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Book ChapterDOI

4. Persian, Farsi, Dari, Tajiki: Language Names and Language Policies

01 Jan 2012-pp 89-117
TL;DR: The idea of a separate identity in dari and tojiki continues to have limited significance for native speakers as mentioned in this paper, despite the fact that they both emerged from the same political situation some two thousand five hundred years ago.
Abstract: Persian is an important language today in a number of countries of west, south and central Asia. Persian and farsi are, of course, in origin not different names. They both emerged from the same political situation some two thousand five hundred years ago. Apart from the colonial language policies of the past and local nationalistic sentiments today, the idea of a separate identity in dari and tojiki continues to have limited significance for native speakers. Decisions about language policy in Afghanistan, Iran and Tajikistan in particular, but also to some extent in the region in general are made in the shadow of the heritage of a millennium in which Persian was the principal, if not the only written language. Language became a matter for government policy in the 1930s. Keywords:Dari; Farsi; Iran; language policies; Persian; Tajiki

Summary (1 min read)

I. Dari, farsi, and tojiki

  • Persian and farsi are, of course, in origin not different names.
  • Moreover, in the Perso-Arabic alphabet, at least until very recently, only the standard literary language was ever written, never any vernacular (cf. the case of historical Chinese).
  • When Cyrillic was adapted for use in writing Persian, it was designed not only to be completely phonetic but also to represent the language as spoken by the Central Asian intelligentsia.

III. Policy Implications

  • Decisions about language policy in Afghanistan, Iran and Tajikistan in particular, but also to some extent in the region in general are made in the shadow of the heritage of a millennium in which Persian was the principal, if not the only written language.
  • The division of Persian in the Western curriculum into dari, farsi and tajiki is similarly related to a shift of academic interest from the textual tradition to political realities.
  • If some of us say the authors teach farsi, they risk being overtaken for good by the "national language" image with the implication that what they teach is no more or less important (or loved) than the modern nation-state of Iran.
  • But the Afghan polity, despite the fact that its second shah established a Persianate administration, arose from a different, non-citied, identity.

IV. Language Policy in Iran

  • Once Persian had become fully nationalized in Iran, the purity of its identity became as important as the purity of Iranian national identity, inclusive within and exclusive without its borders.
  • The tension between Westernizing intellectuals, many of whom lived abroad, and an Islamizing and nationalistic majority in Iran, which continues today, became significant in the second half of the 19 th century.
  • The Society for Alphabet Reform was founded in Tehran in 1945.
  • It was no longer possible for a small elite to control the country through control of the written language-the medium of administration, and national culture and identity.
  • All policy issues in Iran now are influenced both by general processes of globalization and by particular Western attempts to influence.

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Chapter 4:
PERSIAN, FARSI, DARI, TAJIKI
Language Names and Language Policies
by
Brian Spooner
Persian is an important language today in a number of countries of west, south and
central Asia. But its status in each is different. In Iran its unique status as the only official or
national language continues to be jealously guarded, even though half—probably more—of the
population use a different language (mainly Azari/Azeri Turkish) at home, and on the streets,
though not in formal public situations, and not in writing. Attempts to broach this exclusive
status of Persian in Iran have increased in recent decades, but are still relatively minor. Persian
(called tajiki) is also the official language of Tajikistan, but here it shares that status informally
with Russian, while in the west of the country Uzbek is also widely used and in the more isolated
eastern part of the country other local Iranian languages are now dominant. In Afghanistan,
although Persian (officially renamed dari in 1964, but still commonly called farsi) is the official
language, the national language is Pashto, and there is no official restriction on the use of other
languages (see discussion by Nawid in this volume). Persian also continues to be spoken in some
of the northern and western parts of Pakistan and the southern littoral of the Persian Gulf.
Meanwhile, for most people in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, for reasons that are explained
later, Persian is informally recognized as a classical language. In the other countries of the
region—Turkey, the Caucasus, the Persian Gulf and the other Central Asian republics—
somewhat negative, discriminatory attitudes are found with regard to Persian. This situation is a
consequence of the nationalisms that have emerged over the past fifty years or so. This unusual
combination of vast geographical distribution and country-by-country variation can be explained
only by detailed reference to the history of the language. Persian makes an interesting historical
case study, because it includes in a somewhat exaggerated form a number of features that are
found in other modern languages that have long textual records—features which throw a shadow
of the continuing development of language policies in all these countries, and may illuminate
some of the less tangible factors behind language policy in general.
Persian is an unusual, perhaps unique, case in world history: unlike other languages
which become media of written communication before the modern period, it moved seamlessly
out of its mediaeval past into the status of official language in three modern countries without
undergoing any significant modification. New Persian, the form of the language which emerged
in the Arabic script in the 8
th
century AD (with a borrowed Arabic vocabulary component
comparable to the Latin in English) is the direct successor to Middle Persian (written in a form of
the Aramaic script since the third century BC) and Old Persian before that (written in cuneiform

since the 6
th
century BC). Besides the longevity and relative stability of New Persian over a
period exceeding a millennium (for more detail see Spooner and Hanaway in press) from earlier
periods of very low literacy rates to present situations of near universal literacy, and from
language of dynastic courts and administration to national language—texts from the 9
th
and 10
th
centuries are fully legible and still in use among educated Iranians today—this historical
continuity was facilitated by a number of factors. The most important are:
(a) the geographical extent of its standard usage between the 9
th
and the 19
th
centuries, from as
far east as the trade routes into central China under the Mongol (Yuan) dynasty in the 13
th
century, south over the Deccan Plateau into southern India under the Mughals, and as far west as
the western reaches of the Ottoman Empire in Bosnia, as the public language for any function
associated with writing—administration, trade, literature—regardless of local spoken languages,
among non-Muslims (e.g. Hindus) as well as Muslims,
(b) its association with the authority of governments and the culture (adab) of the secular elites
of cities throughout this vast area,
(c) the social organization of literacy (over an area much larger than the group of modern
countries considered in this volume), which effectively restricted entry to the literate class down
to the middle of the 20
th
century, the consistent degree of interaction among members of the
urban literate class throughout this area by travel and correspondence, and the high cultural and
religious value ascribed throughout the population (non-literate as well as literate) down to the
present day to the corpus of poetry written in Persian over the past millennium.
(d) the boost of foreign (Western) interest in the cultural heritage for which it was the vehicle,
inspired by European classical education and Orientalism from the Elizabethan period on;
(e) the practice of colonial administration in India down to 1837.
In this chapter I explore how these factors combined in the 19
th
-20
th
centuries to shape modern
attitudes towards standard Persian over this vast area, attitudes which more recently have begun
to unravel as a consequence of the emergence of vernacular nationalisms.
The English name “Persian" is from the name that has been in Western vocabulary since
Herodotus (c. 484 - 425 BC). It comes from Pars, the area around Persepolis (the Greek name
we use for the summer capital of the Achaemenian Empire) on the southwestern edge of the
Iranian Plateau. When the Persians began to convert to Islam after the Arab conquest in the
middle of the 7
th
century, the language was naturally influenced by the language of the Qur'an.
Eventually, Arabic settled into a role comparable to that of Latin in mediaeval Europe. When the
name of the area around Persepolis shifted from pars to fars (Arabic had no /p/), the name of the
language spoken there shifted similarly to farsi. Since Persian was the language of administration
of western Asia under the pre-Islamic Iranian empires, and it was the language of the secretarial
class, it continued to be used by non-Arabic speakers in the Islamic civilization that succeeded
them, and consequently spread over a much larger area—eventually at its peak in the 14
th
century as far west as the Ottoman territories of what is now Bosnia, east into the Tarim Basin
around the Takla Makan and down the major trade routes into central China, and south into the

Muslim Sultanates of north and south India, where it remained the language of administration,
literature and polite society under the Mughals, and later the British, into the 19
th
century.
Through this period the social grasp of the writing class in the cities, and the popular appeal of
the literature they produced, provided a keel that steadied the historical trajectory of the written
language and a magnet that not only held together the far-flung writing community but also
standardized the speech of polite society. Eventually, however, a process of vernacularization
emerged and this Persianate unity and stability began to disintegrate. The process began first in
the Ottoman Empire in the 15
th
and 16
th
centuries, as the language of administration in the west
shifted gradually to a highly Persianized “Ottoman” Turkish. In India it was facilitated by the
British decision in 1835 to switch from Persian to a partnership of English with Urdu (a creole of
Persian superimposed on an Indic grammar). It accelerated in the 20
th
century with the steady
rise of literacy encouraged by nationalism, similar to the earlier shift from Latin to the
vernaculars in Western Christendom. Over the past 50 years Persian, however, written as well as
spoken, has probably changed as much or more than in the preceding 500 years, and there is now
noticeable divergence in usage between Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. But Persian continues
to be highly influential as a written language throughout the area. Thanks largely to the
continuing popularity of “classical” poetry from before the era of modern nation-states the
process of disintegration has been very gradual and is by no means complete.
I first heard “farsi” in an English sentence in the early 1970s. It gradually became
common, first outside academia, then inside. Before about 1970 the Persian language was of
little interest outside academia, but since about 1980 we have become dependent on non-
academic interest in the language for justification that is now necessary to pursue it in academia.
1
Although the change is not difficult to explain, it tends to create divisions, even discrimination,
where none existed previously. For this, and perhaps other more sentimental, even romantic,
reasons, the International Society for Iranian Studies and some other academic bodies have taken
a formal position against the use of farsi in English.
Why should the change have occurred? Unlike the change from Persia to Iran which was
mandated for diplomatic usage by Reza Shah in 1935, there was no official pressure. Why
should it have occurred when it did? In what context should we ask these questions? Urdu is,
after all, in English regularly called Urdu, and always has been. We do not question why hindi is
called Hindi in English. On the other hand, we would not call Greek ellenika. And to call
German Deutsch or French français in an English sentence would raise eyebrows. So
consistency
does not appear to be a factor. Is it perhaps a modern form of orientalism? Persian came into
English in the 18
th
century as an anglicization of Herodotus' Greek. Why should we change it
now to match the usage of native speakers, when we do not make similar changes for other
languages?
The new usage seems to have appeared during the period when the number of native
English speakers visiting and working in Iran was increasing on a scale for which there may have
been no precedent in any other Middle Eastern or Muslim country. The perpetrators were diverse
and not easy to classify, including various types of professionals and nonprofessionals. Perhaps
1
Earlier, shorter versions of this article, with somewhat different emphases relating more directly to curricular
issues, have been published in Spooner 1992 and 1994.

Citations
More filters
Dissertation
01 Jan 2019
TL;DR: In this article, the authors investigated aspects of multilingualism on Facebook, in particular code selection/code switching by language users of Iranian descent in a Belgium, focusing on the distributional salience of the various languages used, their functional role in the interactional architecture of social media, and connections with the construction of a diasporic space characterized by fragmented/dislocated identities.
Abstract: The project investigates aspects of multilingualism on Facebook, in particular code selection/code switching by language users of Iranian descent in a Belgium. The focus is three-fold: (i) the distributional salience of the various languages used, (ii) their functional role in the interactional architecture of social media, (iii) the connections with the construction of a diasporic space characterized by fragmented/dislocated identities.

27 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: This paper examined the role of translation in Iran's language policy and found that although official communication between Iranian authorities and citizens is a prototypical example of monolingualism and non-translation, voluntary translation happens between Persian and nonPersian speaking individuals, acting as a viable and cost-effective bottom-up alternative for the inclusion of non-Persian-speaking peoples, far more effective than an impractical, top-down language policy reform implicitly found in the "Persianization" claim.
Abstract: Against the background of language policy research on Iran, and drawing on insights from recent scholarship on the role of translation in language policy, this article calls into question the claim that “Persianization” of non-Persian peoples is the main element of language policy in Iran. In so doing, the article examines closely the role of translation as enacted in two legal instruments: the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Law of Parliamentary Elections. The study illustrates that although official communication between Iranian authorities and citizens is a prototypical example of monolingualism and non-translation, voluntary translation happens between Persian and non-Persian speaking individuals, acting as a viable and cost-effective bottom-up alternative for the inclusion of non-Persian speaking peoples, far more effective than an impractical, top-down language policy reform implicitly found in the “Persianization” claim.

18 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The authors argued that realist social theory could help us better understand the interaction between social structure and human agency in the context of family language policy (FLP) research, arguing that home often becomes a site where dominant societal ideologies and discourses of structuring nature compete with individual views and agency, ultimately informing language behavior.
Abstract: In this article, I argue that one social theory that could help us better understand the interaction between social structure and human agency in the context of family language policy (FLP) research is realist social theory. FLP studies in multilingual contexts have shown that home often becomes a site where dominant societal ideologies and discourses of structuring nature compete with individual views and agency, ultimately informing language behavior. Realist social theory advocates the analytical separation of structure and agency and attributes causal powers to both social structures and individual agency. This conceptualization of structure and agency prevents us from falling into structural determinism or individual voluntarism. Through examining the linguistic ideologies and practices of thirteen mothers of young children in Tabriz, Iran, I illustrate how family language policy emerges in interaction with and response to structural powers. (Family language policy, realist social theory, Iranian Azerbaijanis, agency, social structures, language maintenance)

15 citations


Cites background from "4. Persian, Farsi, Dari, Tajiki: La..."

  • ...Since the Constitutional Revolution in 1905–1906, Persian has functioned as the only official and national language of the country (see Spooner 2012; Haddadian-Moghaddam & Meylaerts 2015)....

    [...]

Journal ArticleDOI
01 Jan 2014
TL;DR: In this paper, the authors examine the scope of this minority language provision in the television programs broadcasted by the state in Kurdistan and argue that the use of translation and bilingualism working alongside official monolingualism, calling into question the issue of Persianization.
Abstract: Although Persian is the official language in Iran, legal provisions are available for the use of minority languages in the media. Recent scholarship describes ‘Persianization’ as the ‘building block’ of language policy, overlooking the use of minority languages in official media. This paper examines the scope of this minority language provision in the television programs broadcasted by the state in Kurdistan. It illustrates the use of translation and bilingualism working alongside official monolingualism, calling into question the issue of Persianization. The article first describes the use of non-Persian languages in Iranian state media and shows their proportion vis-a-vis official Persian. Second, it examines the use of Kurdish and the weight of translation in the television programs under study. Advocating translational justice, the paper calls for a clear translation policy and more translation to be offered for programs broadcasted for Kurdish minorities to ensure equal access to media.

14 citations

DOI
03 Aug 2016
TL;DR: In this paper, a systematic study of Mīrzā Muḥammad Ḥasan Qatīl, an important Persian-writing Khatri poet and intellectual active in Lucknow between the end of the 18th and the first two decades of the 19th century, focusing on his ideas regarding the linguistic geography of Persian is presented.
Abstract: The paper deals with Mīrzā Muḥammad Ḥasan Qatīl, an important Persian-writing Khatri poet and intellectual active in Lucknow between the end of the 18th and the first two decades of the 19th century, focusing on his ideas regarding the linguistic geography of Persian. Qatīl dealt with the geographical varieties of Persian mainly in two texts, namely the Shajarat al-amānī and the Nahr alfaṣāḥat, but relevant observations are scattered in almost all of his works, including the doxographic Haft tamāshā. The analysis provided here, which is also the first systematic study on a particularly meaningful part of Qatīl’s socio-linguistic thought and one of the very few explorations of Qatīl’s work altogether, not only examines in detail his grammatical and rhetorical treatises, reading them on the vast background of Arabic-Persian philology, but discusses as well the interaction of Qatīl’s early conversion to Shi‘ite Islam with the author’s linguistic ideas, in a philological-historical perspective. Summary 1. Qatīl’s writings and the Persian language question. –2. Defining Persian in and around the Shajarat al-amānī. –3. Layered hegemonies in the Nahr al-faṣāḥat. –4. Qatīl’s conversion and the linguistic idea of Iran. –Primary sources. –Secondary sources.

10 citations

References
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Book
01 Jan 1905

111 citations


"4. Persian, Farsi, Dari, Tajiki: La..." refers result in this paper

  • ...This area is roughly equivalent to what Le Strange (1905) called the “Eastern Caliphate."...

    [...]

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The Mughal literary culture has been noted for its notable achievements in poetry and a wide range of prose writings in Persian as discussed by the authors, however, unlike them, the other Turkic rulers outside of Iran, such as the Ottomans in Turkey and the Uzbeks in Central Asia, were not so enthusiastic about Persian.
Abstract: The Mughal literary culture has been noted for its notable achievements in poetry and a wide range of prose writings in Persian. In terms of profusion and variety of themes this literary output was also perhaps incomparable. The court's patronage has rightly been suggested as an important reason for this. This patronage, however, was not consistent throughout; much of the detail of its detour thus requires a closer scrutiny. The phenomenal rise of the language defies explanation in the first instance. The Mughals were Chaghtā'i Turks and we know that, unlike them, the other Turkic rulers outside of Iran, such as the Ottomans in Turkey and the Uzbeks in Central Asia, were not so enthusiastic about Persian. Indeed, in India also, Persian did not appear to hold such dominance at the courts of the early Mughals. In his memoir, Bābur (d. 1530), the founder of the Mughal empire in India, recounted the story of his exploits in Turkish. The Prince was a noted poet and writer of Turkish of his time, second only to ‘Alī Sheēr Nawā’ī (d. 1526). Turkish was the first language of his son and successor, Humāyūn (d. 1556), as well.

111 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: A case study of this process also affords some insight into the differing attitudes to national social reforms in Turkey and in Iran, and among the respective regimes, intelligentsia, and masses, which might help to explain why on balance one "succeeded" while the other "failed" as mentioned in this paper.
Abstract: Of all man's cultural badges, that of language is perhaps the most intimately felt and tenaciously defended. Even chauvinists who are prepared to concede under pressure that language, race, and culture are not the same thing—that their national ethnicity may be mixed, their religion imported, their culture synthetic to a degree—will still cling to the national language as the last bastion of irrational totemic pride. Hence, one of the most controversial features of the programs of westernization and modernization fostered by Kemal Ataturk in Turkey and Reza Shah in Iran was that of state-sponsored language reform, characterized chiefly by attempts to “purify” Turkish and Persian of their centuries-old accretion of Arabic loanwords. A case study of this process also affords some insight into the differing attitudes to national social reforms in Turkey and in Iran, and among the respective regimes, intelligentsia, and masses, which might help to explain why on balance one “succeeded” while the other “failed.”

48 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
01 Apr 1957-Language

40 citations

Frequently Asked Questions (9)
Q1. What have the authors contributed in "Persian, farsi, dari, tajiki: language names and language policies" ?

In Iran, the exclusive status of Persian as the only official or national language continues to be jealously guarded, even though half of the population use a different language ( mainly Azari/Azeri Turkish ) at home, and on the streets, though not in formal public situations, and not in writing this paper. 

few students progress far into the intermediate level because of the increasing need to deal with vocabulary, syntax, and usage that are culturally alien to English speakers as a result of the high degree of convergence with the major non-Indo-European languages in the region, Arabic and Turkish, as well as the importance of imported Arabic vocabulary. 

In the case of most languages which are commonly learned by non-native speakers, the consequences of replacing the English name of the language with the native name would be no more than stylistic, and might even suggest increased international significance both for the language and for its speech community. 

Before about 1970 the Persian language was of little interest outside academia, but since about 1980 the authors have become dependent on nonacademic interest in the language for justification that is now necessary to pursue it in academia. 

Linguistics emerged as a new field of study only in the 1940s, with a new focus on the scientific study of language in general, whether written or not. 

The ”farsi" image will sweep us along in the direction mapped out by the Soviet colonial ideology and the linguistic nationalisms it has left behind, besides implicating us in the more dubious crime of unnecessarily inventing English words. 

The current rise of a new selfconsciousness among all Persian speakers perhaps can be explained only in the context of similar intensification of linguistic and ethnic community identities throughout the world. 

the high literacy rate (irrespective of social class or higher education) and general access to international media make it unlikely that government policy will be able to control language effectively any more in the long term. 

To break out of this track it would be necessary not simply to make the negative case: that Persian should be broken into three national languages to be categorized as LCTLs and programmed in the curriculum according to modern standard methods, if at all.