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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
- 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
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
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
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
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
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