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Tuesday, 13 November, 2001, 16:13 GMT
Your questions on the war
Val Holmes in Washington DC, USA asks:

Rather irrelevant in a way, but I'm curious as to why the British and the Americans spell Taleban/Taliban differently? Which way do the Afghans spell it?

BBC News Online's Tarik Kafala writes:

In common with many foreign words, Afghan words can be spelt or transliterated into English in a number of ways.

How you spell a particular word in English depends on what system of transliteration you use to transfer the word from the script used in Afghanistan - essentially Arabic script with some letters added from Farsi and Tajik.

Afghans do not use Latin script, so the question of the spelling of Taleban/Taliban does not arise

Afghans do not use Latin script, so the question of the spelling of Taleban/Taliban does not arise.

While most Arabic consonants have a clear equivalents in Latin script there is more variation in how vowels are pronounced.

The discrepancy in the spelling of Taleban/Taliban can be explained as follows: the Arabic word Talib (meaning student) contains the vowel called Kasra between the 'l' and the 'b'. In Arabic this is similar to the short 'i' sound and is written as 'i' for many Arabic words such as hijab (veil).

The same vowel can also be pronounced as a short 'e' sound, particularly by Farsi or Pashto speakers. That is why you will often see the world hijab spelt hejab and Taliban as Taleban.

Pashto and Dari (Afghan Farsi) are the official languages of Afghanistan. Both belong to the Indo-European group of languages. According to recent estimates, approximately 35% of the Afghan population speaks Pashto, and about 50% speaks Dari.

Turkic languages - Uzbek and Turkmen - are spoken by about 11% of the population.

There are also a large number of other languages spoken in the country (Baluchi, Pashai, Nuristani, Aimaq, Azerbaijani, and so on) and multilingualism is very common.

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