Iranian languages

زبانهای ایرانی

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Updated:Monday 13th October 2014

Iranian languages Definition

(Wikipedia) - Iranian languages This article is about the language family. For languages spoken in Iran, see Languages of Iran. For the official language of Iran, see Persian language. Iranian Ethnicity: Geographic distribution: Linguistic classification: Proto-language: Subdivisions: ISO 639-5: Linguasphere: Glottolog:
Iranian peoples
Southwest Asia, Central Asia, and western South Asia
  • Indo-Iranian
    • Iranian
  • Western
  • Avestan (Central)
  • Eastern
  • Ormuri–Parachi
  • Northern (Yaghnobi–Ossetian)
58= (phylozone)
Countries and autonomous subdivisions where an Iranian language has official status and/or is spoken by a majority

The Iranian (also known as Iranic or Aaryan by self designation) languages form a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages, which in turn are a branch of the Indo-European language family. The speakers of Iranian languages are known as Iranian peoples.

Historical Iranian languages are grouped in three stages: Old Iranian (until 400 BCE), Middle Iranian (400 BCE – 900 CE), and New Iranian (since 900 CE). Of the Old Iranian languages, the better understood and recorded ones are Old Persian (a language of Achaemenid Iran) and Avestan (the language of Zarathustra). Middle Iranian languages included Middle Persian (a language of Sassanid Iran) and Parthian (a language of Arsacid Iran). There are many Iranian languages, the largest amongst them are Persian, Pashto, Kurdish, and Balochi.

As of 2008, there were an estimated 150–200 million native speakers of Iranian languages. The Ethnologue lists 87 Iranian languages. Persian has about 75 million native speakers, Pashto about 50 million, Kurdish about 32 million, Balochi about 25 million, and Lori about 2.3 million.

  • 1 Term
  • 2 Proto-Iranian and Old Iranian languages
  • 3 Middle Iranian languages
  • 4 New Iranian languages
  • 5 Comparison table
  • 6 See also
  • 7 Notes
  • 8 References
  • 9 External links

Term See also: Indo-Iranian languagesIranian language family tree

The term Iranian is applied to any language which descends from the ancestral Proto-Iranian language. Iranian derives from the Persian equivalent of the Sanskrit word Aryan.

The use of the term for the Iranian language family was introduced in 1836 by Christian Lassen. Robert Needham Cust used the term Irano-Aryan in 1878, and Orientalists such as George Abraham Grierson and Max Müller contrasted Irano-Aryan (Iranian) and Indo-Aryan (Indic). Some recent scholarship, primarily in German, has revived this convention A few sources use Iranic to avoid connections with the country of Iran. Still, Iranian remains the term used by the vast majority of English-language sources.

Proto-Iranian and Old Iranian languagesHistorical distribution in 100 BC: shown is Sarmatia, Scythia, Bactria and the Parthian Empire

Together with the other Indo-Iranian languages, the Iranian languages are descended from a common ancestor, Proto-Indo-Iranian. The Indo-Iranian languages are thought to have originated in Central Asia. The Andronovo culture is the suggested candidate for the common Indo-Iranian culture ca. 2000 BC.

It was situated precisely in the western part of Central Asia that borders present-day Russia (and present-day Kazakhstan). It was in relative proximity to the other satem ethno-linguistic groups of the Indo-European family, like Thracian, Balto-Slavic and others, and to common Indo-European''s original homeland (more precisely, the steppes of southern Russia to the north of the Caucasus), according to the reconstructed linguistic relationships of common Indo-European.

Proto-Iranian thus dates to some time after Proto-Indo-Iranian break-up, or the early second millennium BCE, as the Old Iranian languages began to break off and evolve separately as the various Iranian tribes migrated and settled in vast areas of southeastern Europe, the Iranian plateau, and Central Asia.

Avestan, mainly attested through the Avesta, a collection of sacred texts connected to the Zoroastrian religion, is considered to belong to a central Iranian group, where only peripheral groups had developed such as southwestern (represented by Old Persian) and northeastern Sogdian and Sakan language (Scythian – not to be confused with the Saka language of Khotan and Tumxuk, which belong to the Southeastern Iranian group). Among the less known Old Iranian languages is Median, spoken in western and central Iran, which may have had an “official” status during the Median era (ca. 700–559 BC). Apart from place and personal names, some words reported in Herodotus'' Histories and some preserved forms in Achaemenid inscriptions, there are numerous non-Persian words in the Old Persian texts that are commonly considered Median. Some of the modern Western and Central Iranian dialects are also likely to be descended from Median.

Other such languages are Carduchi (the predecessor to Kurdish) and Parthian (which evolved into the language of the later empire).

Innovations of Proto-Iranian compared to Proto-Indo-Iranian

From Witzel, 2001.

  • *s other than * turns into *
  • *bʰ, *dʰ, *gʰ merge into *b, *d, *g
  • Fricativization: stops become fricatives whenever they lie in front of another consonant
    • the merged *b, *d, *g become *, *, *
    • *p, *t, *k become *f, *θ, *x
    • in all positions, *pʰ, *tʰ, *kʰ become *f, *θ, *x
Middle Iranian languages

What is known in Iranian linguistic history as the "Middle Iranian" era is thought to begin around the 4th century BCE lasting through the 9th century. Linguistically the Middle Iranian languages are conventionally classified into two main groups, Western and Eastern.

The Western family includes Parthian (Arsacid Pahlavi) and Middle Persian, while Bactrian, Sogdian, Khwarezmian, Saka, and Old Ossetic (Scytho-Sarmatian) fall under the Eastern category. The two languages of the Western group were linguistically very close to each other, but quite distinct from their eastern counterparts. On the other hand, the Eastern group was an areal entity whose languages retained some similarity to Avestan. They were inscribed in various Aramaic-derived alphabets which had ultimately evolved from the Achaemenid Imperial Aramaic script, though Bactrian was written using an adapted Greek script.

Middle Persian (Pahlavi) was the official language under the Sasanian dynasty in Iran. It was in use from the 3rd century CE until the beginning of the 10th century. The script used for Middle Persian in this era underwent significant maturity. Middle Persian, Parthian and Sogdian were also used as literary languages by the Manichaeans, whose texts also survive in various non-Iranian languages, from Latin to Chinese. Manichaean texts were written in a script closely akin to the Syriac script.

New Iranian languages See also: Persian literatureDark green: countries where Iranian languages are official. Teal: regional co-official/de facto status.

Following the Islamic Conquest of Persia (Iran), there were important changes in the role of the different dialects within the Persian Empire. The old prestige form of Middle Iranian, also known as Pahlavi, was replaced by a new standard dialect called Dari as the official language of the court. The name Dari comes from the word darbâr (دربار), which refers to the royal court, where many of the poets, protagonists, and patrons of the literature flourished. The Saffarid dynasty in particular was the first in a line of many dynasties to officially adopt the new language in 875 CE. Dari may have been heavily influenced by regional dialects of eastern Iran, whereas the earlier Pahlavi standard was based more on western dialects. This new prestige dialect became the basis of Standard New Persian. Medieval Iranian scholars such as Abdullah Ibn al-Muqaffa (8th century) and Ibn al-Nadim (10th century) associated the term "Dari" with the eastern province of Khorasan, while they used the term "Pahlavi" to describe the dialects of the northwestern areas between Isfahan and Azerbaijan, and "Pârsi" ("Persian" proper) to describe the Dialects of Fars. They also noted that the unofficial language of the royalty itself was yet another dialect, "Khuzi", associated with the western province of Khuzestan.

Geographic distribution of modern Iranian languages

The Islamic conquest also brought with it the adoption of Arabic script for writing Persian, Pashto and Balochi. All three were adapted to the writing by the addition of a few letters. This development probably occurred some time during the second half of the 8th century, when the old middle Persian script began dwindling in usage. The Arabic script remains in use in contemporary modern Persian. Tajik script was first Latinised in the 1920s under the then Soviet nationality policy. The script was however subsequently Cyrillicized in the 1930s by the Soviet government.

The geographical regions in which Iranian languages were spoken were pushed back in several areas by newly neighbouring languages. Arabic spread into some parts of Western Iran (Khuzestan), and Turkic languages spread through much of Central Asia, displacing various Iranian languages such as Sogdian and Bactrian in parts of what is today Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Sogdian barely survives in a small area of the Zarafshan valley east of Samarkand, and Saka (as Sariqoli) in parts of southern Xinjiang as well as Ossetic in the Caucasus. Various small Iranian languages in the Pamirs survive that are derived from Eastern Iranian.

Comparison table
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English Zazaki Kurmanji/Sorani (Kurdish) Pashto Balochi Mazandarani Persian Middle Persian Parthian Old Persian Avestan Ossetic English Zazaki Kurmanji/Sorani Pashto Balochi Mazandarani Persian Middle Persian Parthian Old Persian Avestan Ossetic
beautiful rind, delal, ciwan rind, bedew, delal/cwan x̌kwәlay, x̌āista sharr, soherâ,mah rang ṣəmxâl/xəş-nəmâ zibā/xuš-čehr(e) hučihr, hužihr hužihr naiba vahu-, srîra ræsughd
blood gunî xwîn/xwên wina hon xun xūn xōn gōxan vohuni- tug
bread nan nan ḍoḍəi, məṛəi nān, nagan nûn nān nān nān dzul
bring ardene anîn/hênan/weranîn, hawirdin rā wṛəl âurten, yārag, ārag biyârden āwurdan, biyār ("(you) bring!") āwurdan, āwāy-, āwar-, bar- āwāy-, āwar-, bar- bara- bara, bar- xæssyn
brother bira bira, bra wror brāt, brās birâr barādar brād, brâdar brād, brādar brātar brātar- æfsymær
come amayene hatin rā tləl āhag, āyag,hatin biyamona, enen āmadan āmadan, awar awar, čām āy-, āgam āgam- cæwyn
cry berbayene girîn, giryan žəṛəl greewag, greeten bərmə/ qâ gerīstan/gerīye griy-, bram- kæwyn
dark tarî tarî/tarîk skəṇ, skaṇ, tor thár siyo tārīk tārīg/k tārīg, tārēn sâmahe, sâma tar
daughter kêna keç, kîj, qîz, dot/kiç, kîj, kenîşk, düet(kelhur) lūr dohtir, duttag kijâ, dether doxtar duxtar duxt, duxtar duxδar čyzg (Iron), kizgæ (Digor)
day roce/roje/roze roj wrəd͡z roç rezh rūz rōz raucah- raocah- bon
do kerdene kirin/kirdin kəwəl kanag, kurtin hâkerden kardan kardan kartan kạrta- kәrәta- kænyn
door ber, kêber/çêber derî, derge/derke, derga wər gelo, darwāzag bəli dar dar dar, bar duvara- dvara- dwar
die merdene mirin/mirdin mrəl mireg mərnen murdan murdan mạriya- mar- mælyn
donkey her ker xər har,her, kar xar xar xar xæræg
egg hak hêk/hêlke hagəi heyg, heyk, ā morg merqâna toxm, xāya ("testicle") toxmag, xâyag taoxmag, xâyag taoxma- ajk
earth erd (''Arabic (origin)'') erd, zemîn/herd (uncertain origin) d͡zməka (md͡zəka) zemin zemi zamīn zamīg zamīg zam- zãm, zam, zem zæxx
evening şan êvar/êware māx̌ām begáh nəmâşun begáh ēvārag êbêrag izær
eye çim çav/çaw stərga ch.hem, chem bəj, çəş čashm čašm čašm čaša- čašman- cæst
father pî, baw, babî, bawk bav/bab, bawk, ba plār pit, piss piyer pedar, pidar pidar pid pitar pitar fyd
fear ters tirs wēra (yara), bēra turs, terseg təşəpaş tars tars tars tạrsa- tares- tas
fiancé waşte, nîşanbîyaye xwestî, nîşankirî, dezgîran čənghol , čənghəla nāmzād nāmzād - - usag
fine weş xweş x̌a, səm, ṭik wash, hosh xaar xoš, xūb, beh dārmag srîra xorz, dzæbæx
finger gişte, engişte, bêçike til/qamik, bêçî, pêçîk, engust, pence gwəta lenkutk, mordâneg,changol angoos angošt angust dišti- ængwyldz
fire adir agir/awir, agir or âch, âs tesh ātaš, āzar âdur, âtaxsh ādur âç- âtre-/aêsma- art
fish mase masî kəb māhi, māhig mahi māhi māhig māsyāg masya kæsag
food / eat werdene xwarin / xwardin xwāṛə, xurāk / xwaṛəl warag, warâk xərak / xəynen xordan / xurāk / ġhazā parwarz / xwâr, xwardīg parwarz / xwâr hareθra / ad-, at- xærinag
go şîyayene çûn, rroştin tləl jwzzegh, shutin shunen / burden raftan raftan ay- ai- ay-, fra-vaz cæwyn
god heq, homa xwedê/xwa, xudê xwdāi hwdâ homa, xəda xudā yazdān baga- baya- xwycaw
good baş, rind baş, rind/baş, çak x̌ə jawáin, šarr,zabr xâr xub, nīkū, beh xūb, nêkog vahu- vohu, vaŋhu- xorz
grass vaş giya/gya wāx̌ə rem, sabzag sabzeh, giyāh giyâ dâlūg urvarâ kærdæg
great girs/gird, pîl, xişn mezin, gir/gewre, mezin loy, stər mastar, mazan,tuh gat, belang, pila bozorg,setabr wuzurg, pīl vazraka- uta-, avañt styr
hand dest dest lās dast dess dast dast dast dasta- zasta- k''ux / arm
head ser ser sər saghar,sar, sarag kalə sar, kalle sar sairi sær
heart zerrî dil/dill/dir(Erbil)/zil zṛə dil, hatyr dil/dill del dil dil aηhuš zærdæ
horse estor hesp/esp, hês(t)ir ās , aspa asp istar asp, astar asp, stōr asp, stōr aspa aspa- bæx
house keye mal/mall, xanu kor log, dawâr,ges səre xāna xânag demâna-, nmâna- xædzar
hunger vêşan birçî/birsî lwəga shudhagh veyshna gorosna(gi) gursag, shuy strong
language (also tongue) ziwan, zon ziman, ziwan žəba zevān, zobān ziwān zabān zuwān izβān hazâna- hizvā- ævzag
laugh huyayene kenîn/pêkenîn, kenîn xandəl/xənda khendegh, hendeg xandidan xandīdan, xanda karta Syaoθnâvareza- xudyn
life cu/cuye, jewiyaene jiyan žwəndūn, žwənd zendegih, zind zendegi zīndagīh, zīwišnīh žīwahr, žīw- gaêm, gaya- card
man merd, lacek mêr/ pyaw, mêrd səṛay, mēṛə merd merd mard mard mard martiya- mašîm, mašya adæjmag
moon aşme, meng (for month) heyv, meh/mang (for month) spoẓ̌məi máh mithra mâh māh māh mâh- måŋha- mæj
mother maye, daye, dayike dayik, mak mor mât, mâs mâr mâdar mādar mādar mâtar mâtar- mad
mouth fek dev, fek/dem xwla dap dahân dahân, rumb åŋhânô, âh, åñh dzyx
name name nav/naw, nam, nêw nūm nâm num nâm nâm nâman nãman nom
night şewe şev/şew špa šap, shaw sheow shab shab xšap- xšap- æxsæv
open akerdene vekirin/kirdinewe prānistəl pabožagh, paç vâ-hekârden bâz-kardan abâz-kardan, višādag būxtaka- būxta- gom kænyn
peace aştî aştî, aramî rogha, sokāli ârâm âshti, ârâmeš, ârâmî âštih, râmīšn râm, râmīšn šiyâti- râma- fidyddzinad
pig xoz, xonz beraz, soḍər, xənd͡zir khug xi xūk xūk xwy
place ca cî/cih/jê d͡zāi hend, jâgah jâh/gâh gâh gâh gâθu- gâtu-, gâtav- ran
read wendene xwendin/xwêndin lwastəl wánagh baxinden xândan xwândan kæsyn
say vatene gotin/witin, gutin wayəl gushagh baotena goftan, gap(-zadan) guftan, gōw-, wâxtan gōw- gaub- mrû- dzuryn
sister waye xweh, xweşk, xoe, xoyşk xor gwhâr xâxer xâhar/xwâhar xwahar x ̌aŋhar- "sister" xo
small qic/qicik, wurdî/hurdî biçûk, qicik, hûr kūčnoṭay, waṛūkay gwand, hurd pətik, bechuk, perushk kuchak, kam, xurd, rîz kam, rangas kam kamna- kamna- chysyl
son qij, lac/laj kur, law/kurr d͡zoy (zoy) baç, phusagh pisser pesar, pûr, baça pur, pusar puhr puça pūθra- fyrt
soul gan gan, gyan, rewan rawân ravân rūwân, gyân rūwân, gyân urvan- ud
spring wisar/wesar/usar bihar/behar spərlay bhârgâh wehâr bahâr wahâr vâhara- θūravâhara-
tall berz bilind/berz lwəṛ, ǰəg bwrz, borz boland / bârez buland, borz bârež barez- bærzond
ten des deh/de ləs deh da dah dah datha dasa dæs
three hîrê sê, sisê drē sey se se hrē çi- θri- ærtæ
village dewe gund/dê kəlay helk, kallag, dê deh deh, wis wiž dahyu- vîs-, dahyu- vîs qæw
want waştene xwestin/wîstin ghux̌təl lotagh bexanen xâstan xwâstan fændyn
water awe av/aw obə/ūbə âp ab âb/aw âb âb âpi avô- don
when key kengê/key, kengê kəla kadi,ked key kay ka čim- kæd
wind va ba, wa (kelhurî) siləi gwáth bâd wâd vâta- dymgæ / wad
wolf verg gur/gurg, wurg lewə, šarmux̌ gurkh varg gorg gurg varka- vehrka birægh
woman cenî jin x̌əd͡za jan,jinik zhənya zan zan žan gǝnā, γnā, ǰaini-, sylgojmag / us
year serre sal/sall kāl sâl sâl sâl θard ýâre, sarәd az
yes / no ya, belê / ne, ney erê, belê, a / na, ne Hao (ao) / na, ya ere / na baleh, ârē, hā / na, née ōhāy / ne hâ / ney yâ / nay, mâ yâ / noit, mâ o / næ
yesterday vizêr duh/dwênê parūn direz diruz dêrûž diya(ka) zyō znon

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