Persian and its varieties have official-language status in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. According to CIA World Factbook, based on old data, there are approximately 72 million native speakers of Persian in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and about the same number of people in other parts of the world speak Persian, at least as a second language. UNESCO was asked to select Persian as one of its languages in 2006.
Persian 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, and other Indian langauges. 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. 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.
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. The word became a little commonplace in English-speaking countries. "Farsi" is encountered in a few linguistic literature as a name for the language, used both by Iranian and by foreign authors, . However, The Academy of Persian Language and Literature has declared 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. Some Persian language scholars also have rejected the usage of 'Farsi' in their articles.
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). 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, 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.
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:
The following are some of the related languages of various ethnic groups within the borders of modern-day Iran:
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.
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, 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.
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, is written with the Cyrillic alphabet in Tajikistan (see Tajik 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.
(The že is pronounced as in "measure", "fusion", or "azure".)
The letters different in shape are:
|Sound||original Arabic letter||modified Persian letter||name|
|[j] (y) and [iː], or rarely [ɑː]||ي or ى||ى||ye|
Writing the letters in their original Arabic form is not typically considered to be incorrect, but is not normally done.
UniPers, short for the Universal Persian Alphabet (Pârsiye Jahâni) is a Latin-based alphabet created and popularized by Mohamed Keyvan, who used it in a number of Persian textbooks for foreigners and travellers.
The International Persian Alphabet (Pársik) is another Latin-based alphabet developed in recent years mainly by A. Moslehi, a comparative linguist.
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).
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.
The known history of the Persian language can be divided into the following three distinct periods:
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, plural, dual.
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.
Since the nineteenth century, Russian, French and English and many other languages 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.
|همهی افراد بشر آزاد به دنیا میآیند و از دید حیثیت و حقوق با هم برابرند, همه دارای اندیشه و وجدان میباشند و باید دربرابر یکدیگر با روح برادری رفتار کنند||hameje afrɒd baʃar ɒzɒd be donjɒ miɒjand o az dide hejsijat o hoɢuɢ bɒ ham barɒbarand ǁ hame dɒrɒje andiʃe o vedʒdɒn mibɒʃand o bɒjad dar barɒbare jekdigar bɒ ruhe barɒdari raftɒr konand||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