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  • 9/21/2012

The Iranian Language Family

New Iranian Languages

Part 2


 In its most important period, from 15th to 19th century AD, Persian was the administrative language of the Iranian government as well as that of Mugal India (which made its own important contributions to the corpus of Persian literature).  It was also taken as the language of artistic expression by the aristocratic classes of Ottoman Turkey. Since the 10th century AD, with the entry of Mongolian, Turkish, and most recently, French and English words into New Persian, the language has continued to evolve. Today, Persian continues to grow and develop as one of the prominent languages of Central and West Asia and is the administrative and vernacular language of Iran, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan.

 New Persian is most commonly written in the Arabic or Perso-Arabic script (so named because of some unique additions to the script in order to represent particular Persian sounds). This script, much like the Pahlavi script, was also an Aramaic derived writing system with varieties that were used to record the language of many north Arabian tribes before Islam. After Islam, the script, in its earlier form called Kufic, was adopted to replace the Pahlavi script in order to record New Persian. Apart from Perso-Arabic, early Persian texts are known to have been recorded in the Hebrew script, while the conquest of Central Asia by the Russian Empire in the 19th century also prompted the adoption of Cyrillic to record the Tajik dialect of Persian. Dari (the name commonly given to Persian spoken in Afghanistan) is also written in Perso-Arabic.

Kurdish is the most widely spoken Iranian language after Persian and it belongs to the Western branch of the family. It is today spoken in two major dialects (Surani and Kurmaji) with minor dialects, mostly Persian or Arabic influenced ones, spoken in major metropolitan areas such as Kermanshah, Sulaymaniyah, and Arzerum.

Its territory stretches across west and northwestern Iran, eastern Turkey, and Northern Iraq, as well as various pockets in Armenia, Syria, and eastern Iran. Speculations on the origins of Kurdish have dominated much of the scholarship on the language. The common belief often held by the speakers, that the language is a development of the unattested *Old Median, mainly based on geographic reasons, is probably not valid. Instead, various features of Kurdish make it possible that the language is more closely related to Parthian or one of its related dialects. Kurdish possesses a rich literature, consisting of works of verse and prose, and is currently used as an administrative language in parts of the Iraqi Kurdistan. Kurdish is written in various scripts, using the Perso-Arabic script in Iran and Iraq, Latin alphabet in Turkey and Syria, and Cyrillic in Armenia and Azerbaijan. 



Other Links:

The Iranian Language Family: Old Iranian Languages (part 1)

The Iranian Language Family: Old Iranian Languages (part 2)

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