Persian vocabulary

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Persian belongs to the Indo-European language family, and many words in modern Persian usage ultimately originate from Proto-Indo-European. The language makes extensive use of word building techniques such as affixation and compounding to derive new words from roots. Persian has also had considerable contact with other languages, resulting in many borrowings.

Native word formation[edit]

Persian is very powerful in word building and versatile in ways a word can be built from combining affixes, stems, nouns and adjectives. Having many affixes to form new words (over a hundred), and the ability to build affixes and specially prefixes from nouns,[1] The Persian language is also claimed to be[2][3][4][5][6][7][8] and demonstrated[9][10][11][12] as an agglutinative language since it also frequently uses derivational agglutination to form new words from nouns, adjectives, and verbal stems. New words are also extensively formed by compounding – two existing words combining into a new one, as is common in German, Sanskrit and hence most of the Indian languages. Professor Mahmoud Hessaby demonstrated that Persian can derive more than 226 million words.[10][11][12][13][14]

An example set of words derived from a present stem combined with some of available affixes:

Persian Components English Word class
dān دان dān دان Present stem of dānestan (to know) Verbal stem
dāneš دانش dān + -eš دان + ش knowledge Noun
dānešmand دانشمند dān + -eš + -mand دان + ش + مند Scientist Noun
dānešgāh دانشگاه dān + -eš + -gāh دان + ش + گاه university Noun
dānešgāhi دانشگاهی dān + -eš + -gāh + -i دان + ش + گاه + ی pertaining to university; scholar; scholarly Adjective
hamdānešgāhi هم‌دانشگاهی ham- + dān + -eš + -gāh + -i هم + دان + ش + گاه + ی university-mate Noun
dāneškade دانشکده dān + -eš + -kade دان + ش + کده faculty Noun
dānešju دانشجو dān + -eš + -ju دان + ش + جو student Noun
dānā دانا dān + -ā دان + ا wise, learned Adjective
dānāyi دانایی dān + -ā + -i دان + ا + ی wisdom Noun
nādān نادان nā- + dān نا + دان ignorant; foolish Adjective
nādāni نادانی nā- + dān + -i نا + دان + ی ignorance; foolishness Noun
dānande داننده dān + -ande دان + نده one who knows Adjective
dānandegi دانندگی dān + -ande + -gi دان + نده + گی knowing Noun

An example set of words derived from a past stem combined with some of available affixes:

Persian Components English Word class
did دید did دید Past stem of didan (to see) Verbal stem
did دید did دید sight; vision Noun
didan دیدن did + -an دید + ن to see Infinitive
didani دیدنی did + -an + -i دید + ن + ی worth seeing Adjective
didār دیدار did + -ār دید + ار visit; act of meeting Noun
didāri دیداری did + -ār + -i دید + ار + ی visional, of the sense of sight Adjective
dide دیده did + -e دید + ه seen; what seen Past participle; Noun
nādide ندیده nâ- + did + -e ن + دید + ه what unseen Noun
didgāh دیدگاه did + -gâh دید + گاه point of view Noun
didebān دیدبان dide + -bān دید + ه + بان watchman Noun
didebāni دیدبانی dide + -bān + -i دید + ه + بان + ی watchman-ship Noun

External influences[edit]

There are also a considerable amount of loanwords in the Persian language, mostly coming from Arabic, French, and the Turkic languages. Recently some English loanwords has entered the language too.

Persian has likewise influenced the vocabularies of other languages, especially Arabic,[15] Armenian,[16] Georgian,[17] Indo-Iranian languages and Turkic languages. Many Persian words have also found their way into the English language.

Arabic influence[edit]

The Arab conquest of Iran lasted for two centuries, from the 7th to the 9th CE. Arabic gradually replaced Middle Persian as an official language and Arabic became the language of the Persian intellectuals during Golden Age of Islam. During this period, many Arabic words were imported into the Persian language, and a number of Persian words found their way into Arabic. Persian words of Arabic origin especially include Islamic terms. Arabic has had an extensive influence on the Persian lexicon, but it has not greatly affected the structure of the language. Although a considerable portion of the lexicon is derived from Arabic roots, including some of the Arabic plural patterns, the morphological process used to obtain these lexical elements has not been imported into Persian and is not productive in the language.

These Arabic words have been imported and lexicalized in Persian. So, for instance, the Arabic plural form for ketāb (كتاب) ["book"] is kotob (كتب) obtained by the root derivation system. In Persian, the plural for the lexical word ketâb is obtained by simply adding the Persian plural morpheme : ketāb+hāketābhā (كتاب‌ها). Also, any new Persian words can only be pluralized by the addition of this plural morpheme since the Arabic root system is not a productive process in Persian. In addition, since the plurals formed by the Arabic morphological system constitute only a small portion of the Persian vocabulary (about 5% in the Shiraz corpus), it is not necessary to include them in the morphology; they are instead listed in the dictionary as irregular forms.

In fact, among Iranians there have been sporadic efforts as far back as the Safavid Empire to revive Persian and diminish the use of Arabic loanwords in their language. Both Pahlavi Shahs supported such efforts in the 20th century by creating the academy of Persian Language and Literature. In 1934, Reza Shah ordered to rebuild tomb of Ferdowsi, who is regarded as the savior of Persian language, and set up a ceremony in Mashhad, celebrating a thousand years of Persian literature since the time of Ferdowsi, titled Ferdowsi Millenary Celebration (Persian: جشن هزاره فردوسی‎).

Academy of Persian language and literature after the Iranian revolution continued its striving to protect the integrity of the Persian language. However, the attention of the academy has been turned towards the persistent infiltration of Persian, like many other languages, with English words, as a result of the globalization process. Since the 1980s, the academy constantly campaigns for the use of the Persian equivalents of these new English loanwords. It also has the task of linguistically deriving such words from existing Persian roots if no such equivalents exist, and actively promoting the adoption of these new coinages instead of their English equivalents in the daily lives of the Persian-speaking people in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.

Turkic influence[edit]

Less noticeable, but also considerable are the Turkic forms (including Mongolian borrowings) that have entered the Persian language.[18] Throughout history, the Persian-speaking realm, including the Iranian plateau, was ruled by a succession of dynasties of Turkic origin, notably Ghaznavid, Seljuk, the Sultanate of Rum, Timurid, Qajar, and Ottomans which have patronized Persian culture and literature. Even the Mongol Il-Khanate brought more Turkic speakers, who constituted the backbone of the Mongol armies, to the Iranian plateau. With the exception of certain official designations within the government, trade and military, many of the Turkic borrowings in Persian have a more informal, homely flavour,[19] and therefore, to many Persian native speakers these words do not feel like foreign: e.g. āqā 'mister', dowqolu 'twin', komak 'help', tumān 'official currency of Iran' (but riāl < Portuguese), yābu 'pack nag', qešlāq 'winter quarters', yeylāq 'summer quarters', qeyči 'scissors'.

French and other European influences[edit]

Over the past couple of centuries, Persian has borrowed many loanwords from European languages (mainly French). A lot of these loanwords were originally French and use French pronunciation, also other common words mainly come from English, Italian, German, and Russian (example: samovar) as well. The table below shows some examples of common French/Persian words.

Persian French English
دوش duš douche shower
مرسی mersi merci thanks
گارسون gārson garçon waiter
مانتو mānto manteau women's coat
شوفاژ šufāž chauffage radiator
شومینه šomine cheminée fireplace
اتوبوس otobus autobus bus
کروات keravāt cravate tie

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Such as سگ (dog) in سگ‌مست (stoned, drunk) as well as خر (donkey) in خرمست and سیاه (black) in سیاه‌مست with the same meaning.
  2. ^ "Index archive". Mashad. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
  3. ^ "فرهنگ و هنر ; فارسی زبانی عقیم، مقاله ای از دکتر باطنی". BBC. 2 June 2008. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
  4. ^ Archived December 19, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ "The Synchronic Data for the History of Azerbaijanian – Persian Language Contacts" (PDF). CS. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 July 2013. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "همشهری آنلاین: اهمیت زبان فارسی در عصر دهکده جهانی". Archived from the original on 2012-03-22. Retrieved 2013-11-15.
  8. ^ "خبرگزاری کتاب ايران (IBNA) – زبان فارسي زباني اشتقاقي است". Retrieved 2013-11-15.
  9. ^ "زبان Ů Ř§ŘąŘłŰŒ ŮƒŘ§Ů...Ů"ا ŮžŰŒŮˆŮ†ŘŻŰŒ Ůˆ ŘŞŘąŮƒŰŒ 30% ŮžŰŒŮˆŮ†ŘŻŰŒ(اŮ"ŘŞŘľŘ§Ů‚ŰŒ) است!". Retrieved 2013-11-15.
  10. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-06-09. Retrieved 2011-05-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ a b "توانمندی زبان فارسی در برابر زبان تازی ( عربی )". Retrieved 2013-11-15.
  12. ^ a b "Deutsch-Iranischer Sozial & Kultur Verein e.V". Retrieved 2013-11-15.
  13. ^ "جمعیة اللسان العربی الدولیة". Archived from the original on 2012-03-09. Retrieved 2013-11-15.
  14. ^[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ "FĀRESĪYĀT – Encyclopaedia Iranica". 1999-12-15. Retrieved 2013-11-15.
  16. ^ "ARMENIA AND IRAN iv. Iranian influences in Armenian Language". Retrieved 2 January 2015.
  18. ^ Doerfer: G. Doerfer, Türkische und mongolische Elemente im Neupersischen. Vols. I-IV. Wiesbaden 1963–1975
  19. ^ John R. Perry, "Persian in the Safavid Period", Pembroke Papers 1996 (4), pp. 269–283.