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
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, The Persian language is also claimed to be and demonstrated 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.
An example set of words derived from a present stem combined with some of available affixes:
|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:
|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|
Persian has likewise influenced the vocabularies of other languages, especially Arabic, Armenian, Georgian, Indo-Iranian languages and Turkic languages. Many Persian words have also found their way into the English language.
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 hā: ketāb+hā → ketābhā (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.
Less noticeable, but also considerable are the Turkic forms (including Mongolian borrowings) that have entered the Persian language. 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, 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
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.
|مانتو mānto||manteau||women's coat|
|Look up Indo-Iranian Swadesh lists in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
- List of French loanwords in Persian
- Academy of Persian Language and Literature
- List of English words of Persian origin
- Such as سگ (dog) in سگمست (stoned, drunk) as well as خر (donkey) in خرمست and سیاه (black) in سیاهمست with the same meaning.
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