Iranian languages

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Numerous languages are spoken in Iran, yet all of them originate from the same linguistic roots.



The Iranian languages are a part of the Indo-European language family. The Iranian language group is part of a larger Indo-Iranian language subfamily and accounts for some of the oldest-recorded Indo-European languages. The Indo-Iranian languages originated around modern-day Afghanistan, and split into the Iranian, Indo-Aryan, Dardic, and Nuristani language groups as the speakers of Proto-Indo-Iranian moved west, east, and south.

Iranian Languages after the Arab Conquest of Persia

Ibn al-Nadim, in his book Al-fehrest (الفهرست), mentions that all the Median and Persian lands of antiquity (including what is today known as Azerbaijan) spoke one language. In the book, which is the most accredited account of spoken languages of Iran during the early Islamic era, he quotes the great scholar Abdullah Ibn al-Muqaffa:

"The Iranian languages are Fahlavi (Pahlavi), Dari, Khuzi, Farsi (Persian), and Seryani. But Fahlavi comes from the word Fahleh. And Fahleh is a name that refers to five regions: Isfahan, Ray, Hamedan, Mah-Nahavand, and Azerbaijan."

He then adds that Dari is the official language of the royal courts and the language of Khorasan and Balkh and eastern Iran; Parsi is the language of the Moobeds of Fars; Khuzi is the unofficial language of the royalty and comes from Khuzestan; and Seryani originates in Mesopotamia.

This has also been verified and reported by such respected medieval historians as Tabari, Ibn Hawqal, Istakhri, Moqaddasi, Yaghubi, Masudi, and Mostowfi Qazvini. Al-Khwarizmi mentions it in chapter 6, vol. 6, of his book Mafatih al-Ulum (مفاتيح العلوم).

Iranian languages and the question of Azeri

Etymological studies verify that current dialects spoken from Baku to Khalkhal to Semnan all originated from a common source. In other words, the people of Azerbaijan spoke the same language spoken by the Medes. (See UCLA's distinguished professor Ehsan Yarshater's report in: Majaleh-ye Dneshkadeh-ye Adabiyt, مجله دانشكده ادبيات, year 5, No. 1-2, p 3537.)

Researcher Ahmad Kasravi Tabrizi also mentions that the medieval historian Yaqut al-Hamawi used the phrase Al-Ajam ol-Azariyah ("The Azeri Iranian") in his books Mo'ajjem ol-Odabaa and Mo'jem ol Baladaan. In other sources such as Surat al-Ard (صورة الأرض) by Ibn Hawqal, Ahsan al-Taqasim by Moqaddasi, and Al-Masalik wa al-Mamalik by Istakhri, the people of Azerbaijan are recorded to be speaking Iranian languages. Obviously, this was of before the Turkic cultural arrival. And Tabari in 235 A.H. also mentions that poets in Maragheh recited Pahlavi poetry. Some Azerbaijani poets however, such as Qatran Tabrizi (d465 A.H.), used the word "Persian" and "Pahlavi" interchangeably to describe their native language.

The historian Hamdollah Mostowfi even goes as far as describing variants of "Pahlavi" spoken in different areas of Azerbaijan (then part of Greater Persia). In his book Tarikh Gozideh, he describes eight poets from Azerbaijan, calling them "Ahl-ol She'r Men-al-Ajam" (Iranian poets), all Persian by tongue. By now, of course, Dari and Pahlavi had merged into one, as successive dynasties moved from east to west.

Suffice it to say that the number of records and documents from Azerbaijan in the Pahlavi language are so numerous that it has left no doubt that this was indeed the native tongue of Azerbaijan before the arrival of the Turks. Many words in the current Azeri vocabulary in fact are of Pahlavi origin. (See studies in Nashriyeh Adabiyaat of Tabriz University, by Dr. Mahyar Navabi, year 5 and 6. Also see Farhang e Kamaleddin Teflisi, Ajayeb ol-Makhluqat by Najibeddin Hamadani, and also the books: Majmal-ol-Tavarikh, Al-qasas, Iskandar-Nameh e Qadeem, and others for lists of words.)

It is agreed that the current Turkic form of the Azeri language supplanted and replaced Pahlavi in Azerbaijan before the Safavid dynasty, perhaps starting with the arrival of Seljukian Turks, and during a gradual course. But some historians report Pahlavi being spoken in Tabriz as late as the 17th century. (See Rowdhat ul-Jinan by Hafez Hosein Tabrizi [d997 A.H.], and Risaleh ye Anarjani written in 985 AH). Even the Ottoman Turkish explorer Evliya elebi (16111682) mentions this in his Seyahatname. He also reports that the elite and learned people of Nakhichevan and Maragheh spoke Pahlavi, during his tours of the region.

Classification of the Iranian Languages

I. Eastern Iranian

A. Northeastern
  1. Avestan*
  2. Chorasmian* (Khwarezmian)
  3. Bactrian*
  4. Sogdian* (dialects: Christian, Buddhist, Manichaean), Yaghnobi
  5. Scythian*, Sarmatian*, Alanian*, Ossetian (dialects: Iron, Digor)
B. Southeastern
  1. Munji, Sanglechi, Ishkashimi, Zebaki, Sarikoli, Shughni, Rushani, Yazgulyam, Wakhi, Yidgha
  2. Saka* (dialects: Khotanese and Tumshuqese), Pashto, Waneci

II. Western Iranian

A. Northwestern
  1. Ormuri, Parachi
  2. Dari (spoken by Zoroastrians in Yazd), Kermani (spoken by Zoroastrians), Qohrudi, Abuzeidabadi, Abyanei, Tari, Ardestani, Anaraki, Varzenei, Badrudi, Gazi, Vafsi, Khunsari, Natanzi, Nayini, Sivandi, Soi, Ashtiani, Farizandi, Yarani, Mahallati, Khuri, Kohrudi, Judeo-Golpaygani, Judeo-Yazdi, Judeo-Kermani, Judeo-Shirazi, Judeo-Esfahani, Judeo-Hamedani, Judeo-Kashani, Judeo-Borujerdi, Judeo-Nehevandi, Judeo-Khunsari
  3. Kurdish (Dialects: Kurdi, Kurmanji, Kermanshahi)
  4. Zaza-Gorani (dialects: Gorani, Bajelan, Kirmanjki (Northern Zaza), Dimli (Southern Zaza)
  5. Parthian*, Semnani, Sangisari
  6. Median*
  7. Gilaki, Mazanderani, Shahmirzadi
  8. Balochi
  9. Talysh, Harzani
  10. Tatic dialects
B. Southwestern (Persid languages)
  1. Old Persian*, Middle Persian*, also called Pahlavi (dialects: Manichaean Pahlavi), Persian (dialects: Dari, Tajik, Hazaragi, Dzhidi (Judeo-Persian), Judeo-Bukharic
  2. Judeo-Tat, Muslim Tat
  3. Fars, Lari (Larestani), Bashkardi
  4. Luri, Bakhtiari, Feyli, Kumzari

III. Unclassified

  1. Tangshewi

(* indicates extinct languages)

See also

External link

bg:Ирански езици da:Iranske sprog de:Iranische Sprachen eo:Irana lingvaro fa:زبان‌های ایرانی fr:Langues iraniennes nl:Iraanse talen pl:Języki irańskie


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