Persian Language, Not Farsi
January 11, 2003
My name is Fereshteh Davaran (FDavaran@aol.com)
and I am writing my
Ph.D. dissertation in the NES department at U.C. Berkeley and teaching
Persian in Diablo Valley College. I wanted to ask you, as an Iranian
student and on web sites, not to use "Farsi" when you refer
to Persian language in an English text.
Persian is the only language that is currently called by three
different names (Farsi, Tajik and Dari) in English. You don't
see anybody calling German, Almani or Deusche in English. You don't
hear anybody call English, Irish or Australian or for that matter even
Categorizing languages has a scientific method. According to
Linguistics, the Persian language belongs to the Iranian branch of
Indo-Iranian languages. The Iranian branch is composed of many
languages such as Persian, Sughdi, Kurdish, Parthian, etc. The
Persian branch has different dialects such as Tajik, Dari, Farsi,
Isfahani, etc. To call Persian, Farsi is just as bad as calling Persian
Gulf, Arabian Gulf or even the Gulf. In the absence of an interested
government, we Iranians have to defend our heritage more vigorously.
"Persia" is what Greek historians called Parsis at the
time of the Achaemenids, and like all historic proper names its
antiquity is its best defense. Over the centuries "Persian"
was used to
refer to the whole country of Iran and therefore could be used
interchangeably with Iranian. Fars and Farsi is the Arabic form of Parsis
and Persia. Since Arabs did not have p sound, they turned Pars to Fars.
But calling the Persian language by the three names of Farsi, Dari and
Tajik is quite a recent phenomenon. As I said, linguists have agreed
call the language of Darius and Cyrus Old Persian, the language of
Sasanids, Middle Persian and our language "Persian", which
makes it the
grand child of Old Persian and the Child of Middle Persian (Pahlavi).
All three stages of Persian language (old, middle and present) belong
Iranian branch of Indo-Iranian languages. Dari, Tajik, Farsi, Isphahani
and Khurasani are different dialects of the Persian language, unlike
Kurdish and Sughdian which are different languages in the Iranian branch
Indo-Iranian languages. Would it make sense to call Arabic, Iraqi
or Egyptian, although they are three different dialects and have
Would the Arabs allow it? Apart from nationalistic sentiments, it would
be-scientifically-just plain wrong.