t really know much about either Persian or Arabic so I’m grateful for your comments, we learn something new every day!
     

    Aryamp

    Senior Member
    Persian
    Fair enough, but what about س‌ل‌ام‌چ‌ط‌وری‌خ‌وب‌ی؟ ? That looks a bit more atrocious, doesn’t it? :) But as I said, I am purely an outsider observer, I don’t really know much about either Persian or Arabic so I’m grateful for your comments, we learn something new every day!
    Of course! because now you're using the wrong forms! I think the fact that on computers form and space are normally linked— meaning it's the computer that decides the form based on the space— might create the impression that they're intrinsically connected, whereas for me (as an insider!) that's not the case. In English the space marks the end of the word. In Persian it's not necessarily the space but the final form too.
    Your example will still look wrong regardless of spacing between words: س‌ل‌ام‌ چ‌ط‌وری‌ خ‌وب‌ی
    Whereas with correct forms I can do this:
    ســـــــــــــــــــلــــا م چـــــــــــــــــــــطــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــوری خــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــــو بـــــــــــــــــــــــــــــی؟​
    or even this looks more stylish than wrong:
    ســ لــ ا م چـ طــ و ر ی خــ و بـــ ی؟​
    😃
    I don't know if I can get my point across. But indeed it's an interesting topic so thanks for bringing it up.
     
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