Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Dari is the first language of an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 persons living in and around the cities of Yazd and Kerman in central Iran. While Dari is spoken in a geographical area that is predominately Muslim, it is the proprietary language of the area’s Zoroastrians, followers of the world’s first monotheistic religion. Genetically, Dari is a member of the Northwestern Iranian language subfamily, which includes several other closely related languages, e.g. Kurdish, Gilaki, Balochi. The Northwestern Iranian languages themselves comprise a branch of the larger Iranian language family, which embraces in its Southwestern subgrouping the family’s best-known language, Persian. More distantly, Dari is related to European languages like English, French, and German, since the Iranian language group is itself a branch of the Indo-European language family.
Dari is also commonly known by the appellation Gabri, but this name might be taken by some Zoroastrians as highly offensive, as it literally means 'language of the infidels'. Gabri was the name bestowed by Iran’s Muslim conquerors upon those few members of Iran’s historically Zoroastrian majority who neither fled nor converted following the Muslim invasion of Iran in the seventh century. The speakers of this language, who obviously do not consider themselves infidels, resent the use of Gabri to refer to their language and prefer Dari instead. It must be noted that the Afghani dialect of Persian is also called Dari by its speakers, though the Dari of the Zoroastrians and the Afghani Dari are completely distinct, and only distantly related languages. But they bear the same name for much the same reasons. The language that originally bore the name Dari was the official spoken language of the Sasanian court and bureaucracy, a language that approximated the official written language, Pahlavi (Middle Persian). The Arab invasion of Persia in the seventh century resulted in the extension of Dari’s usage east into Bactria (ancient northern Afghanistan). At about this same time, Dari, which had previously been an exclusively spoken language, was committed to paper in the Arabic script. The prestige of the Arabic language, which at the time was the language of the Arab ruling class, encouraged borrowing from Arabic at a rapid pace and soon the unaltered Dari gave way to the Arabicized form of the language that we know today as Farsi. In a sense, one could consider Dari and Farsi (New Persian) merely different styles of the same language, the former simple and unadorned and the latter heavily influenced by Arabic borrowings. Both Zoroastrians and speakers of Afghani Persian chose, for their respective languages, a common name that venerates the cultural richness of their pre-Islamic past.
The Dari language has traditionally been divided into two main dialects: the variety spoken in Yazd and the one spoken in Kerman. This division of the language, based on the division of its speakers into their two main cities of residence, conceals the complexity of the actual dialectical situation. The Yazd dialect is itself comprised of some thirty varieties, each distinct and unique to one of the Zoroastrian neighborhoods in and around Yazd. The variation amongst the Yazd dialects is so great that, were they not for their geographic proximity, they would no doubt be classified as distinct dialects. The Kerman dialect may also contain (or may have contained at one time) a comparable level of dialectical complexity.
Other varieties of Dari may also exist, in particular, varieties spoken in non-Zoroastrian communities. The local speech of the nearby city of Nain and its surrounding towns, including Tudeshk and Abiyaneh , has been attested to bear striking resemblances to the language of the Zoroastrians of Yazd and Kerman. Whether this speech is a distinct language or simply another dialect of Dari has not yet been determined, though cursory surveys have indicated a high level of mutual intelligibility between speakers from these areas and speakers of Zoroastrian Dari. Were further study to confirm this result, the local speech of the Nain area could then be considered a dialect of Dari. In such an event the exclusively Zoroastrian nature of the Dari language would have to be reconsidered, since Nain and the surrounding areas are largely Muslim in religious character.
Dari's endangered status
The vitality of the Dari langauge is being affected, or has been affected in the past, by two main types of pressure: economic and political.
The pressures affecting the vitality of Dari today are largely economic. In order to obtain an economic advantage, speakers are giving up their traditional language for the dominant language of Iran, Farsi. Parents intentionally do not transmit Dari to their children in order that they may have what is felt to be an advantage in school and in life. The language loss can also occur more indirectly and less visibly when people move to larger urban centers or abroad in pursuit of better economic opportunities; the lack of a complete language environment in which to immerse a child decreases or completely inhibits the transmission of the language to new generations.
In past times, Dari speakers have experienced political pressures to yield up their language as well. The period since the seventh-century Muslim conquest of Persia has been a time of great persecution for the Zoroastrians of Iran. Political pressures have directly resulted in language loss when Zoroastrians have deliberately abandoned their language as a means of hiding their identity so as to escape persecution. Political pressures have also led to language loss indirectly; the oppression the Zoroastrians have been experienced under Iran’s various rulers over the past thousand or so years has driven a steady stream of Zoroastrians to more tolerant areas, mostly the capital, Tehran, or abroad. Again, a complete language environment does not exist in these places, inhibiting the transmission of Dari to new generations.
Linguists currently consider Dari to be in a state of language shift. Many of the language’s speakers have assimilated to the dominant culture of the society they live in and have given up—intentionally or unintentionally—their traditional language. Languages like Dari are transitioning from a state of language maintenance, in which a language is being sustained in the face of pressure from a dominant culture, to language death, a state in which the language is no longer spoken.
Many of Dari’s dialects are facing extinction at an even more rapid pace than the language as a whole. Since each of Dari’s many dialects has a smaller community of speakers, they are more susceptible to the forces driving the language towards extinction. Some dialects have already effectively reached extinction, for example, the Mohammadabad dialect, which, it is reported, possesses only a few speakers living in Tehran. The Kerman dialect, always susceptible because of the smaller size of its Zoroastrian population, also seems to be largely lost.
- Bailey, H. W. (1936) Yazdi. Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies 8(2/3): 335-361.
- Berésine, E. (1853) Recherches sur les dialectes persans. Casan, vol. 1 100-118 (grammar), vol. 2 19-25 (dialogues), vol. 3 2-147 (vocabulary).
- Browne, E. G. (1897) A Specimen of the Gabri Dialect of Persia. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 103-110.
- Farudi, A. and M. D. Toosarvandani. (2005) The Loss of Ergativity in Dari Modal Verbs. Oxford Working Papers in Linguistics.
- Firuzbaxsh, Farānak. (1997 ) An Examination of the Grammatical Construction of the Behdinān Dialect of the City of Yazd. [Baresi-ye sāxtiman-e dasturi-ye guyesh-e behdinān-e shahr-e yazd.] Tehran: Sāzman-e Inteshārāt-e Faravahr.
- Houtum-Schindler, A. (1882) Die Parsen in Persien, ihre Sprache und einige ihrer Gebräuche. Zeitschrift der deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 36: 54-88.
- Huart, M. Clément. (1888) Le prétendu dérî des Parsis de Yezd. Journal Asiatique 8 ser. 11(2): 298-302.
- Ivanow, W. (1934, 1938, 1939) The Gabri Dialect Spoken by the Zoroastrians of Persia. Rivista degli studi orientalni 16: 31-97 (introduction, grammar), 17: 1-39 (texts), 18: 1-59 (vocabulary).
- Justi, Ferdinand. (1881) Über die Mundart von Jezd. Zeitschrift der deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 35: 327-414.
- Lorimer, D. L. R. (1916) Notes on the Gabri Dialect of Modern Persia. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 423-489.
- Lorimer, D. L. R. (1928) Is there a Gabri Dialect of Modern Persia? Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 287-319.
- Mazdāpūr, Katāyun. (1995) A Dictionary of Zoroastrian Dialect in the City of Yazd. Tehran: Institute for Humanities and Cultural Studies.
- Puladi-Darvish, Mitra. (2000) The Description of Verb Construction in Zoroastrian Dialect of the Center of Yazd. M.A. Thesis, Islamic Azad University, Tehran.
- Rehatsek, E. (1873) Deri Phrases and Dialogues. Indian Antiquary 2: 331-335.
- Surush Surushiān, J. (1978) Dictionary of the Zoroastrian language [Farhang-e Behdinān]. Tehran: Enteshārāt-e Dānishgāh-e Tehrān.
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details