Major subgroup of the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. Iranian languages are probably spoken by more than 80 million people in southwestern and southern Asia. Only two Old Iranian languages are known, Avestan and Old Persian. A greater number of Middle Iranian languages (circa 300 BC–AD 950) are known; these are divided into a western and an eastern group. Modern Iranian languages fall into four groups. The southwestern group includes Modern Persian (Farsi), Dari (in northern Afghanistan), Tajiki (in Tajikistan and other Central Asian republics); Luri and Bakhtiari (in southwestern Iran); and Tat. The northwestern group includes Kurdish (spoken in Kurdistan) and Baluchi (in southwestern Pakistan, southeastern Iran, and southern Afghanistan). The southeastern group includes Pashto (in Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan) and the 10 or so Pamir languages (in eastern Tajikistan and adjacent parts of Afghanistan and China). The northeastern group includes Ossetic, spoken by the Ossetes in the central Caucasus Mountains, and Yaghnobi, formerly spoken in a single valley of the Pamirs. Nearly all the Modern Iranian languages have been written—if at all—in adaptations of the Arabic alphabet.
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