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Persian language

Persian language

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فارسی‎ (Fārsi)
پارسی‎ (Pārsi)
Spoken in: Iran (Persia), Afghanistan, Tajikistan and also in parts of neighboring (e.g., Uzbekistan) and other countries in which Parsis live, such as Gujarat, india 
Region: Middle East, Central Asia
Total speakers: 101 million native ~40 million second language, 130 million total (2005) 
Ranking: 12th (native speakers)
Language family: Indo-European
   Western Iranian
    Southwestern Iranian
Official status
Official language of: Iran, Tajikistan (as Tajiki), Afghanistan (as Dari)
Regulated by: Academy of Persian Language and Literature
Academy of Sciences of Afghanistan
Language codes
ISO 639-1: fa
ISO 639-2: per (B)  fas (T)
ISO/FDIS 639-3: variously:
fas — Persian
prs — Eastern Persian
pes — Western Persian
tgk — Tajik
aiq — Aimaq
bhh — Bukharic
deh — Dehwari
drw — Darwazi
haz — Hazaragi
jpr — Dzhidi
phv — Pahlavani 

Persian (local name: Fārsī or Pārsī) is an Indo-European language spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and by minorities in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Southern Russia, neighboring countries, and elsewhere. It is derived from the language of the ancient Persian people. It is part of the Iranian branch of the Indo-Iranian language family.

Persian and its dialects have official-language status in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. According to CIA World Factbook, based on old data, there are 71 million native speakers of Persian in Iran [1], Afghanistan [2], Tajikistan [3] and Uzbekistan [4] and there are about the same number other peoples who can speak Persian throughout the world. It belongs to the Indo-European language family, and is of the Subject Object Verb type. UNESCO was asked to select Persian as one of its languages in 2006.[5]

Persian is a literary and scientific language that has given great contribution to the Western world as well as the Islamic world and has influenced neighbouring languages immensely, including the Turkic languages of Central Asia, Caucasus, and Anatolia, as well as the Indo-Aryan languages of Punjab. It had also smaller influence on Arabic and other languages of Mesopotamia.

Prior to British colonization of south Asia, Persian was widely used as a second language in the Indian subcontinent; it took prominence as the language of culture and education in several Muslim courts in the subcontinent throughout the Middle Ages and became the "official language" under the Mughal emperors. Only in 1843 did the British force the subcontinent to begin conducting business in English instead of the traditional Persian.<ref>Clawson, Patrick. Eternal Iran, 2004, ISBN 1-4039-6246-6, Palgrave Macmillan, p.6</ref> Evidence of its former rank in the region can still be seen by the extent of its influence on Hindi, Bengali, Sindhi language, and Urdu, as well as the popularity that Persian literature still enjoys in the region.


[edit] Local names

Persian language is locally known as

  • فارسی‎ (transliteration: Fārsi) or پارسی‎ (Pārsi), local name in Iran, Afghanistan (where it is officially known as Darī) and Tajikistan,
  • Tajik, local name in Central Asia.
  • Dari, name given to classical Persian poetry and court language, as well as to Persian dialects spoken in Tajikistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

[edit] History

History of the
Persian language
Old Persian (c. 525 BCE - 300 BCE)

Old Persian cuneiform script<small/>

Middle Persian (c.300 BCE-800 CE)

Pahlavi scriptManichean scriptAvestan script

Modern Persian (from 800)

Perso-Arabic script

Persian is an Iranian tongue belonging to the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Persian is one of the oldest languages of the world.

The known history of the Persian language can be divided into the following three distinct periods;

[edit] Old Persian

Old Persian supposedly evolved from Proto-Indo-Iranian on the western wing in the Iranian plateau. The first known written evidence of Persian appears with the rise of the Persian Empire under Cyrus the Great of the Achaemenid dynasty in 550 BC. Old Persian was the main official language of the Persian Empire at the time of the Achaemenids and with their rise, its domain extended to Lybia to the west, present-day Ukraine to the north, the Indus river to the east and Yemen to the south, to be used as a lingua franca for over 200 years. The majority of inscriptions in Old Persian were found in Iran, Egypt and present-day Turkey. During this period, Persian was influenced by Aramaic, Elamite, Babylonian, Akkadian, Greek, Sanskrit, Hebrew, Lydian etc.. Persian also influenced many languages of its era, especially Hebrew, Greek and Sanskrit. Under the Achaemenid, Persian was written in cuneiform with its own distinct script. This period ends with the fall of the Achaemenid dynasty.

[edit] Middle Persian

Middle Persian can be divided in several periods within two remarkable different eras; the Persian used at the time the Parthian Empire (250 BCE– 226 CE) and the Persian of the Sassanid Empire (226–650 AD). Middle Persian is often referred to as Pahlavi which was written in the script of the same name. Over this period, the morphology of the language was simplified from the complex conjugation and declension system of Old Persian to the almost completely regularized morphology and rigid syntax of Middle Persian. Pahlavi coexisted with several other Iranian languages spoken throughout the Iranian plateau, Central Asia & the Indian sub-continent. These languages included Avestan,Sogdian,Bactrian, Sogdian, Khwarezmian, Saka, and Old Ossetic (Scytho-Sarmatian). Middle Persian influenced Arabic,Latin,Hindi,Armenian,Georgian,etc. Much of the literature in Middle Persian was lost by the Arab invasion.

[edit] Modern Persian

Islamic conquest of Persia marks the beginning of the modern history of Persian language and literature. It is known as the golden era of Persian. Through its long way into the modern times, Persian developed a very large number of idioms, expressions and proverbs. It's the time that Persian was enriched and became musical, descriptive. It saw world-famous poets and it came to be known as one of the most romantic languages of all times. Persian was for a long time the lingua franca of the western parts of Islamic world and of the Indian subcontinent. It was also the official and cultural language of many Islamic dynasties, inlcuding Samanids, the Mughal Empires, Timurids, Ghaznavid, Seljuq, Safavid, Ottomans, etc. The heavy influence of Persian on other languages can still be witnessed across the Islamic world ,especially , and it is still appreciated as a literary and prestigious language among the educated elite, especially in fields of music (for example Qawwali) and art (Persian literature).After the Arab invasion of Persia, Persian began to borrow many words and structures from Arabic and as the time went by, a few words were borrowed from Mongolian under the Mongolian rule and then from Turkish. Later Russian, French and English and many other languages, contributed in building the technical vocabulary of Persian. The Iranian National Academy of Persian Language and Literature is responsible for evaluating these new words in order to initiate and advise their Persian equivalents. The language itself has greatly developed during the centuries. Due to technological developments, new words and idioms are created and enter into Persian like any other language.

[edit] Modern Persian Influence On Other Languages

Apart from the other members of the Iranian group, Modern Persian greatly influenced many of the neighbouring languages in Asia, including Turkish, Azerbaijani, Turkmen, Uzbek, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Uyghur and others. It also influenced Arabic, Mongolian, Armenian, Georgian and other languages to a lesser scale. Among the Indo-Aryan languages, Modern Persian greatly influenced Hindi and - most of all - Urdu.

For centuries, Persian literature influenced the Turkic- and Urdu literatures, both heavily copying from Persian literature and authros.

[edit] Nomenclature

Persian, the more widely used name of the language in English, is an Anglicized form derived from Latin *Persianus < Latin Persia < Greek Πέρσις Pérsis, a Hellenized form of Old Persian Parsa. Farsi is the Arabicized form of Parsi, due to a lack of the /p/ phoneme in Standard Arabic. Native Persian speakers typically call it "Fārsi" in modern usage. In English, however, the language continued to be known as "Persian". According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term 'Farsi' seems to have been first used in English in the mid-20th century, but has been condemned by some critics as an affectation.<ref>Article "Farsi", in Oxford English Dictionary, second edition, ed. John Simpson and Edmund Weiner, Clarendon Press, 1989. ISBN 0-19-861186-2.</ref> According to Pejman Akbarzadeh, "... many Persians migrating to the West (particularly to the USA) after the 1979 revolution continued to use 'Farsi' to identify their language in English and the word became commonplace in English-speaking countries." <ref>"FARSI" or "PERSIAN"?</ref>

The Academy of Persian Language and Literature has argued in an official pronouncement [6] that the name "Persian" is more appropriate, as it has the longer tradition in the western languages and better expresses the role of the language as a mark of cultural and national continuity. On the other hand, "Farsi" is also encountered frequently in the linguistic literature as a name for the language, used both by Iranian and by foreign authors.<ref>For example: A. Gharib, M. Bahar, B. Fooroozanfar, J. Homaii, and R. Yasami. Farsi Grammar. Jahane Danesh, 2nd edition, 2001.</ref>

The international language encoding standard ISO 639-1 uses the code "fa", as its coding system is based on the local names. The more detailed draft ISO 639-3 uses the name "Persian" (code "fas") for the larger unit ("macrolanguage") spoken across Iran and Afghanistan, but "Eastern Farsi" and "Western Farsi" for two of its subdivisions (roughly coinciding with the varieties in Afghanistan and those in Iran, respectively) [7]. Ethnologue, in turn, includes "Farsi, Eastern" and "Farsi, Western" as two separate entries and lists "Persian" and "Parsi" as alternative names for each, besides "Irani" for the western and "Dari" for the eastern form ([8], [9]).

A similar terminology, but with even more subdivisions, is also adopted by the "Linguist List", where "Persian" appears as a subgrouping under "Southwest Western Iranian" ([10]). Currently, all International broadcasting radios with services in the Persian language (e.g. VOA, BBC, DW, RFE/RL, etc.) use "Persian Service", in lieu of "Farsi Service." This is also the case for the American Association of Teachers of Persian, The Centre for Promotion of Persian Language and Literature, and many of the leading scholars of Persian language. [11] [12]

[edit] Dialects and close languages

The region where Persian (green) and other Iranian languages are spoken.
Persian languages


Writing systems

Communication is generally mutually intelligible between Iranians, Tajiks, and Persian-speaking Afghans; however, by popular definition:

  • Dari is the local name for the eastern dialect of Persian, one of the two official languages of Afghanistan, including Hazaragi — spoken by the Hazara people of central Afghanistan.
  • Tajik could also be considered an eastern dialect of Persian, but, unlike Iranian and Afghan Persian, it is written in the Cyrillic script.

Ethnologue offers another classification for dialects of Persian language. According to this source, dialects of this language include the following:[13]

The following are some of the related languages of various ethnic groups within the borders of modern-day Iran:

  • Luri (or Lori), spoken mainly in the southwestern Iranian province of Lorestan and Khuzestan.
  • Talysh (or Talishi), spoken in northern Iran but also in southern parts of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
  • Tat (also Tati or Eshtehardi), spoken in parts of the Iranian provinces of East Azarbaijan, Zanjan and Qazvin. It's also spoken in parts of Azerbaijan, Russia, etc. It includes Juder-Tat & christian-Tat.
  • Dari or Gabri, spoken originally in Yazd and Kerman regions by some Zoroastrians in Iran. Also called Yazdi by some.

[edit] Orthography

Image:Dehkhoda note.jpg
Dehkhoda's personal handwriting; a typical cursive Persian script.

The vast majority of modern Persian text is written in a form of the Arabic alphabet. In recent years the Latin alphabet has been used by some for technological or internationalization reasons. Tajik, which is considered by many linguists to be a Persian dialect influenced by Russian, is written with the Cyrillic alphabet in Tajikistan (see Tajik alphabet).

[edit] Persian alphabet

Main article: Persian alphabet

Modern Persian is normally written using a modified variant of the Arabic alphabet with different pronunciation and more letters.

[edit] Script adoption

After the conversion of Persia to Islam (see Islamic conquest of Iran), it took approximately 150 years before Persians adopted the Arabic alphabet as a replacement for the older alphabet. Previously, two different alphabets were used, one for Middle Persian and one for Avestan, used for religious purposes-Dîndapirak>Din Dabire (literally: religion script).

[edit] Additions

The Persian alphabet adds four letters to the Arabic alphabet, due to the fact that four sounds that exist in Persian do not exist in Arabic, as they come from separate language families. Some people call this modified alphabet the Perso-Arabic alphabet. The additional four letters are:

sound shape Unicode name
[p] پ Peh
[tʃ] (ch) چ Tcheh
[ʒ] (zh) ژ Zheh
[g] گ Gaf

[edit] Variations

Many Persian words with an Arabic root are spelled differently from the original Arabic word. Alef with hamza below ( إ ) always changes to alef ( ا ); teh marbuta ( ة ) usually, but not always, changes to teh ( ت ) or heh ( ه ); and words using various hamzas get spelled with yet another kind of hamza (so that مسؤول becomes مسئول).

The letters different in shape are:

sound original Arabic letter modified Persian letter name
[k] ك ک Kaf
[j] (y) and [iː], or rarely [ɑː] ي or ى ی Yeh

The diacritical marks used in the Arabic script, a.k.a. harakat, are also used in Persian, although some of them have different pronunciations. For example, an Arabic Damma is pronounced /u/, while in Persian it is pronounced /o/.

The Persian variant also adds the notion of a pseudo-space to the Arabic script, called a Zero-width non-joiner (ZWNJ) by the Unicode Standard. It acts like a space in disconnecting two otherwise-joining adjacent letters, but does not have a visual width.

[edit] Word boundaries

In written text, words are usually separated by a space. Compounds and detachable morphemes (i.e., morphemes following a word ending in final form character), however, are written without a space separating them. In other words, the two parts of a compound appear next to each other but the first element in the compound will usually end in a final form character, hence it would be possible to recognize the two parts of the compound. This format is not very consistent, however, and sometimes words can appear without a space between them. If the first word ends in a character that has a final form, then we can easily distinguish the word boundary. But if the first word ends in one of the characters that have only one form, the end of the word is not clear. Although this latter case is usually avoided in written text, it is not rare. Furthermore, a space is sometimes inserted between a word and the morpheme. In such cases, the morpheme needs to be reattached (or the space eliminated) before proceeding to the morphological analysis of the text.

[edit] Extensions to other languages

The features of the Persian variant have been taken for other languages, such as Pashto or Urdu, and have sometimes been further extended with new letters or punctuation.

[edit] Latin alphabet

The Universal Persian (UniPers / Pârsiye Jahâni) Alphabet is a Latin-based alphabet created over 50 years ago in Iran and popularized by Mohamed Keyvan, who used it in a number of Persian textbooks for foreigners and travellers. It sidesteps the difficulties of the traditional Arabic-based alphabet, with its multiple letter shapes and ambiguous spellings, and fits particularly well in contemporary electronically written media.

The "International Persian Alphabet" (IPA2)[14], commonly called Pársik, is another Latin-based alphabet developed in recent years mainly by A. Moslehi, a comparative linguist, as a project defined and maintained under the authority of Persian Linguistics Association. It is claimed to be the most accurate and regular one among Latin-based Persian alphabets in which many linguistic aspects of Modern Persian have been observed; however, its rules are not as simple as those of UniPers.

Fingilish, or Penglish, is the name given to texts written in Persian using the Basic Latin alphabet. It is most commonly used in chat, emails and SMS applications.

[edit] Cyrillic alphabet

Main article: Tajik alphabet
Image:Tajik rouble reverse detail.png
Text detail from the reverse of the former Tajik 1 ruble note.

Tajik language written in the Cyrillic alphabet was introduced in the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic in the late 1930s, replacing the Latin alphabet that had been used since the Bolshevik revolution. After 1939, materials published in Persian in the Perso-Arabic script were banned from the country. <ref>Perry, J. R. (2005). A Tajik Persian Reference Grammar. Boston: Brill, 34. ISBN 90-04-14323-8.</ref>

[edit] Phonology

Main article: Persian phonology

The Persian language has six vowels and twenty-three consonants, including two affricates /ʧ/ (ch) and /ʤ/ (j). Historically, Persian distinguished length: the long vowels /iː/, /uː/, /ɒː/ contrasting with the short vowels /e/, /o/, /æ/ respectively. Modern spoken Persian, however, generally does not make this distinction anymore.






 voiceless stops
 voiced stops
 voiceless fricatives
 voiced fricatives
l, r

Note that /ʧ/ and /ʤ/ are affricates, not stops.

[edit] Grammar

Main article: Persian grammar

Suffixes predominate Persian morphology, though there are a small number of prefixes. Verbs can express tense and aspect, and they agree with the subject in person and number. There is no grammatical gender for nouns, nor are pronouns marked for natural gender.

Normal declarative sentences are structured as “(S) (PP) (O) V”. This means sentences can be comprised of optional subjects, prepositional phrases, and objects, followed by a required verb. If the object is specific, then the object is followed by the word rɑ: and precedes prepositional phrases: “(S) (O + “rɑ:”) (PP) V”. <ref>Mahootian, Shahrzad (1997). Persian. London: Routledge, 6. ISBN 0-415-02311-4.</ref>

[edit] Vocabulary

Main article: Persian vocabulary

There are many loanwords in the Persian language, mostly coming from Arabic, English, French, and the Turkic languages.

Persian has likewise influenced the vocabularies of other languages, especially Indo-Iranian languages and Turkic languages. Many Persian words have also found their way into the English language.

See also: List of English words of Persian origin

[edit] Trivia

  • The word "Farsi" comes from "Parsi", from the fact that Persians (of Pars origins) used to call their language Parsi; as such, the Greek were calling it "Persian". Arabs do not have the letter "p" in their language, thus after Arab invasion of Iran (around 600 a.c.), they started calling the language "Farsi" and the name stuck. Nowadays, even Iranians (and other native speakers) call the language Farsi.
  • There are currently 5 presidents in the world who speak Persian either as their native language or with native fluency, namely the presidents of Iran, Israel, Afghanistan, Iraq and Tajikistan.

[edit] See also

[edit] References


[edit] Further reading

  1. Mace, John (2003), Persian Grammar: For reference and revision, London: Routledge-Curzon.
  2. Schmitt, Rüdiger (1989), Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum, Wiesbaden: Ludwig Reichert Verlag.
  3. Windfuhr, Gernot L. (1987), "Persian" in Bernard Comrie, ed., The World's Major Languages, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[edit] External links

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Indo-Iranian languages
Indo-Aryan Sanskrit: Vedic Sanskrit - Classical Sanskrit | Prakrit: Pāli - Magadhi | Hindustani (Registers: Hindi, Urdu) | Bengali (Dialects: Chittagonian, Sylheti) | Angika | Assamese | Bhojpuri | Bishnupriya Manipuri | Dhivehi | Dogri | Gujarati | Konkani | Mahl | Maithili | Marathi | Mitanni | Nepali | Oriya | Punjabi | Romani | Sindhi | Sinhala
Iranian Avestan | Persian: Old Persian - Middle Persian (Pahlavi) - Modern Persian (Varieties: Farsi, Dari, Tajik) Bukhori | Bactrian | Balochi | Dari (Zoroastrianism) | Gilaki | Kurdish | Mazandarani | Ossetic | Pamir | Pashto | Saka | Sarikoli | Scythian | Shughni | Sogdian | Talysh | Tat | Wakhi | Yaghnobi | Zazaki |
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Persian language

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