A recent discussion on Persian literature sparked an old interest of mine regarding the current modified Arabic alphabet used to write the Persian language in both Iran and Afghanistan. After doing some extensive investigation on the matter, there appears to be reoccurring arguments against changing the current script to a different scrip such as a modified Latin script or the ancient Avestan script. These arguments are as follows:
These arguments have serious flaws that will be thoroughly discussed in this short essay. Although the four essential arguments above will be refuted, this essay will not endorse either the Latin or Avestan scripts as good alternatives to the current Persian script. Such endorsements must be made in a separate work with concrete reasons as to the proposed script changes. Regardless of potential benefits or detriments to changing the script, the four arguments above are not valid reasons for deterring script change.
The first argument against script change for the Persian language attempts to warn individuals of a perceived threat that most people will not have access to classical Persian literarily works such as Sa’di’s Golestan, Ferdusi’s Shahnameh, and Rumi’s Masnavi. The reason is quite simple. In the future if most people cannot read in the current script, then only an elite few with more education will have access to the Persian classical works. This argument assumes much in regards to accessibility to classical literary works. The 21st century is an age where a great deal of information from a variety of sources written in various languages are translated and made accessible to the average person via the Internet. Assuming that people would not have the ability to read classical Persian works if the current script changes is a weak argument. There is no evidence to suggest the classical literary works of Rumi, Sa’di, Hafez, Rudaki, and Ferdusi would not be transcribed into a new script for future generations to enjoy.
Changing one foreign script (Arabic) for another foreign script (Latin) is pointless. There are certainly different levels of being uncommon to a land and/or its people-foreign. A Canadian living in the United States is certainly more common to the land and the American people than a Saudi Arabian living in the same country. The same manner of reasoning can be applied to scripts as well. Although the Arabs are neighbors to the Persian-speaking people of the Middle East, their language and script could not be more different from that of the Persians. Arabic is a Semitic language that is similar to Hebrew and Assyrian. On the other hand, Persian is an Indo-European language of the Indo-Iranian branch. Subsequently, Persian shares a linguistic heritage with languages like French, Spanish, English, German, Italian, and Greek. Due to the 7th century invasion of Sassanid Persia by Arab Muslims, the Persian language has a great deal of Arabic loan words. Yet a recent development has occurred to reintroduce original Persian words to Persian speakers. Nevertheless, the Latin script is Indo-European and less foreign than the Arabic script.
Modifying the current script may cause damage to the Persian language if the original pronunciation of words are not retained either intentionally or unintentionally due to some error in transcription. With professional linguistic scholars working on transcribing the Persian Arabic alphabet into a Latin based alphabet or any other alphabet, there is little danger in misspelling key words or causing any other kind of confusion. The fact of the matter is the current script has already created a great deal of damage to the Persian language. Vowels are rarely identified in the Arabic script, which has created discrepancies in the pronunciation of Persian words by native speakers. Also, original Persian words are constantly mispronounced due to the lack of vowels. Take for example the word Farvahar often pronounced as Foroohar.
Money is always a major factor in any decision making process. Changing the current script into a less familiar script would mean spending money to teach people the new script. Yet if Turkey, a country with little financial power, could perform such a feat, most other countries can too. Furthermore, many Persian speakers are already acquainted with Latin based alphabets and introducing a Latin based script for Persian would not require as much oversight as introducing a completely new alphabet.
Once again, these counterarguments are not meant to persuade individuals to agree to script change for the Persian language. There are merely reasons as to why the original four arguments against script change are weak. Whether or not a script change is to occur is a matter of extensive discussion for learned Persian linguists.