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Persian or Fársi?
by Ali Moslehi Moslehabadi
Comparative Linguist, Ph.D.

Historically, the word "Persian" has been used as a reference to and as an attribute of many things and issues related to Iranians; but of all, two are of greater significance:
1- a nationality or nation with almost 2,700 years of written, documented history (and more than 10,000 years of theoretical/archeological history).
2- a language this nation has been using throughout its history.

It is usual that for most people around the world, Persian is equal to Iranian when referring to specific people living in or originated from a very famous and historical land once called Persia and nowadays Iran. Among this "most" people, many know the Persians link to other Indo-European (Aryan) people living throughout the world, even though still many of the rest, mix up Persians with Arabs; and the latter is not their fault nor ours. Some cultural elements such as famous stories like "A thousand and one nights" [which is miscalled by both Arabs and some of their English-speaking fans as "The Arabian Nights"] have had a great influence on the bafflement. We cannot do anything about it but propagating the real fact and this by itself needs a governmental support which is missing at present. Although it does not mean that we should wait and see what will happen but that we should do what we can, without an administrative support our attempts may not be efficient and that effective as it ought to be. However, what many here are more concerned about is not just the nationality; it is the language of this people.

In a point of view, I am used to seeing the globe as a place consisted of many LINGUAL NATIONS or entities or many "Lingual Worlds", i.e. Persian world, English world, Hispanic (Spanish) world, and so on; but never have divided it into British English world, Mexican Spanish world, Austrian German world, and the like. Why? It is because historical identity is still very invaluable to most people and in most of the strategic plans being made around the world. As examples, that is why a country like Spain spends a fortune to broadcast programmes for Latin [Hispanic] Americans overseas in Spanish language and on many different TV and radio channels; that is why Turkey is doing the same for Middle Asian countries although Middle Asians speak somehow different languages [and she does so just because their languages belong to the same family as Turkish which is called Ural-Altaic]; that's why Arab countries, despite the very different dialects and vocabulary, describe themselves as parts of the Arab world, and their language as merely Arabic.

I just want to draw your attention to an oft-overlooked aspect of the Persian world in which the government still tries to do exactly the opposite! It is broadcasting programmes in many different languages such as Azeri, Arabic, Russian, English, etc. but does not have any special channels for Tajiki Persian-speaking people of Tajikistan nor even for Dari Persian-speaking people of Afghanistan. Why should not there be a channel called IRIB Tajiki, or IRIB Dari? Apart from indifference of the government, it is somehow because still many want to own the Persian language and possess it as an Iranian property so they often forget they should actually take care of the heritage they have left for other former Persian territories which are now independent countries of their own and want to have, and indeed have, their own languages, just as the Canadians, the Americans, the British, the Australians, and even the Indians have their own dialect/accent of English.

Yes, it is true and factual. Afghanis have their own languages which they call Dari and Pashtu, and Tajiks have their own as well and call it "Fărsi i Tăjiki". Yet this does not mean that their languages are not Persian. Even Tajiks assume their language correctly and primarily to be "Fărsi" (Persian) and secondly "Tăjiki". The same is for Dari in academic and even informal texts and speeches; i.e. it is called "Fársi i Dari". So it is more correct to use "Tajiki Persian" and "Dari Persian" and not simply to say "Tajiki" and "Dari" as some individuals try to do; because even Tajiks and Afghans use "Farsi" primarily to refer to their own languages and if the purpose of using the latter alternatives is just to distinguish each individually, again we should say "Iranian Farsi" (IRAN), "Tajiki Farsi" (TAJIKISTAN), and "Dari Farsi" (AFGHANISTAN). It means that still they are "Farsi". You comparatively and scientifically should not abbreviate them to just "Farsi", "Tajiki", and "Dari". The reason is that, for the languages:
- We do not have independent languages like British, Scottish, Canadian, Australian; but we have  British English, Scottish English, and so on.
- We do not say Mexican, American, Argentine, etc.; but we say Mexican Spanish, American Spanish, etc.
- We may not say Omani language, Lebanese language, Saudi language, etc.; and we use Arabic for all. The same is for German, Portuguese, Chinese, ... .
And it is recommended that we take this fact into consideration that the difference between the above-mentioned dialects is sometimes so much that their speakers do not understand or they simply misunderstand the other. BUT again the name used is the original one: English (as it was originated in England), Spanish (originated in Spain), German (in Germany), Portuguese (in Portugal), ... .
Exactly the same is for Persian (originated in/from Persia, and not Fars which has neither been recognized as a country nor a nation/people in English language).

As a conclusion:
1. In naming a language, the country of origin or the nation who historically and originally have/had been speaking that language, gives its name to that language.
2. Languages, especially if historically and geographically widely spoken, differentiate in dialects and accents and are subject to variation. To distinguish between different ones, conventionally appropriate attributes are added to the original names, although the original names are preserved in the new naming system.
3. A language usually has a native name used by its own speakers in that language.

Many other reasons may be added to contribute to such rationalisation; but for now, according to the linguistic, historical, political, and strategic reasons of which some were discussed above:
1. We deal with a language which is and should be called "Persian" in English.
2. Persian has different dialects and accents such as Tajiki Persian, Dari Persian, etc. These should be called as above in English and they should not be made shorter. If some violations are occurred, still the language of Iran is and should be called "Persian"; i.e. in contrast with those irregular names such as "Dari" and "Tajiki", again "Persian" is the name for the language of the Iranian (Persian) people.
3. Persian speakers have their own name for their language ("Fársi") exactly like other similar people have their own as: German (Deutsch), Turkish (Türkçe), French (Française), Arabic (Al'Arabiyah), and so on. But none are used in English.

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Last updated: 14-02-05.