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The Persian Language: Farsi

Persian called “Farsi” (Far-see) by the speakers, is a language spoken in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan including adjoining areas. Persian is a widely spoken language in Middle-East, parts of Central Asia and the Indo-Pak Subcontinent.

Persian originated from the language of Ancient Persia around 500 years BC during the times of the Aryan rulers and the word “Iran” (like the country Iran) has been derived from the word Aryan. Although, some say the language dates back to as far as 200 years B.C. in Central Asia, the ancient Persian is said to have developed in a place called “Fars” which is in Iran and this language was eventually called “Farsi” because of this origin. This was the time just before Alexander’s conquest of Persia. The time when the Parthians ruled Persia right after the fall of Alexander’s Empire, a new language evolved know as “Pahlavi” also referred to as Middle Persian. The word “Pahlavi” in recent day Persian would mean “The one who did or came first” where one is the object and in this case it would be “The Persian Language”. Since there is no proof that the name was derived from this meaning, we cannot be sure what it means. Pahlavi was widely used in this era of the Zoroastrian religion which prevailed in this region, just before the advent of Islam. Zoroaster’s writing in this form, from that era can still be seen.

Modern Persian evolved around the Ninth or Thirteenth Century A.D. and was the Lingua Franca of Eastern Islamic world for a very long time till. Today, Persian is the basis or has a very heavy influence on the languages spoken in these regions. The advent of Islam in this region brought about a new change in the language. Many Arabic words found their way in the language along with a few changes in the script. Persian writers and poets would use any words from the entire Arabic vocabulary in their writing.

The Classical Persian era produced some amazing literature and poetry. Poets like Firdowsi, Rumi and Omar Khayyam are still considered as the flag bearers of Classical Persian Poetry. During the Nineteenth century the Persian spoken in Qajar (Modern Day Name Tehran, also the capital of Iran) became known as the Standard Contemporary Dialect of Persian.

Presently, Persian is extensively spoken in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Persian speakers are also extensively found in Pakistan, India and some Middle-Eastern countries. Large numbers of Persian speakers migrated westwards and took with it the language. A total of 134 million people speak Persian, which includes 72 million native and 62 million who speak it as a second language. There are three main dialects of Persian namely Farsi, Dari and Tajik. Farsi is spoken in Iran and is considered as the most modern dialect of Persian. Dari is spoken in Afghanistan and Tajiki in Tajikistan. There are sub-dialects that developed or existed in Past and are as follows:

  • Hazaragi; Spoken in Afghanistan by the Hazara tribe and they are mostly of Mongol decent living in Afghanistan. This is an extremely distinct dialect and is not very hard to understand by Persian speakers. Turkic and Mongolic influence is found in this dialect.
  • Aimaq; Spoken in Afghanistan by the Nomadic /Semi-Nomadic Aimaq Tribes, very close to the Hazara dialect, with similar Mongolic influence.
  • Bukharic; This is also referred to as the Judeo-Tajik dialect, influenced by Hebrew, Arabic, Russian and Tajik dialect. In present day there might be only a few thousand people who speak this language. This is and was spoken by the Jews of Uzbekistan.
  • Darwazi; This is spoken in parts of Afghanistan and Tajikistan.
  • Dhizdi; These are Jewish dialects of Persian, also referred to as “Jidi” (Jid-dee) it was spoken by the Jews living in present day Iran.
  • Pahlavani; Spoken parts of Sistan province and Afghanistan)
  • Lari; belongs to a sub-group of Larestani dialects. Spoken in the southern part of Fars.
  • Dari; this dialect is spoken in Afghanistan and is also the Official language of Afghanistan. Also called Gabri or Yazdi.


Persian till a few centuries back was probably the most historic and prominent language in Middle-east, Indo-Pak sub-continent and Central-Asia. It is a very melodic language and people hear it the first time, often tend to compare it with French. It is a beautiful and poetic language. Many words have very deep meaning and at times dual meanings, poets and writers often use these in their writings to give their work better literary value. Romantic Persian poetry has made it to be the language of love in many regions of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Persian has a huge influence on many local languages of the Afghanistan and India. The Urdu language itself is more than a third Persian Language. Persian was spoken in Indian courts during the reign of the Mughals in the sub-continents. Punjabi too has a Persian Influence and it too like Urdu uses the same script. The Muslims use the Perso-Arabic script called “Shahmukhi” (From the mouth of the Kings). All Urdu speakers are very close to Persian literature, to an extent of owning it as part of their own language.

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