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Persian language

Persian is an Indo-European language spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Bahrain, Iraq, 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. It is known as

  • فارسی (transliteration: Fārsi) or پارسی (transliteration: Pārsi), local name in Iran, Afghanistan 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 and Afghanistan.

Prior to British colonization, Persian was also 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 1832 did the British force the subcontinent to begin conducting business in English instead of the traditional Persian. Evidence of its former rank in the region can still be seen by the extent of its influence on Hindi, Bengali, and Urdu, as well as the popularity that Persian literature still enjoys in the region. Persian and its dialects have official-language status in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. There are 72 million native speakers of Persian in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan 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.


Persian is a member of the Indo-European family of languages, within that family to the satem-languages family, and within that family it belongs to the Indo-Iranian branch. Scholars believe the Iranian sub-branch consists of the following chronological linguistic path: Old Iranian (Avestan and Old Persian) → Middle Iranian (Pahlavi Middle Persian and several other languages) → Modern Iranian (Persian, Pashto, Kurdish, and several other languages), c. 900 to present.

Old Persian, the main language of the Achaemenid inscriptions, should not be confused with the non-Indo-European Elamite language (see Behistun inscription). 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 Modern Persian, in a manner often described as paralleling the development of English. Additionally, many words were introduced from neighboring languages, including Aramaic and Greek in earlier times, and later Arabic and to a lesser extent Turkish. In more recent times, some Western European words have entered the language (notably from French and English).

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. In Tehran the Academy of Persian Language and Literature is a center that evaluates the new words in order to initiate and advise their Persian equivalents. In Afghanistan, the Academy of Sciences of Afghanistan does the same for the Persian language in Afghanistan.

In addition to its status in Afghanistan, Iran, and - recently - Tajikistan, the Persian language has been popuarly long regarded as the sole or official tongue and islamically suitable for Pakistan according to the Pakistan Language Movement as a uniting binding force behind Muslim federalism with its western neighbours on a historical, geographically and a cultural basis; thereby naturally adopting it as the National Language of Pakistan.


Persian, the more widely used name of the language in English, is an Anglicized form derived from Latin *Persianus < Latin Persia < Greek Persis, 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 has historically been known as "Persian". After the 1979 Iranian Revolution many Iranians migrating to the West continued to use 'Farsi' to identify their language in English and the word became commonplace in English-speaking countries.

The Academy of Persian Language and Literature has argued in an official pronouncement 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. 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 version 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). 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. 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". 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.

Dialects and close languages

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. In 'Dari' The wording and pronunciation is somewhat different than the modern Persian language. In Iran (Persia) you’ll find ‘Dari’ writings used only in the old notes or literature textbooks. Both languages are almost understandable for someone speaking the other one.

  • 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:

  • Western Persian (in Iran)

  • Eastern Persian (in Afghanistan)

  • Tajik (in Tajikistan)

  • Hazaragi (in Afghanistan)

  • Aimaq (in Afghanistan)

  • Bukharic (in Israel, Uzbekistan)

  • Dehwari (in Pakistan)

  • Darwazi (in Afghanistan)

  • Dzhidi (in Israel)

  • Pahlavani (in Afghanistan)

    The following are some of the closely related languages of various Iranian peoples within modern Iran proper:

  • Mazandarani, spoken in northern Iran mainly in the province of Mazandaran.

  • Gileki (or Gilaki), spoken in the province of Guilan.

  • Talysh (or Talishi), spoken in northern Iran and southern parts of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

  • Luri (or Lori), spoken mainly in the southwestern Iranian province of Lorestan and Khuzestan.

  • Tat (also Tati or Eshtehardi), spoken in parts of the Iranian provinces of East Azarbaijan, Zanjan and Qazvin.

  • Dari or Gabri, spoken originally in Yazd and Kerman by the Zoroastrians of Iran. Also called Yazdi by some.


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