Britannica Concise Encyclopedia

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Persian language

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Iranian language spoken by more than 25 million people in Iran as a first language, and by millions more as a second. Modern Persian is a koine developed from southwestern dialects in the 7th – 9th centuries, after the introduction of Islam brought a massive infusion of loanwords from Arabic. Its standardization and literary cultivation took place in northeastern Persia and Central Asia in the 11th – 12th centuries. Polities outside Persia itself (e.g., Mughal India, Ottoman Turkey) have at times been major literary centres. Its status in those countries led to a very strong Persian influence on Urdu and Ottoman Turkish. Other Turkic and Indo-Aryan languages, Caucasian languages, and Iranian languages have also borrowed heavily from Persian. It is written in a slightly modified form of the Arabic alphabet.

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Persian Language
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Columbia Encyclopedia: Persian language,

member of the Iranian group of the Indo-Iranian subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages (see Indo-Iranian languages). The official language of Iran, it has about 38 million speakers in Iran and another 8 million in Afghanistan. Historically the Persian language falls into three periods: Old, Middle, and Modern. Old Persian is known chiefly from cuneiform inscriptions dating from the time of the Achaemenid kings of ancient Persia (6th–4th cent. B.C.). Old Persian was highly inflected, as was Avestan, which is regarded by some as a form of Old Persian and by others as a separate tongue. Avestan was the language of the sacred texts of Zoroastrianism that are known as the Avesta (probably composed c.7th–5th cent. B.C.). Middle Persian derives directly from Old Persian. Also called Pahlavi, Middle Persian prevailed under the Sassanid, or Sassanian, rulers of Persia (3d–7th cent. A.D.). Grammatically, much simplification of inflection took place in Middle Persian, which was recorded both in an Aramaic alphabet and in a script called Pahlavi. Middle Persian also had a noteworthy literature of Manichaean and Zoroastrian texts. The modern form of Persian evolved directly from Middle Persian and may be said to have begun in the 9th or 10th cent. A.D. It has not changed much since that date. The grammar of Modern Persian is comparatively simple. The inflection of nouns and verbs has been greatly reduced since the ancient stage of the language. A number of Arabic words were added to the vocabulary as the result of the conquest of the Persians by the Muslim Arabs in the 7th cent. A.D. Modern Persian is the medium of an old and great literature and is written in a modification of the Arabic alphabet. Modern Persian is also known as Fārsī.


See R. G. Kent, Old Persian (1950); A. K. S. Lambton, Persian Grammar (1971).

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