Persian Language: Origins and History

Persian language, or Fārsī, belongs to the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European family of languages. While the language is the official language of Iran, it has two varieties of it known as Dari and Tajik. Dari is an official language spoken in Afghanistan, and Tajik is the official language of Tajikistan.

Today in the world there are close to 110 million Persian speakers, mostly used in the countries of Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. In the United States, there are about 391,113 individuals who speak Persian. For centuries, this language was considered to be a prestigious cultural language in other places of Western Asia, Central Asia, and South Asia by the civilizations based in those regions.

Origins of The Language

The Iranian languages are known from three periods, usually referred to as Old, Middle, and New (Modern) periods. The Persian language of today is classified as a continuation of Middle Persian, the official religious and literary language of the Sasanian Empire, itself a continuation of Old Persian, the language of the Achaemenid Empire. A Persian-speaking person may be referred to as Persophone.

Written Language and Grammar

As we said, today’s Modern Persian is most closely related to Middle and Old Persian, former languages of the region of Fārs (Persia) in southwestern Iran. It is thus called Fārsī by native speakers. It is written in Arabic characters with its script being called Perso-Arabic, and due to the close relation to the Arabic throughout the years, it contains many Arabic loanwords. The script now contains 28 letters and there have been some alterations made to it in order to account for Persian phonological differences. This script came into use in Persia after the Islamic conquest in the seventh century. A variety of script forms: Nishki is a print type based closely on Arabic; Talik is a cultivated manuscript, with certain letters having reduced forms and others occasionally elongated in order to produce lines of equal length; and Shekesteh is also a manuscript, allowing for a greater variety of form and exhibiting extreme reduction of some letters.

The grammar of Persian is similar to that of many European languages. It is in many ways simpler than its ancestral forms, having lost most of the inflectional systems of the older varieties of Persian.

The Connection to Other Languages

Farsi or the Persian language has had a lot of influence on other neighboring languages throughout time. These influences appear to be mainly lexical and have been found in the Turkic languages in Central Asia, Caucasus, and Anatolia, neighboring Iranian languages, as well as Armenian, Georgian, and Indo-Aryan languages especially in Urdu, the language of Pakistan.

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