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Farsi Language History

Persian language, also known is Farsi is the most widely used language in the Indo-Iranian group’s Iranian language branch. Farsi language is spoken mainly in Afghanistan and Iran. However, historically it had been a language understood more widely in the area that ranged from India to Middle East. Large number of speakers today can be found in many Persian Gulf nations such as United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Oman, Iraq and Bahrain along with communities in United States. In Iran, more than 30 million speak Farsi, which is 50% of the population. In Afghanistan, 7 million of the Dari Persians speak the language, about 25% of population. In Pakistan 2 million people speak Farsi. Some of the Farsi origin words that exist in English are dervish, checkmate, bazaar, caravan, jackal, julep, jasmine, lilac, divan, kiosk, khaki, taffeta, pajama and shawl. In Iran, Farsi is written in Perso-Arabic, a variant of Arabic script that has a few innovations because of the phonological differences of Persian. The script was introduced in the 7th century, post the conquest of Islam.


Roots of the Language

Farsi language is the subgroup of the West Iranian languages which include Tajik and Dari, Kumzari, Bakhtiari and Luri. It also includes the dialects used in Fars Province. The East and West Iranian languages comprise of the Indo-Iranian group’s Iranian branch of languages. Languages in the Indo-Iranian group are spoken today in a large area that stretches from parts of Western India to eastern Iraq and eastern Turkey. Other than Iranian, the important Indo-Iranian division is the languages of Indo-Aryan group that includes the languages spoken in India such as Sindhi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Bengali, Urdu, Hindi and Sanskrit.


Evolution of the Language

The Old Persian language is confirmed from the inscriptions that were left behind by Achaemenid dynasty which ruled the area called Realm of Aryans until it was taken over by Alexander the Great. Pahlavi, or Middle Persian was named so after Parthians that ruled Persia after the collapse of the Empire under Alexander. This particular language is known mainly through the religious writings of Zoroastrian. The birth of modern Persian or Farsi is yet unclear. Though it was closely related to and influenced greatly by Old and Middle Persian, there are no evidences to suggest that it descended directly from them. It could have been derived from the Pahlavi dialect that had once been used in the north east Iran.


By contrast, Old Persian and Middle Persian had originated from south west Iran, from a province that had once been the center of the Empire known as Fars or Parsa. Therefore, the language had been named Farsi. From the 9th to the 13th centuries, known as the Early Modern phase, the Empire’s literature was preserved. It was known as classical Persian because of the distinction and eminence of poets like Khavyam, Firdowsi and Rudaki. In this period, the Farsi language was considered as lingua franca of the Islamic nations in the east.


Because of its extensive contact with the Arabic language, there was a large number of Arabic words that was used in Persian. A writer that wrote in classical Persian in fact had the full Arabic lexicon at disposal and could freely use Arab terms for displaying erudition or for their literary effect. Essentially, classic Persian remained unchanged till the 19th century. At the time, the Teheran dialect received more prominence since it was chosen in 1787 by Qajar dynasty as the capital. Modern Persian or Farsi dialect formed the basis of what is today known as Contemporary Standard Farsi. Though it contains several Arab words and terms even today, most of them are nativized and only very few Arabic words are used in their colloquial forms in the Farsi language.


The Rise of Iran

In the year 1935, the government sent a request to all its diplomatic relations to call their nation Iran instead of Persia. This suggestion is believed to come from Germany’s Iranian ambassador who had been influenced by the Nazis. During the time, there had been a racial fever in Germany and it fiercely maintained good relations with all countries that had Aryan blood. It is believed that the ambassador’s German friends convinced him that Persia had moved ahead in its history with Reza Shah and had managed to free itself from the influences of Russia and Britain. Not only did this indicate a new beginning, it also introduced a new era in the history of Iran. It also depicted the population of the Aryan race. The government sent across a circular to Tehran to call the nation Iran instead of Persia. Thus, Iran was born.


Linguistic Sketch

Old Iranian had a rich morphological system that was reduced drastically in Persian. Though the language does not have any articles or grammatical genders, number and person distinctions were maintained. The nouns are marked for their specificity and there is a single marker for singular, two for plural. There is a suffix for marking transitive verb objects. As far as the Arabic words are concerned, their morphological features are preserved. Therefore, there are busted plural formations in Farsi. A word can have two plural forms.


The verbs are created one or two of the basic stems, past and present. The tense and the aspect are equally important. The verbs are marked to show if they are imperfective or perfective. Imperfective is marked through prefixation. Imperfective as well as perfective verb forms can appear in all three tenses- inferential past, past and present. Farsi has a different kind of past tense or aorist. There are three moods- counterfactual, subjunctive and indicative. Passive is created with “to become” verb. Therefore, it is not used with specific agents. The verbs agree in number and person with their subject.