Dari language

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"Dari" redirects here. For other uses, see Dari (disambiguation).
"Dari Persian" redirects here; this article is about the variety of Persian spoken in Afghanistan. For the language group of which it is a part, which has also historically been called "Dari" or "Dari Persian," please see Persian language.
Dari Persian, Afghan Persian
Dari lang.jpg
Dari in Persian script
(Nastaʿlīq style)
Pronunciation [dæˈɾi]
Native to Afghanistan
Native speakers
12.5 million  (2000–2011)[1]
roughly 50% of the Afghan population
Dialects Kaboli, Mazari, Herati, Badakhshi, Panjshiri, Laghmani, Sistani, Aimaqi, Hazaragi[2]
Persian alphabet
Official status
Official language in
Regulated by Academy of Sciences of Afghanistan
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Variously:
prs – Dari, Afghan Persian
aiq – Aimaq
haz – Hazaragi
Glottolog dari1249  (Dari)[3]
aima1241  (Aimaq)[4]
haza1239  (Hazaragi)[5]
Linguasphere 58-AAC-ce (Dari) + 58-AAC-cdo & cdp (Hazaragi) + 58-AAC-ck (Aimaq)
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Dari (Persian: دری[dæˈɾiː]) or Dari Persian (Persian: فارسی دری[fɒːɾsije dæˈɾiː]) is the variety of the Persian language spoken in Afghanistan.[6] Dari is the term officially recognized and promoted since 1964 by the Afghan government for the Persian language.[6] Hence, it is also known as Afghan Persian in many Western sources.[7][8]

As defined in the Constitution of Afghanistan, it is one of the two official languages of Afghanistan; the other is Pashto.[9] Dari is the most widely spoken language in Afghanistan and the native language of approximately 50%[7][10][11][12] of the population, serving as the country's lingua franca.[13] The Iranian and Afghan types of Persian are highly mutually intelligible, with differences found primarily in the vocabulary and phonology.

Originally, Dari was the name given to the Old Persian language at a very early date and widely attested in Arabic and Persian texts since the 10th century.[14] In historical usage, Dari refers to the Middle Persian court language of the Sassanids.[15]

By way of Early New Persian, Dari Persian, like Iranian Persian and Tajik, is a continuation of Middle Persian, the official religious and literary language of the Sassanian Empire (224–651 CE), itself a continuation of Old Persian, the language of the Achaemenids (550–330 BC).[16][17] In historical usage, Dari refers to the Middle Persian court language of the Sassanids.[15]


Dari is a name given to the New Persian language at a very early date and widely attested in Arabic and Persian texts since the 10th century.[18] Since 1964, it has been the official name in Afghanistan for the Persian spoken there. In Afghanistan, Dari refers to a modern dialect form of Persian that is the standard language used in administration, government, radio, television, and print media. Because of a preponderance of Dari native speakers, who normally refer to the language as Fārsi (فارسی; "Persian"), it is also known as "Afghan Persian" in some Western sources.[7][8]

Dari, spoken in Afghanistan, should not be confused with Dari or Gabri of Iran, a language of the Central Iranian sub-group, spoken in some Zoroastrian communities.[19][20]


Dari is the name given to the New Persian literary language at a very early age and was widely used in Arabic (cf. Al-Estakhri, Al-Muqaddasi, and Ibn Hawqal) and Persian texts.[6]

There are different opinions about the origin of the word Dari. The majority of scholars believes that Dari refers to the Persian word dar or darbār (دربار), meaning "Court", as it was the formal language of the Sassanids.[6] The original meaning of the word dari is given in a notice attributed to Ibn al-Muqaffaʿ (cited by Ibn al-Nadim in Al-Fehrest).[21] According to him, "Pārsī was the language spoken by priests, scholars, and the like; it is the language of Fars." It is obvious that this language refers to the Middle Persian.[6] As for Dari, he says, "it is the language of the cities of Madā'en; it is spoken by those who are at the king’s court. [Its name] is connected with presence at court. Among the languages of the people of Khorasan and the east, the language of the people of Balkh is predominant.”[6]

The origin of Dari comes from the Middle Persian which was spoken during the rule of the Sassanid dynasty. In general, Iranian languages are known from three periods, usually referred to as Old, Middle, and New (Modern) periods. These correspond to three eras in Iranian history, the Old era being the period from some time before, during and after the Achaemenid period (that is, to 300 BC), the Middle Era being the next period, namely, the Sassanid period and part of the post-Sassanid period, and the New era being the period afterwards down to the present day.[22][23][24]

Research that Sir John Malcolm did 200 years ago is based on a work from Italy in 1650, Lingua Corteggiana, when he wrote (Dari was written in Europe Deri):

The name Deri is derived from Der, a word which runs through so many languages, and is to be traced in the Greek Θύρα, the German Thur, and our door. For it was [...] the usage of the Persians, as it is of the Ottoman Porte, to name what approaches royalty from the gate, while we name it from the court within the gate: so that the Deri language may be rendered precisely by the lingua corteggiana of the Italians. In earlier times, after the dialect of Bactria had been established at court by Baharam, this received the honour of being called the Deri. Subsequently, under the early Sassanidae, the title might have been given with propriety to the Pehlevee; since the medals and inscriptions seem to prove, that the Pehlevee was then the favorite of royalty: the name of Deri, however, does not appear ever to have been assigned to it. And perhaps the superior melody of the Farsee had obtained for it the preference as the language of conversation, even before Baharam Ghoor enacted that it should be adopted in all public documents. For such was the sweetness and elegance of the Deri, that there is a tradition of Mahomet having declared, that "if God says any thing kind or gentle to the angels around him, he speaks in Deri; if anything harsh or hard, in Arabic." "For (says Ibn Fakereddin) the language of the inhabitants of Paradise will be either the Arabic or the Persian Deri.[25]

But it is thought that the first person in Europe to use the term Deri for Dari was Thomas Hyde, at Oxford, in his chief work, Historia religionis veterum Persarum (1700).[26]

Dari or Deri has two meanings:

  • language of the court
"the Zebani Deri(Zeban i Deri or Zaban i Dari = the language of Deri), or the language of the court, and the Zebani Farsi, the dialect of Persia at large (...)"[27][28]
  • Dari, sometimes Araki-Methods (Iraqi), is a form of poetry used from Rudaki to Jami. In 1500 AD it appeared in Herat in the Persian-speaking Timurid dynasty, and by speaking in Farsi Indian poets of the Mughal Empire who used the Indian verse methods or rhyme methods like Bedil and Muhammad Iqbal, became familiar with the Araki methods. Iqbal loved both styles of literature and poetry, when he wrote:

گرچہ هندی در عذوبت شکر است 1[29]

garche Hindi dar uzūbat2 shakkar ast

طرز گفتار دري شيرين تر است

tarz-e goftar-e Dari shirin tar ast

Translation according to literature and poetry: Even though in euphonious Hindi* is sugar – Rhyme method in Dari (Persian) is sweeter *

Qandi Parsi or [Ghand e Parsi] (Rock candy of Parsi) is a metaphor for the Persian language and poetry.

This poem is a poetic statement of the poet Iqbal with respect to the poetry of the 14th century Persian poet Hafez:

شکرشکن شوند همه طوطیان هند

Shakkar shekan shavand hameh totiyān-e Hend

زین قند پارسی که به بنگاله می‌رود

ze en qand-e Pārsi ke ba Bengāle meravad

Translation according to literature and poetry[clarification needed]:

All the parrots of India will crack sugar

Through this Persian Candy which is going to Bengal[30][31]

Geographical distribution[edit]

Dari, which is sometimes called Farsi (Persian), is one of the two official languages of Afghanistan (the other being Pashto). In practice though, it serves as the de facto lingua franca among the various ethno-linguistic groups.

Dari is spoken by about half of the population of Afghanistan as a first language.[7][10][13][11][12] Tajiks who comprise approximately 27% of the population are the primary speakers, followed by Hazaras (9%) and Aymāqs (4%). Moreover, many Pashtuns living in Tajik and Hazara concentrated areas also use Dari as a first language. About 2.5 million people in Iran and Pakistan also speak Dari as one of their primary languages.[32]

Dari dominates the northern, western and central areas of Afghanistan, and is the common language spoken in cities such as Mazar-i-Sharif, Herat, Fayzabad, Panjshir, Bamiyan, and the Afghan capital of Kabul where all ethnic groups are settled. Dari-speaking communities also exist in southwestern and eastern Pashtun-dominated areas such as in the cities of Ghazni, Farah, Zaranj, Lashkar Gah, Kandahar, and Gardez.

Cultural influence[edit]

Dari has contributed to the majority of Persian borrowings in other Asian languages, such as Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, Bengali, etc., as it was the administrative, official, cultural language of the Persocentric Mughal Empire and served as the lingua franca throughout the South Asian subcontinent for centuries. The sizable Persian component of the Anglo-Indian loan words in English and in Urdu therefore reflects the Dari pronunciation. For instance, the words dopiaza and pyjama come from the Dari pronunciation; in the Iranian Persian they are pronounced do-piyāzeh and pey-jāmeh. Persian lexemes and certain morphological elements (e.g., the ezāfe) have often been employed to coin words for political and cultural concepts, items, or ideas that were historically unknown outside the South Asian region, as is the case with the aforementioned "borrowings". The Dari language has a rich and colorful tradition of proverbs that deeply reflect Afghan culture and relationships, as demonstrated by U.S. Navy Captain Edward Zellem in his bilingual books on Afghan Dari proverbs collected in Afghanistan.[33][34]

Differences between Iranian and Afghan Persian[edit]

There are phonological, lexical,[35] and morphological[24] differences between Dari and western Persian. There are no significant differences in the written forms, other than regional idiomatic phrases.


Phonetically, Dari generally resembles a more formal and classical form of Persian (Farsi). The differences in pronunciation of Iranian and Afghan Persian can be considerable, on a par with Scottish and Cockney English[clarification needed], although educated speakers generally have no difficulty understanding each other (except in the use of certain lexical items or idiomatic expressions). The principal differences between standard Iranian Persian, based on the dialect of the capital Tehran, and Afghan Dari, as based on the Kabul dialect, are:

  1. The merging of majhul vowels "ē" / "ī" and "ō" / "ū" into "ī" and "ū" respectively in Iranian Persian, whereas in Afghan Persian, they are still kept separate. For instance, the identically written words شیر 'lion' and 'milk' are pronounced the same in Iranian Persian as /šīr/, but /šēr/ for 'lion' and /šīr/ for 'milk' in Afghan Persian. The long vowel in زود "quick" and زور "strong" is realized as /ū/ in Iranian Persian, in contrast, these words are pronounced /zūd/ and /zōr/ respectively by Persian speakers in Afghanistan.
  2. The treatment of the diphthongs of early Classical Persian "aw" (as "ow" in Engl. "cow") and "ay" (as "i" in English "ice"), which are pronounced [ow] (as in Engl. "low") and [ej] (as in English "day") in Iranian Persian. Dari, on the other hand, is more archaic, e.g. نوروز 'Persian New Year' is realized as /nowrūz/ in Iranian and /nawrōz/ in Afghan Persian, and نخیر 'no' is /naχejr/ in Iranian and /naχajr/ in Afghan Persian. Moreover, [ow] is simplified to [o] in normal Iranian speech, thereby merging with the short vowel /u/ (see below). This does not occur in Afghan Persian.
  3. The high short vowels /i/ and /u/ tend to be lowered in Iranian Persian to [e] and [o].
  4. The pronunciation of the labial consonant و, which is realized as a voiced labiodental fricative [v], but Afghan Persian still retains the (classical) bilabial pronunciation [w]; [v] is found in Afghan Persian as an allophone of [f] before voiced consonants.
  5. The convergence of voiced uvular stop [ɢ] (ق) and voiced velar fricative [ɣ] (غ) in Iranian Persian (presumably under the influence of Turkic languages like Azeri and Turkmen),[36] is still kept separate in Dari.
  6. The realization of short final "a" (ه-) as [e] in Iranian Persian.
  7. The realization of short non-final "a" as [æ] in Iranian Persian.
  8. [æ] and [e] in word-final positions are separate in Dari, [e] is a word-final allophone of [æ] in Iranian Persian.


There are some words that differ in Persian-Dari as to Persian-Farsi. Some examples are listed below.

English Persian-Farsi Persian-Dari
to try سعی کردن سعی کردن/کوشش کردن
to speak حرف زدن حرف زدن/گپ زدن
to see دیدن سیل کردن/دیدن

All the above words in the Persian language. Gap zadan (گپ زدن) is an old Persian word. Harf zadan (حرف زدن) is from Arabic word Harf and auxiliary zadan. Gapidan (گپيدن), "to speak", was correct, but is now considered outdated. Dari retains the use of Gap zadan (گپ زدن) for conversations whereas Harf zadan (حرف زدن) is almost always used in Iran. Iranians seldom use gap zadan (گپ زدن) in informal conversations.

Dialect continuum[edit]

The dialects of Dari spoken in Northern, Central and Eastern Afghanistan, for example in Kabul, Mazar, and Badakhshan, have distinct features compared to Iranian Persian. However, the dialect of Dari spoken in Western Afghanistan stands in between the Afghan and Iranian Persian. For instance, the Herati dialect shares vocabulary and phonology with both Dari and Iranian Persian. Likewise, the dialect of Persian in Eastern Iran, for instance in Mashhad, is quite similar to the Herati dialect of Afghanistan.

The Kabuli dialect has become the standard model of Dari in Afghanistan, as has the Tehrani dialect in relation to the Persian in Iran. Since the 1940s, Radio Afghanistan has been broadcasting its Dari programs in Kabuli Dari, which ensured the homogenization between the Kabuli version of the language and other dialects of Dari spoken throughout Afghanistan. Since 2003, the media, especially the private radio and television broadcasters, have carried out their Dari programs using the Kabuli variety.

Political views on the language[edit]

The native-speakers of Dari usually call their language Farsi. However, the term Dari has been officially promoted by the government of Afghanistan for political reasons, and enjoys equal official status alongside Pashto in Afghanistan. The local name for Persian language was officially changed from Farsi to Dari in 1964.[37][38] Within their respective linguistic boundaries, Dari and Pashto are the medium of education.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dari, Afghan Persian at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Aimaq at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Hazaragi at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ "Iranica, "Afghanistan: v.Languages", Table 11". Retrieved 19 August 2013. 
  3. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Dari". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  4. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Aimaq". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  5. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Hazaragi". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Lazard, G. "Darī – The New Persian Literary Language", in Encyclopædia Iranica, Online Edition 2006.
  7. ^ a b c d "CIA – The World Factbook, "Afghanistan", Updated on 8 July 2010". Cia.gov. Retrieved 19 August 2013. 
  8. ^ a b "Documentation for ISO 639 identifier: prs". Sil.org. 18 January 2010. Retrieved 19 August 2013. 
  9. ^ "The Afghans – Language Use". United States: Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL). 30 June 2002. Retrieved 24 October 2010. 
  10. ^ a b "AFGHANISTAN v. Languages". Ch. M. Kieffer. Encyclopædia Iranica, online ed. Retrieved 10 December 2010. Persian (2) is the language most spoken in Afghanistan. The native tongue of twenty five percent of the population ... 
  11. ^ a b "Languages of Afghanistan". SIL International. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. 2005. Retrieved 16 September 2010. 
  12. ^ a b "Dari language". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 7 December 2010. 
  13. ^ a b "Dari". UCLA International Institute: Center for World Languages. University of California, Los Angeles. Retrieved 10 December 2010. 
  14. ^ Name given to the New Persian literary language at a very early date and widely attested in Arabic and Persian texts since the 10th century. http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/dari
  15. ^ a b Frye, R. N., "Darī", The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Brill Publications, CD version
  16. ^ Lazard, Gilbert 1975, “The Rise of the New Persian Language”
  17. ^ in Frye, R. N., The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 4, pp. 595-632, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  18. ^ http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/dari
  19. ^ ""Parsi-Dari" Ethnologue". Ethnologue.org. 19 February 1999. Retrieved 19 August 2013. 
  20. ^ ""Dari, Zoroastrian" Ethnologue". Ethnologue.org. 19 February 1999. Retrieved 19 August 2013. 
  21. ^ Ebn al-Nadim, ed. Tajaddod, p. 15; Khjwārazmī, Mafātīh al-olum, pp. 116–17; Hamza Esfahānī, pp. 67–68; Yāqūt, Boldān IV, p. 846
  22. ^ "Farsi, the most widely spoken Persian Language, a Farsi Dictionary, Farsi English Dictionary, The spoken language in Iran, History of Farsi Language, Learn Farsi, Farsi Translation". Farsinet.com. Retrieved 26 August 2012. 
  23. ^ "Persian alphabet, pronunciation and language". Omniglot.com. Retrieved 26 August 2012. 
  24. ^ a b UCLA, Language Materials Projects. "Persian Language". Iranchamber.com. Retrieved 26 August 2012. 
  25. ^ The History of Persia: From the Most Early Period to the Present Time, Vol. 1, pg, London, no year, in writing 1806 or 1810, P. 482
  26. ^ Thomas Hyde (1760). Veterum Persarum et Parthorum et Medorum Religionis Historia. E Typographeo Clarendoniano. Retrieved 12 July 2013. 
  27. ^ John Richardson, London, 1777 pg. 15
  28. ^ * John Richardson (1810). Sir Charles Wilkins, David Hopkins, ed. A vocabulary, Persian, Arabic, and English: abridged from the quarto edition of Richardson's dictionary. Printed for F. and C. Rivingson. p. 643. Retrieved 6 July 2011. 
  29. ^ "تمهید". Ganjoor (in Persian). Ganjoor. 2013. Retrieved 12 July 2013. 
  30. ^ Jafri, Sardar (January–February 2000). "Hafiz Shirazi (1312-1387-89)". Social Scientist (Social Scientist) 28 (1/2): 12–31. Retrieved 12 July 2013. 
  31. ^ Abbadullah Farooqi (2013). "THE IMPACT OF KHAWAJA HAFIZ ON IQBAL'S THOUGHT". Iqbal. Government of Pakistan. Retrieved 12 July 2013. 
  32. ^ "Dari language, alphabet and pronunciation". Omniglot.com. Retrieved 26 August 2012. 
  33. ^ Zellem, Edward. 2012. "Zarbul Masalha: 151 Afghan Dari Proverbs". Charleston: CreateSpace. 
  34. ^ Zellem, Edward. 2012. "Afghan Proverbs Illustrated". Charleston: CreateSpace. 
  35. ^ "Ethnologue report for language code: prs". Ethnologue.com. Retrieved 26 August 2012. 
  36. ^ A. Pisowicz, Origins of the New and Middle Persian phonological systems (Cracow 1985), p. 112-114, 117.
  37. ^ Willem Vogelsang, "The Afghans", Blackwell Publishing, 2002
  38. ^ Declassified, Zaher said there would be, as there are now, two official languages, Pashto and Farsi, though the latter would henceforth be named Dari.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]