Persian (Persian: فارسی Fārsi [fɒːɾˈsiː]) belongs to the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran (locally referred to as Farsi), Afghanistan (officially known as "Dari Persian" since 12 th Century), Tajikistan (officially known as "Tajiki,”), and other countries which historically came under Persian influence. The Persian language is classified as a continuation of Middle Persian, the official religious and literary language of Sassanid Persia, itself a continuation of Old Persian, the language of the Persian Empire in the Achaemenid era. Persian is a pluricentric language and its grammar is similar to that of many contemporary European languages.
There are approximately 110 million Persian speakers worldwide, with the language holding official status in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. For centuries Persian has also been a prestigious cultural language in Central Asia, South Asia, and Western Asia. Persian is used as liturgical language of Islam in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan.
Persian has had a considerable, mainly lexical influence on neighbouring languages, particularly the Turkic languages in Central Asia, Caucasus, and Anatolia, neighbouring Iranian languages, as well as Armenian, and Indo-Aryan languages, especially Urdu. It also exerted some influence on Arabic, particularly Iraqi Arabic, while borrowing much vocabulary from it after the Muslim conquest of Persia.
With a long history of literature in the form of Middle Persian before Islam, Persian was the first language in Muslim civilization to break through Arabic’s monopoly on writing, and the writing of poetry in Persian was established as a court tradition in many eastern courts. Some of the famous works of Persian literature are the Shahnameh of the Ferdowsi, works of Mowlana Balkhi (Rumi), Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, Divan of Hafiz and the poems of Saadi.
There are three modern varieties of standard Persian:
• Western Persian (Persian, Iranian Persian, or Farsi) is spoken in Iran, and by minorities in Iraq and the Persian Gulf states.
• Eastern Persian (Dari Persian, Afghan Persian, or Dari) is spoken in Afghanistan.
• Tajiki (Tajik Persian) is spoken in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. It is written in the Cyrillic script.
All these three varieties are based on classic Persian literature and its literary tradition. There are also several local dialects from Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan which slightly differ from the standard Persian. Hazaragi (in Central Afghanistan and Pakistan), Herati (in Western Afghanistan), Darwazi (in Afghanistan and Tajikistan), Tehrani (in Iran, the basis of standard Iranian Persian) and Dehwari (in Pakistan) are examples of these dialects. Persian-speaking peoples of Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan can understand one another with a relatively high degree of mutual intelligibility give or take minor differences in vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar – much as the same relationship between British and American English.
The Persian or Perso-Arabic alphabet (Persian: الفبای فارسی) is a writing system based on the Arabic script. Originally used exclusively for the Arabic language, the Arabic alphabet was adapted to the Persian language, adding four letters: پ [p], چ [t͡ʃ], ژ [ʒ], and گ [ɡ]. Below are the 32 letters of the modern Persian alphabet. Since the script is cursive, the appearance of a letter changes depending on its position: isolated, beginning (joined on the left), middle (joined on both sides), and end (joined on the right) of a word.
For more information about Dari or Tajik, please look at the separate entries in this directory.