Persian language

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This article contains Persian text, written from right to left with some letters joined. Without proper rendering support, you may see unjoined Perso-Arabic letters written left-to-right, instead of right-to-left or other symbols instead of Perso-Arabic script.


Fārsi (local name for Persian) in Perso-Arabic script (Nasta‘liq style):  
Pronunciation: [fɒːrˈsi]
Spoken in: Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Bahrain. Also in various Iranian, Afghan, Uzbekistani, and Tajikistani diaspora communities in the USA, Pakistan, Russia, Germany, Canada, Turkmenistan, France, Spain, Sweden, UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, India, Israel, Brazil and Turkey
Region: Middle East, Central Asia
Total speakers: ca. 56,000,000 native (2006 estimates)[1]
Ranking: 22nd (native speakers) [2]
Language family: Indo-European
   Western Iranian
    Southwestern Iranian
Official status
Official language in:  Iran
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 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 

Area of speakers of Persian as a mother tongue

Persian (local names: فارسی, Farsi IPA[fɒːrˈsi]; or پارسی, Parsi IPA[pɒːrˈsi]; see Nomenclature), is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is a language spoken by the Persian people, but due to the wide reach of the old Persian empire, it is spoken not just in Iran, but also in Afghanistan and Tajikistan; it has official-language status in these three countries.

The Persian language has been a medium for literary and scientific contributions to the Islamic world as well as the Western. It has had an influence on certain neighbouring languages, particularly the Turkic languages of Central Asia, Caucasus, and Anatolia as well as Urdu, Hindi, Saraiki and other Indian languages. It has had a lesser influence on Arabic and other languages of Mesopotamia.

For five centuries prior to the British colonization, 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 South Asia and became the "official language" under the Mughal emperors. Only in 1843 did the subcontinent begin conducting business in English.[3] Evidence of Persian's historical influence there can be seen in the extent of its influence on the languages of the Indian subcontinent, as well as the popularity that Persian literature still enjoys in that region.


[edit] Classification

Persian belongs to the Western group of the Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family, and is of the Subject Object Verb type. The Western Iranian group contains other related languages such as Kurdish and Baluchi. The language is in the Southwestern Iranian group, along with and very similar to the Larestani and Luri languages.[4]

[edit] Nomenclature

[edit] Local names

[edit] English names

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. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term Persian seems to have been first used in English in the mid-16th century.[5] Native Persian speakers call it "Fārsi" (local name) or Parsi.[citation needed] Farsi is the arabicized form of Parsi, due to a lack of the /p/ phoneme in Standard Arabic.

In English this language is historically known as "Persian". Some Persian-speakers migrating to the West (particularly to the USA) continued to use "Farsi" to identify their language in English and the word gained some currency in English-speaking countries.[6] "Farsi" is encountered in some linguistic literature as a name for the language, used both by Iranian and by foreign authors.[7][8] However, the Academy of Persian Language and Literature has declared in an official pronouncement[9] 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. Some Persian language scholars also have rejected the usage of "Farsi" in their articles.

Referring to Persian language as "Farsi" is analogous to referring to the German language as "Deutsch" or Finnish language as "Suomi" while speaking in English.

[edit] International

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).[10] 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.[11][12]

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".[13] Currently, VOA, BBC, DW, and RFE/RL use "Persian Service" for their broadcasts in the language. RFE/RL also includes a Tajik service, and Afghan (Dari) 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.[14]

[edit] Dialects and closely related languages

Persian language

Regional and social varieties:


Language features:

Writing systems:

There are three modern varieties of standard Persian:[15]

The three mentioned varieties are based on the classic Persian literature. There are also several local dialects from Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan which slightly differ from the standard Persian. Lari (in Iran), Hazaragi (in Afghanistan), Darwazi (In Afghanistan and Tajikistan) and Dehwari in Pakistan are examples of these dialects.

The Ethnologue offers another classification for dialects of Persian language. According to this source, dialects of this language include the following:[18]

The following are some closely related languages to Persian:

  • Luri (or Lori), spoken mainly in the southwestern Iranian province of Lorestan and Khuzestan.
  • Tat, spoken in parts of Azerbaijan, Russia, etc. It includes Judeo-Tat & Christian-Tat.

[edit] Phonology

Iranian Persian has six vowels and twenty-three consonants, including two affricates /ʧ/ (ch) and /ʤ/ (j).

[edit] Vowels

The vowel phonemes of Persian

Historically, Persian distinguished length: the long vowels /iː/, /uː/, /ɒː/ contrasting with the short vowels /e/, /o/, /æ/ respectively. Persian dialects and varieties differ in their vowels, more so than in their consonants.

[edit] Consonants

Labial Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n [ŋ]
Plosive p b t d k g [ɢ] ʔ
Affricate tʃ dʒ
Fricative f v s z ʃ ʒ x [ɣ] h
Tap [ɾ]
Trill r
Approximant l j

(Where symbols appear in pairs, the one to the right represents a voiced consonant. Allophones are in phonetic brackets.)

[edit] Grammar

[edit] Morphology

Suffixes predominate Persian morphology, though there is a small number of prefixes.[19] Verbs can express tense and aspect, and they agree with the subject in person and number.[20] There is no gender in Persian, nor are pronouns marked for natural gender.

[edit] Syntax

Normal declarative sentences are structured as “(S) (PP) (O) V”. This means sentences can comprise 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”.[20]

[edit] Vocabulary

[edit] Native word formation

Persian makes extensive use of word building and combining affixes, stems, nouns and adjectives. Persian frequently uses derivational agglutination to form new words from nouns, adjectives, and verbal stems. New words are extensively formed by compounding – two existing words combining into a new one, as is common in German. Professor Mahmoud Hessaby demonstrated that Persian can derive 226 million words.[21]

[edit] Influences

There are many loanwords in the Persian language from Arabic, French, German, Russian, and the Turkic languages.

Persian has likewise influenced the vocabularies of other languages, especially other Indo-Iranian languages like Hindi, Urdu, etc, as well as Turkic languages like Turkish and Uzbek, Afro-Asiatic languages like Assyrian and Arabic[22], and even Dravidian languages especially Telugu and Brahui.Several languages of southwest Asia have also been influenced, including Armenian and Georgian. Persian has even influenced the Malay spoken in Malaysia and Swahili in Africa. Many Persian words have also found their way into other Indo-European languages including the English language.

The extent of Persian words used in Urdu has made that language often understandable by Persian-speakers, especially in written form.[citation needed]

See also: List of English words of Persian origin, List of French loanwords in Persian and Comparison Table of the Iranian Languages

[edit] Orthography

Example showing Nastaʿlīq's (Persian) proportion rules.[ 1 ]
Dehkhoda's personal handwriting; a typical cursive Persian script.

The vast majority of modern Iranian Persian and Dari text is written in a form of the Arabic alphabet. Tajik, which is considered by some linguists to be a Persian dialect influenced by Russian and the Turkic languages of Central Asia,[23][24] is written with the Cyrillic alphabet in Tajikistan (see Tajik alphabet).

[edit] Persian alphabet

Modern Iranian, Persian, and Dari are normally written using a modified variant of the Arabic alphabet (see Perso-Arabic script) with different pronunciation and more letters, whereas the Tajik variety is typically written in a modified version of the Cyrillic alphabet.

After the conversion of Persia to Islam (see Islamic conquest of Iran), it took approximately 150 years before Persians adopted the Arabic alphabet in place of the older alphabet. Previously, two different alphabets were used, Pahlavi, used for Middle Persian, and the Avestan alphabet (in Persian, Dîndapirak or Din Dabire—literally: religion script), used for religious purposes, primarily for the Avestan language but sometimes for Middle Persian.

In modern Persian script, vowels generally known as short vowels (a, e, o) are usually not written; only the long vowels (i, u, â) are represented in the text. This, of course, creates certain ambiguities. Consider the following: kerm "worm", karam "generosity", kerem "cream", and krom "chrome" are all spelled "krm" in Persian. The reader must determine the word from context. The Arabic system of vocalization marks known as harakat is also used in Persian, although some of the symbols have different pronunciations. For example, an Arabic damma is pronounced /ʊ/, while in Iranian Persian it is pronounced /o/. This system is not used in mainstream Persian literature; it is primarily used for teaching and in some (but not all) dictionaries.

It is also worth noting that there are several letters generally only used in Arabic loanwords. These letters are pronounced the same as similar Persian letters. As such, there are four functionally identical 'z' letters, three 's' letters, two 't' letters, etc.

[edit] Additions

The Persian alphabet adds four letters to the Arabic alphabet:

Sound Isolated form Name
[p] پ pe
[tʃ] (ch) چ če
[ʒ] (zh) ژ že
[g] گ gāf

(The že is pronounced as in "measure", "fusion", or "azure".)

[edit] Variations

The Persian alphabet also modifies some letters from the Arabic alphabet. For example, alef with hamza below ( إ ) changes to alef ( ا ); words using various hamzas get spelled with yet another kind of hamza (so that مسؤول becomes مسئول); and teh marbuta ( ة ) changes to heh ( ه ) or teh ( ت ).

The letters different in shape are:

Sound original Arabic letter modified Persian letter name
[k] ك ک kāf
vowel [i] consonant [j] ي ى ye

Writing the letters in their original Arabic form is not typically considered to be incorrect, but is not normally done.

[edit] Latin alphabet

The International Organization for Standardization has published a standard for simplified transliteration of Persian into Latin, ISO 233-3, titled "Information and documentation -- Transliteration of Arabic characters into Latin characters -- Part 3: Persian language -- Simplified transliteration"[25] but the transliteration scheme is not in widespread use.

Another Latin alphabet, based on the Uniform Turkic alphabet, was used in Tajikistan in the 1920s and 1930s. The alphabet was phased out in favour of Cyrillic in the late 1930s.[23]

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. The orthography is not standardized, and varies among writers and even media (for example, typing 'aa' for the [ɒ] phoneme is easier on computer keyboards than on cellphone keyboards, resulting in smaller usage of the combination on cellphones).

UniPers, short for the Universal Persian Alphabet (Pârsiye Jahâni) is a Latin-based alphabet popularized by Mohamed Keyvan, who used it in a number of Persian textbooks for foreigners and travellers.[26]

The International Persian Alphabet (Pársik) is another Latin-based alphabet developed in recent years mainly by A. Moslehi, a comparative linguist.[27]

[edit] Tajik alphabet

Tajik advertisement for an academy.

The Cyrillic alphabet was introduced for writing the Tajik language under the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic in the late 1930s, replacing the Latin alphabet that had been used since the Bolshevik revolution and the Perso-Arabic script that had been used earlier. After 1939, materials published in Persian in the Perso-Arabic script were banned from the country.[23]

[edit] History

History of the
Persian language
Proto-Iranian (ca. 1500 BCE)

Southwestern Iranian languages

Old Persian (c. 525 BCE - 300 BCE)

Old Persian cuneiform script

Middle Persian (c.300 BCE-800 CE)

Pahlavi scriptManichaean 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. The oldest records in Old Persian date back to the Persian Empire of the 6th century BC.[28]

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

[edit] Old Persian

Old Persian evolved from Proto-Iranian as it evolved in the Iranian plateau's southwest. The earliest dateable example of the language is the Behistun Inscription of the Achaemenid Darius I (r. 522 BC - ca. 486 BC). Although purportedly older texts also exist (such as the inscription on the tomb of Cyrus II at Pasargadae), these are actually younger examples of the language. Old Persian was written in Old Persian cuneiform, a script unique to that language and is generally assumed to be an invention of Darius I's reign.

After Aramaic, or rather the Achaemenid form of it known as Imperial Aramaic, Old Persian is the most commonly attested language of the Achaemenid age. While examples of Old Persian have been found wherever the Achaemenids held territories, the language is attested primarily in the inscriptions of Western Iran, in particular in Parsa "Persia" in the southwest, the homeland of the tribes that the Achaemenids (and later the Sassanids) came from.

In contrast to later Persian, written Old Persian had an extensively inflected grammar, with eight cases, each declension subject to both gender (masculine, feminine, neuter) and number (singular, dual, plural).

[edit] Middle Persian

In contrast to Old Persian, whose spoken and written forms must have been dramatically different from one another, written Middle Persian reflected oral use, and was thus much simpler than its ancestor. The complex conjugation and declension of Old Persian yielded to a simple internal structure of Middle Persian; the dual number disappeared, leaving only singular and plural, as did gender. Instead, Middle Persian used prepositions to indicate the different roles of words, for example an -i suffix to denote a possessive "from/of" rather than the multiple (subject to gender and number) genitive caseforms of a word.

Although the "middle period" of Iranian languages formally begins with the fall of the Achaemenid Empire, the transition from Old- to Middle Persian had probably already begun before the 4th century. However, Middle Persian is not actually attested until 600 years later when it appears in Sassanid era (224 - 651) inscriptions, so any form of the language before this date cannot be described with any degree of certainty. Moreover, as a literary language, Middle Persian is not attested until much later, to the 6th or 7th century. And from the 8th century onwards, Middle Persian gradually began yielding to New Persian, with the middle-period form only continuing in the texts of Zoroastrian tradition.

The native name of Middle Persian was Parsik or Parsig, after the name of the ethnic group of the southwest, that is, "of Pars", Old Persian Parsa, New Persian Fars. This is the origin of the name Farsi as it is today used to signify New Persian. Following the collapse of the Sassanid state, Parsik came to be applied exclusively to (either Middle or New) Persian that was written in Arabic script. From about the 9th century onwards, as Middle Persian was on the threshold of becoming New Persian, the older form of the language came to be erroneously called Pahlavi, which was actually but one of the writing systems used to render both Middle Persian as well as various other Middle Iranian languages. That writing system had previously been adopted by the Sassanids (who were Persians, i.e. from the southwest) from the preceding Arsacids (who were Parthians, i.e. from the northeast). While Rouzbeh (Abdullah Ibn al-Muqaffa, 8th century) still distinguished between Pahlavi (i.e. Parthian) and Farsi (i.e. Middle Persian), this distinction is not evident in Arab commentaries written after that date.

[edit] New Persian

[edit] Early New Persian

[edit] Classic Persian

The Islamic conquest of Persia marks the beginning of the new history of Persian language and literature. It saw world-famous poets and was for a long time the lingua franca of the eastern parts of Islamic world and of the Indian subcontinent. It was also the official and cultural language of many Islamic dynasties, including Samanids, the Mughal Empire, Timurids, Ghaznavid, Seljuq, Safavid, Ottomans and also many Mughal successor states such as the Nizams etc. For example, Persian was the only oriental language known and used by Marco Polo at the Court of Kubla Khan and in his journeys through China.[29] 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 adopt many words and structures from Arabic and as time went by, a few words were even taken from Altaic languages under the Mongol Empire and Turco-Persian society.

[edit] Contemporary Persian

A variant of the Iranian standard ISIRI 9147 keyboard layout for Persian.

Since the nineteenth century, Russian, French and English and many other languages have contributed to 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 as they do into any other language.

[edit] Examples

Persian IPA Gloss
همهٔ افراد بشر آزاد به دنیا می‌آیند و از دید حیثیت و حقوق با هم برابرند، همه دارای اندیشه و وجدان هستند و باید در برابر یکدیگر با روح برادری رفتار کنند. hæmeje æfrɒd bæʃær ɒzɒd be donjɒ miɒjænd o æz dide hejsijæt o hoɢuɢ bɒ hæm bærɒbærænd ǁ hæme dɒrɒje ændiʃe o vedʒdɒn mibɒʃænd o bɒjæd dær bærɒbære jekdigær bɒ ruhe bærɒdæri ræftɒr konænd All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

—Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

[edit] See also

Persian language edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ 2006 CIA Factbook: Iran 38.210 M (58%), Afghanistan 16.369 M (50%), Tajikistan 5.770 M (80%), Uzbekistan 1.2 M (4.4%)
  2. ^
  3. ^ Clawson, Patrick (2004). Eternal Iran. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 6. ISBN 1403962766. 
  4. ^ Windfuhr, Gernot (1987). Berard Comrie. ed. The World's Major Languages. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 523–546. ISBN 978-0195065114. 
  5. ^ Oxford English Dictionary online, s.v. "Persian", draft revision June 2007.
  6. ^ Pejman Akbarzadeh (2005). "“FARSI” or “PERSIAN”?". Retrieved on 2007-02-20. 
  7. ^ For example: A. Gharib, M. Bahar, B. Fooroozanfar, J. Homaii, and R. Yasami. Farsi Grammar. Jahane Danesh, 2nd edition, 2001.
  8. ^ Sussan Tahmasebi (1996). "I Speak Farsi". Retrieved on 2007-02-26. 
  9. ^ Pronouncement of the Academy of Persian Language and Literature
  10. ^ Documentation for ISO 639 identifier: fas
  11. ^ Ethnologue: Code PRS
  12. ^ Ethnologue: Code PES
  13. ^ Linguist List: Tree for Southwest Western Iranian
  14. ^ Kamran Talattof Persian or Farsi? The debate continues...
  15. ^ Persian or Farsi ? Simin Karimi, Department of Linguistics, University of Arizona
  16. ^ Henderson, M. M. T. (1994) "Modern Persian Verb Stems Revisited" in Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 114, No. 4. (Oct. - Dec., 1994), pp. 639–641.
  17. ^ Keshavarz, M. H. (1988) "Forms of Address in Post-Revolutionary Iranian Persian: A Sociolinguistic Analysis" in Language in Society, Vol. 17 No. 4 p565-75 Dec 1988
  18. ^ Ethnologue - Language Family Trees - Persian
  19. ^ Megerdoomian, Karine (2000). "Persian computational morphology: A unification-based approach". Memoranda in Computer and Cognitive Science: MCCS-00-320: 1. 
  20. ^ a b Mahootian, Shahrzad (1997). Persian. London: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-02311-4.,M1. 
  21. ^ FAREIRAN.COM / فرايران
  22. ^ Bashgah
  23. ^ a b c Perry, John R. (2005). A Tajik Persian Reference Grammar. Boston: Brill. ISBN 90-04-14323-8. 
  24. ^ Lazard, Gilbert (1956). "Charactères distinctifs de la langue Tadjik". Bulletin de la Société Linguistique de Paris 52: 117–186. 
  25. ^ ISO 233-3:1999
  26. ^ UniPers
  27. ^ IPA2
  28. ^ Katzner, Kenneth (2002). The Languages of the World. Routledge. pp. 163. ISBN 0415250048. 
  29. ^ John Andrew Boyle, SOME THOUGHTS ON THE SOURCES FOR THE IL-KHANID PERIOD OF PERSIAN HISTORY, in Iran: Journal of the British Institute of Persian Studies, British Institute of Persian Studies, vol. 12 (1974), p. 175

[edit] Further reading

  1. Thackston, W. M. (1993-05-01). An Introduction to Persian (3rd Rev ed.). Ibex Publishers. ISBN 0936347295. 
  2. Mace, John (1993-03). Modern Persian (Teach Yourself). Teach Yourself. ISBN 0844238155. 
  3. Mace, John (2002-10-18). Persian Grammar: For Reference and Revision (illustrated ed.). RoutledgeCurzon. ISBN 0700716955. 
  4. herausgegeben von Rüdiger Schmitt. (1989). Compendium linguarum Iranicarum. L. Reichert. ISBN 3882264136. 
  5. Windfuhr, Gernot L. (2009-01-15). "Persian". in Bernard Comrie (ed.). The World's Major Languages (2 ed.). Routledge. ISBN 0415353394. 

[edit] External links

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