Section 3 == *script chart*; *positional chart*; *more help*

3.1 == The daal series

The daal series consists of daal (dental "d"); ;Daal (retroflex "d"); and ;zaal ("z"). Note that the retroflex marker used in ;Daal is the same as that used above in ;Te -- and the same to be used in ;Re , as we will soon see. These three are the only three retroflex letters in Urdu, and their identical marking makes them easy to recognize and remember.

The letter ;zaal sounds like "z," but it is not the most common letter used for "z" -- instead, ze is normally used. More on this later (in section 4.5). In Arabic, the same letter is pronounced "dhaal" instead. Thus in Urdu we say ma;zhab ("religion, sect"), while in Arabic the word is pronounced "madhhab." But of course only the pronunciation changes; the spelling remains identical.

The final form of the daal series connects in a relaxed way that makes it look almost like re (see section 3.2). But remember that in their final form the re -series letters run off downward like a ski-slope. If it sits up (in Nastaliq) on the line, then even though it's relaxed-looking, it's a daal -series member. (The real possibility of confusion, in the long run, is between daal and vaa))o .) Remember of course that the whole daal series are non-connectors.

3.2 == The re series

:The re series consists of re ("r"); ;Re (retroflex "R"); ze ("z"); and zhe ("zh"). The first of these letters, ordinary re ("r"), is one of the most common consonants in the language. If you speak American English, here's a useful suggestion: try anything whatsoever except an American "r." Among major languages, American English is the only one that uses the particular kind of prolongable "r" sound that we do. If what you're saying is prolongable-- if you can make your "r" sound like "rrrrrr," like a motor revving up-- then you're definitely not getting the Urdu/Hindi sound right. It's a light, single flip with the tongue, and cannot be prolonged. So if you use an American "r," you're guaranteed to be wrong (and very markedly so, to the ear of a native speaker); if you use any other attempt whatsoever at an "r" sound, you have at least some chance of being right.

Note that the retroflex form ;Re never occurs initially, any more than retroflex "Ra" does in Devanagari. To make it, your tongue curls backwards against the roof of your mouth, and then flips forward to make the distinctive sound. Just keep trying-- once you get it, it feels so distinctive and so right, you know you've got it. And once you learn to do it, it's easy to do.

Take special note of ze : when transliterating English words, or when in doubt, this is the proper "z" sound to use. The three other "z" letters in the alphabet -- ;zaal and .zvaad and :zo))e -- are reserved for use in certain Arabic words, as we will see later (in 4.5). Remember that the whole re series are non-connectors.

We have now seen all the three retroflex letters: ;Te and ;Daal and ;Re . Of course they share the same retroflex marker, as you will have noticed. As your knowledge of the script progresses, you'll realize that you can to some extent phonetically "read" Persian and Arabic (although the latter is normally written in the flat, angular Naskh script that will look strange to you at first). And people who know these languages can "read" Urdu script. But they cannot "read" the retroflex letters, because since retroflex sounds occur in Indic languages alone (among the major languages at least), the retroflex marker has been added in Urdu alone, to show these sounds. (Actually, Pushtu has added even more special letters than Urdu, for its own wide range of sounds.)

The letter zhe is from Persian, and is so extremely rare that there is no special way to designate it in Devanagari; if you really needed to do so, you might use a "ja" with three dots below it in an inverted triangle. The letter zhe is pronounced with the "zh" sound heard in "pleasure" or "leisure." The only Urdu words I know that use it are mizhah or mizhgaa;N , "eyelashes"; muzhdah , "good news"; and azhdahaa , "serpent."

3.3 == The letter ba;Rii ye

The letter ba;Rii ye is a Siamese twin with chho;Tii ye , described above in section 1.5. When it is the second letter in a syllable, it is pronounced either as the vowel "e" (as in lenaa or mez ) or as the diphthong "ai" (as in bai;Thnaa or hai ). When it is the first letter in a syllable, it is pronounced as the consonant "y" (as in yaar ). In words that begin with the vowel sounds "e" or "ai," the ba;Rii ye must be preceded by alif , to prevent it from being the first letter in a syllable and thus turning into consonant-"y."

In its independent and final forms, ba;Rii ye has somewhat the energetic, aggressive shape of a check mark. In its initial and medial forms, it is indistinguishable in shape from chho;Tii ye -- that is, it mimics the shapes of the be series, but has two dots below it.

Thus when you see an initial form of ye in the middle of a word (after a non-connector), or a medial form of ye which of course will occur only in the middle of a word, you have to think carefully about pronunciation. If the ye is the first letter of a syllable, it is a consonant "y." If the ye is the second letter of a syllable, it may be "ii," "e," or "ai" -- since chho;Tii ye and ba;Rii ye are indistinguishable in medial forms. Only if the ye is in final or independent form do you immediately know whether it is a chho;Tii ye , to be pronounced "ii," or a ba;Rii ye , to be pronounced "e" or "ai." For an example of the possibilities in the case of one particular word, see Ghalib's 'reed-thickets' in {10,3} versus {18,7x}.

Useful information about which of these possibilities to choose could indeed be given by small diacritics placed above or below the letters. However, such diacritics cannot be relied on, for they are in fact very rarely used; see section 5 for a further account. Thus in this case, as in many others, you need to know the word before you can be sure of reading it correctly. Urdu script makes you work harder than Devanagari script does. But it also, in the long run, rewards you with its beauty and elegance.


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