Web sparks revolution in Persian

May 6, 2004
Originally at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/3686267.stm

Persian speakers across the world are increasingly turning to the internet as an outlet of expression. New websites, discussion groups and online diaries – are sprouting up all over the web.
However, with millions of Persian speakers living outside Iran, language has become something of a barrier. Often they are choosing to communicate in English or a mix of Persian and English – known as “Pinglish” – which has angered some traditional Persian speakers.

BBCPersian.com spoke to Darius Ashuri, a Persian language expert who is himself a blogger, about the impact of the internet on the Persian language.

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One of our users has said that the Persian language does not have a solid structure and that is why it is difficult to use it on the internet, what do you think?

The Persian language is not unstructured; however the way we use it is not structured.

Since Persian language has a simple grammar and does not have many complexities. It is very clear, provided that we learn how to use it.

The Persian language has experienced a decline for several centuries, but in the past few decades it has witnessed a revival.

Today, in comparison with other languages such as English, French and German, we are not using Persian language in a structured way.

Will there be a day when the Persian language is eclipsed by English on the internet?

I don’t think so. Persian, as a local language, continues to live on the internet. As we see today, there are a large number of weblogs [online diaries] and websites in Persian.

I heard that, in terms of the number of weblogs, Persian is the third most used language.

But, if it is used carelessly as it is now, it would become a language which is only good for leisure time, not for serious matters.

How have internet communications such as online chats and weblogs affected the Persian language?

Chat and weblogs are encouraging the colloquial way of using the language which semantically is not accurate.

In terms of writing, because of the speed at which it is done, it is not re-checked and corrected by the writer.

Some people say that if the Persian alphabet is swapped for a Latin alphabet, the problem of using it on the internet would be solved, what do you think?

It is not just a matter of the writing system, Persian history and culture is important and our alphabet is combined with our language. It is not that easy to replace one alphabet with another.

However, we can suggest a new alphabet for the Persian language and we can write in two systems.

The important point is that this new system should be standardised for use on the internet.

Writing Persian in the Latin alphabet makes the using of foreign words easier.

Actually, we should not be frightened of borrowing foreign words in Persian and this is a way to develop a language.

What is the role of those professionals who use Persian on the internet regularly, including the producers of the software which is used for writing in Persian on the internet? Has there been any action by official organisations to solve this problem?

There has been no organised and calculated plan in this field.

Software producers have not been highly professional, although the Persian fonts that have been created have been very good.

And neither the Persian Language and Literature Academy nor the universities have done anything.

They have published style books based on the current usage of Persian language but they cannot imagine that we can write Persian in other ways.

They believe any change in the writing system would have negative cultural impact.