Section 5 == script chart*; *positional chart*; *more help*


5.1 == Diacritics: zer , zabar , and pesh

In Urdu, short vowels are not written as normal letters within the script; the reader must supply them from prior knowledge. However, for foreign or unusual words they may be indicated, or for certain special cases in which even native speakers may be unsure (for example, idhar versus udhar , is versus us ). For more on this latter case, see section 8.4.

The mark zer (meaning "under" or "below" in Persian) is also called kasrah in Arabic. It consists of a tiny slash running diagonally from upper right to lower left, and appears beneath the letter to which it applies. Here are its possible uses:

(1.) zer beneath any consonant: the short vowel "i," as in jis , attaches to that consonant.

(2.) zer beneath alif in word-initial position: alif sounds like the short vowel "i," as in idhar . This usage occurs only at the beginning of a word, since within a word alif always sounds like "aa."

(3.) zer beneath medial ye : ye sounds like the long vowel "ii," as in jiinaa . Some calligraphic materials use a vertical slash, rather than an angular one, in this situation.

The mark zabar (meaning "over" or "above" in Persian) is also called fat;hah in Arabic. It consists of a tiny slash running diagonally from upper right to lower left, and appears above the letter to which it applies. Here are its possible uses:

(1.) zabar above any consonant: the short vowel "a," as in jab , attaches to that consonant.

(2.) zabar above alif in word-initial position: alif sounds like the short vowel "a," as in ab . This usage occurs only at the beginning of a word, since within a word alif always sounds like the long vowel "aa."

(3.) zabar above vaa))o : vaa))o sounds like the long vowel "au," as in aur .

(4.) zabar above ba;Rii ye : ba;Rii ye sounds like the long diphthong "ai," as in hai .

If you have the kind of mind that likes this sort of thing, note that since the semivowels vaa))o and ye can be consonants as well as vowels, a zabar above one of them could represent a case of (1.) instead of a case of (3.) or (4.). In other words, "Avadh" and "Audh" could have just the same pesh above the vaa))o . But if you have the kind of mind that doesn't like this sort of thing, don't let all this upset you. It will become clear over time, and there is no hurry because the diacritics are NOT that common anyway.

The mark pesh (meaning "before, in front" in Persian) is also called :zammah in Arabic. It looks like a very tiny vaa))o . It appears above the letter to which it applies. Here are its uses:

(1.) pesh above any consonant: the short vowel "u," as in kuchh , attaches to that consonant.

(2.) pesh above alif in word-initial position: alif sounds like the short vowel "u," as in udhar . This usage occurs only at the beginning of a word, since within a word alif always sounds like "aa."

(3.) pesh above vaa))o : vaa))o sounds like the long vowel "uu," as in huu;N . Some calligraphic materials use an inverted pesh in this situation.


5.2 == Diacritics: the jazm

The jazm ("amputation, cutting short") is a small diacritic shaped like an upside-down "v." It is placed above a consonant to show that that consonant has no short vowel with it and must be pronounced as part of a cluster with the following consonant. It works the way conjunct forms of consonants do in Devanagari. For example, the word jazm itself could be written with a jazm over the ze , to show that the word is not "jazam." The word dost ("friend") could be written with a jazm over the siin , to show that the word is not "dosat." Like the diacritics described in 4.7, jazm is most commonly omitted.


5.3 == Diacritics: the tashdiid

The tashdiid ("strengthening") is a small mark shaped like a slightly curly "w." It is placed above a consonant, in order to double it. It is more often used than the other diacritics, but may still be omitted at will. Thus kuttaa ("dog") is written with only one te , not two. A tashdiid may or may not actually appear above this te ; but in any case the reader is expected to supply one for purposes of pronunciation.

NOTE: the tashdiid is never -- repeat, NEVER! -- to be used on verbs. Thus "to become" must be written be + nuun + nuun + alif -- that is, with two nuun 's in a row, never with a single nuun and a tashdiid above it. Verbs are crucially important and must be specified clearly. (I'm not sure our current script display reflects this difference, but even if it doesn't, it should!)


5.4== Diacritics: the i.zaafat

The i.zaafat ("addition") is just about the only bit of grammar used in Urdu but not in Hindi. It's a construction that creates a grammatical relationship between two words. Of the two words, the first is almost always a noun (rarely, an adverb). The second may be either a noun or an adjective. The presence of the i.zaafat is shown by the insertion between the two words of a small linking vowel called a kasrah , which is pronounced "-e" (sounding more or less like the final vowel in in "namaste," only a bit lighter).

In a noun-noun i.zaafat construction, the relationship is almost always the exact reverse of that in a " kaa / ke / kii " construction. In other words, sher-e panjaab , like panjaab kaa sher , means "Tiger of the Panjaab." Similarly, kitaab-e dil is the reverse of dil kii kitaab , and both mean "the book of the heart." Very rarely, the relationship of the two nouns may be appositional instead.

In an adverb-noun i.zaafat , the effect of a reversed postpositional phrase is created: zer-e dara;xt means "under a tree." Such usages are not so common. In an adjective-noun i.zaafat , the effect of "of" is created: qaabil-e ;zikr means "worthy of mention." And here's an adjective-noun example from Vali Dakani: dil hu))aa hai miraa ;xaraab-e su;xan , "my heart has become wrecked by poetry.'

In a noun-adjective i.zaafat construction, the adjective simply modifies the noun. Thus anaar-e sur;x is the same as sur;x anaar , and they both mean "red pomegranate." Similarly, qaa((id-e a:zam is the same as a:zam qaa((id , and they both mean "great lawgiver."

The i.zaafat , like other diacritics, need not be shown in writing at all; in poetry, it in fact theoretically should not be written. But it often is, and in prose even more often. When the first of the pair of words ends in a consonant, the i.zaafat is shown as a tiny zer mark placed below and slightly after the last letter of the word. When the first of the pair of words ends in an alif , the i.zaafat is shown as a hamzah (see section 11.1) with a ba;Rii ye as a chair. When the first of the pair of words ends in a long vowel or a vowel-sounding chho;Tii he , as in guldastah , thei.zaafat is normally shown as a hamzah alone.

Here's an example of similar flexibilities, in Urdu and English: verse {33,2} from Ghalib, explicated with as much clarity as I can possibly achieve.

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