I'm trying to transliterate toki pona words containing an 'eh' sound like 'esun', 'en', 'kule', 'ken' & 'seme'. I found an online Kurdish transliteration tool that displays 'esun' ‌as ئه‌سون & 'kule' as کوله‌. Is that accurate? I've also seen ێ used.

the tool gives the initial vowels as: ئا for a, ئه‌/ئە for e, ی/ئی for i, ئۆ/ۆ for o, & ئو for u. is there a difference sound-wise between ه‌ and ة (as in سه‌مه/سةمة-'seme')?

I like the idea of using only harakat for vowels when possible & leaving them out if not neccesary for comprehension like کَلاَ/کلا instead of کالا for 'kala',(except for finals to make 'sin'/'sina' & 'pan'/'pana' clear) because it fits the minimalist nature of toki pona, but e (as in bet) & o (as in open) are a problem since they don't really exist in Arabic. I would probably use 'ۆ/ئۆ' for o, but is ه‌/ة or ێ better for 'e'? Could I use ِسِمه for 'seme' or is سةمة/سه‌مه‌ better?

is 'میِ کن سِتِلِن إِ تۆکیِ یۆکیِ پۆناَ کِپِکِن سِتِلِن أَلَپیِ' a reasonable transliteration for 'mi ken sitelen e toki toki pona kepeken sitelen Alapi' or should 'kepeken' be کەپەکەن?

  • what about using کِپِكٍ for kepeken?
    – jastako
    Feb 28, 2020 at 5:34
  • You mention a Kurdish transliteration. Do all Arabic speakers pronounce that letter the same way? In other words, it might to narrow down which Arabic dialect / regiolect you wish to transliterate to.
    – elemtilas
    Feb 29, 2020 at 1:50
  • I wasn't looking for a particular dialect, just one with equivalent or close sounds so I'm not assigning letters to sounds that are totally different from their normal sound. I only mentioned Kurdish because they have written letters for all 5 vowels including e & i. Arabic lacks those sounds & relies largely on harakat (vowel diacritics) anyway. I'm not opposed to using diacritics, but I'd rather have suitable letter alternatives for initial & final vowels.
    – jastako
    Feb 29, 2020 at 21:43
  • I guess what I'm getting at is, how do you define "normal sound" for Arabic? I'm not an Arabicist, but I'd imagine that letters often have different sounds all across the Arabophone region.
    – elemtilas
    Mar 1, 2020 at 1:35

2 Answers 2


I don't know any language written using the Arabic script, but as far as I can tell the most common approach across languages for representing /e/ is using some variant of ي.
Somali uses ئ, Pashto and Uyghur use ې, and Kurdish, as you mentioned, uses ێ. The Jawi script used to write Malay even uses ي for both /i/, /e/ and /ɛ/. Urdu uses two different symbols, ے (which is based on ي) and ہ (which isn't).

I can't really speak in terms of how recognizable any of this would be to Arabic-speakers of course, but since multiple languages that needed an /e/-like letter reached for ي, it seems reasonable to suggest that approach.

But things are never simple - ە is also quite common. For example, you mentioned Kurdish which uses it to represent /ɛ/ (which is not /e/, but pretty similar), and Persian also uses it for /e/. And as I said earlier, Urdu does use ہ (based on ه), though I believe ے is more common (except word-intially, where it can't appear).

It seems to me like some twist on ي is the most common across languages, but which one to pick is not obvious (though I expect they'd all be about equally clear to someone who isn't already familiar with one of them). ە is more uniform, but might be a bit less common, and in languages that use both (like Uyghur and Kurdish) it seems that the ي variant usually represents /e/, while ە is something like /ɛ/.

So, I'd probably suggest ێ, but either option seems reasonable.

Source: Arabic script § Additional letters used in other languages (Wikipedia) (and various language and script articles mostly linked to from there)


I found a system that somebody else created using إِ for 'e' & إِي for 'i'. 'en' can be written as إٍ or إِن so 'ken' could be كٍ or كِن. Diacritics are optional so it could also be ك or كن. The word 'sitelen' (draw/picture) is commonly written as سِيتِلٍ/سيتل, but can also be سِيتِلِن/سيتلن.

esun إِسُون/إسون or إِسٌو/إيو

en إِن/إن or إٍ/إ

kule كُولِ/كول

ken كِن/كن or كٍ/ك

seme سِمِ/سم

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