Iranian languages

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Iranian
Ethnicity: Iranian peoples
Geographic
distribution:
Southwest Asia, Central Asia, and western South Asia
Linguistic classification: Indo-European
Proto-language: Proto-Iranian
Subdivisions:
ISO 639-5: ira
Linguasphere: 58= (phylozone)
Glottolog: iran1269[1]

Countries and autonomous subdivisions where an Iranian language has official status and/or is spoken by a majority

The Iranian (sometimes also Iranic or Irano-Aryan) 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.[2] The Ethnologue lists 87 Iranian languages.[3] 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.

Term[edit]

Iranian language family tree

The term Iranian is applied to any language which descends from the ancestral Proto-Iranian language.[4] 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.[5] Robert Needham Cust used the term Irano-Aryan in 1878,[6] 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[7][8][9][10] 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 languages[edit]

Historical 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,[11] 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.[12]

Other such languages are Carduchi (the predecessor to Kurdish) and Parthian (which evolved into the language of the later empire).[13]

Innovations of Proto-Iranian compared to Proto-Indo-Iranian[edit]

From Witzel, 2001.[14]

  • *s other than *[ʃ] turns into *[h]
  • *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 *[β], *[ð], *[γ]
    • *p, *t, *k become *f, *θ, *x
    • in all positions, *pʰ, *tʰ, *kʰ become *f, *θ, *x

Middle Iranian languages[edit]

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.[15]

New Iranian languages[edit]

Dark 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[edit]

English Zazaki Kurmanji/Sorani
(Kurdish)
Pashto Balochi Mazandarani Persian Middle Persian Parthian Old Persian Avestan Ossetic
beautiful rind, delal, ciwan rind, bedew, delal/cwan x̌kulay, 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, nəghān 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 žaṛəl greewag, greeten bərmə/ qâ gerīstan/gerīye griy-, bram- kæwyn
dark tarî tarî/tarîk tor thár siyo tārīk tārīg/k tārīg, tārēn sâmahe, sâma tar
daughter kêna keç, kîj, qîz, dot/kiç, kîj, kenîşk, düet(kelhur) lur dohtir, duttag kijâ, dether doxtar duxtar duxt, duxtar duxδar čyzg (Iron), kizgæ (Digor)
day roce/roje/roze roj wradz roç rezh rūz rōz raucah- raocah- bon
do kerdene kirin/kirdin kawəl kanag, kurtin hâkerden kardan kardan kartan kạrta- kәrәta- kænyn
door ber, kêber/çêber derî, derge/derke, derga war 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 xar 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) zməka zemin zemi zamīn zamīg zamīg zam- zãm, zam, zem zæxx
evening şan êvar/êware māx̌ām, bēga 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, tars turs, terseg təşəpaş tars tars tars tạrsa- tares- tas
fiancé waşte, nîşanbîyaye xwestî, nîşankirî, dezgîran čanghol nāmzād nāmzād - - usag
fine weş xweş x̌a 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 kab 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 sar 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, xuna 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 khendegh, hendeg xandidan xandīdan, xanda karta Syaoθnâvareza- xudyn
life cu/cuye, jewiyaene jiyan žwandun zendegih, zind zendegi zīndagīh, zīwišnīh žīwahr, žīw- gaêm, gaya- card
man merd, lacek mêr/ pyaw, mêrd saṛay, mēṛə merd merd mard mard mard martiya- mašîm, mašya adæjmag
moon aşme, meng (for month) heyv, meh/mang (for month) spogməi, myāšt 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 xwlə dap dahân dahân, rumb åŋhânô, âh, åñh dzyx
name name nav/naw, nam, nêw num 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, xlāsawəl pabožagh, paç vâ-hekârden bâz-kardan abâz-kardan, višādag būxtaka- būxta- gom kænyn
peace aştî aştî, aramî rogha ârâm âshti, ârâmeš, ârâmî âštih, râmīšn râm, râmīšn šiyâti- râma- fidyddzinad
pig xoz, xonz beraz, xug, sēḍar khug xi xūk xūk xwy
place ca cî/cih/jê dzāi 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 kučnay, waṛukay, kamkay gwand, hurd pətik, bechuk, perushk kuchak, kam, xurd, rîz kam, rangas kam kamna- kamna- chysyl
son qij, lac/laj kur, law/kurr zoi baç, phusagh pisser pesar, pûr, baça pur, pusar puhr puça pūθra- fyrt
soul gan gan, gyan, rewan arwā rawân ravân rūwân, gyân rūwân, gyân urvan- ud
spring wisar/wesar/usar bihar/behar sparlay bhârgâh wehâr bahâr wahâr vâhara- θūravâhara-
tall berz bilind/berz lwaṛ, ǰəg bwrz, borz boland / bârez buland, borz bârež barez- bærzond
ten des deh/de las 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 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) bād, siləi gwáth bâd wâd vâta- dymgæ / wad
wolf verg gur/gurg, wurg lewə, šarmux̌ gurkh varg gorg gurg varka- vehrka birægh
woman cenî jin x̌ədza 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 wo (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 parun direz diruz dêrûž diya(ka) zyō znon
English Zazaki Kurmanji/Sorani Pashto Balochi Mazandarani Persian Middle Persian Parthian Old Persian Avestan Ossetic

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Iranian". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  2. ^ Windfuhr, Gernot. The Iranian languages. Routledge Taylor and Francis Group. 
  3. ^ Gordon, Raymond G., Jr. (ed.) (2005). "Report for Iranian languages". Ethnologue: Languages of the World (Fifteenth ed.) (Dallas: SIL International). 
  4. ^ (Skjærvø 2006)
  5. ^ Lassen, Christian. 1936. Die altpersischen Keil-Inschriften von Persepolis. Entzifferung des Alphabets und Erklärung des Inhalts. Bonn: Weber. S. 182.
    This was followed by Wilhelm Geiger in his Grundriss der Iranischen Philologie (1895). Friedrich von Spiegel (1859), Avesta, Engelmann (p. vii) used the spelling Eranian.
  6. ^ Cust, Robert Needham. 1878. A sketch of the modern languages of the East Indies. London: Trübner.
  7. ^ Dani, Ahmad Hasan. 1989. History of northern areas of Pakistan. Historical studies (Pakistan) series. National Institute of Historical and Cultural Research.
    "We distinguish between the Aryan languages of Iran, or Irano-Aryan, and the Aryan languages of India, or Indo-Aryan. For the sake of brevity, Iranian is commonly used instead of Irano-Aryan".
  8. ^ Lazard, Gilbert. 1977. Preface in: Oranskij, Iosif M. Les langues iraniennes. Traduit par Joyce Blau.
  9. ^ Schmitt, Rüdiger. 1994. Sprachzeugnisse alt- und mitteliranischer Sprachen in Afghanistan in: Indogermanica et Caucasica. Festschrift für Karl Horst Schmidt zum 65. Geburtstag. Bielmeier, Robert und Reinhard Stempel (Hrg.). De Gruyter. S. 168–196.
  10. ^ Lazard, Gilbert. 1998. Actancy. Empirical approaches to language typology. Mouton de Gruyter. ISBN 3-11-015670-9, ISBN 978-3-11-015670-6
  11. ^ Nicholas Sims-Williams, Iranica, under entry: Eastern Iranian languages
  12. ^ (Skjaervo 2006) vi(2). Documentation.
  13. ^ Roland G. Kent: "Old Persion: Grammar Texts Lexicon". Part I, Chapter I: The Linguistic Setting of Old Persian. American Oriental Society, 1953.
  14. ^ Michael Witzel (2001): Autochthonous Aryans? The evidence from Old Indian and Iranian texts. Electronic Journal of Vedic Studies 7(3): 1–115.
  15. ^ Mary Boyce. 1975. A Reader in Manichaean Middle Persian and Parthian, p. 14.

References[edit]

External links[edit]