Tajik language

Tajik language

Infobox Language
nativename=Unicode|тоҷикӣ, rtl- _tg. تاجیکی, _tg. "tojikī"
states=Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Russia
speakers=approximately 4,380,000 (1991)
fam4=Western Iranian
fam5=Southwestern Iranian
script=Cyrillic, Latin, Perso-Arabic
The Tajik language, or Tajik Persian [Perry, J. R. 2005] , or Tajiki [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=tgk] , (sometimes written "Tadjik" or "Tadzhik"; Unicode|тоҷикӣ, rtl- _tg. تاجیکی, _tg. "tojikí" IPA| [tɔːdʒɪˈkiː] ) is a modern variety of Persian language [Lazard, G. 1989] spoken in Central Asia. An Indo-European language of the Iranian language group, most speakers of Tajik live in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Tajik is the official language of Tajikistan.

The language has diverged from Persian as spoken in Afghanistan and Iran, as a result of political borders, the standardisation process, and the influence of Russian and neighbouring Turkic languages. The standard language is based on the north-western dialects of Tajik (region of old major city of Samarkand), which have been somewhat influenced by the neighbouring Uzbek language as a result of geographical proximity. Tajiki also retains numerous archaic elements in its vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar that have been lost elsewhere in the Persophone world, in part due to its relative isolation in the mountains of Central Asia. However, it should not be viewed as a different language from Persian spoken in Iran and Afghanistan, and other places. There is no record of the people referring to their language as "Tajik" or "Tajiki" until 1928, when the first Russian and Soviet documents have referred to the Persian language in Central Asia as the "Tajik" language, as part of the policy to distance the Iranians of Central Asia from those across the political borders.

Geographical distribution

The most important historically Tajik/Persian-speaking cities of Central Asia, Samarqand and Bukhara, are in present-day Uzbekistan. In Uzbekistan the Tajik are the largest part of the population of the ancient cities of Bukhara and Samarqand, and are found in large numbers in the Surxondaryo Province in the south and along Uzbekistan's eastern border with Tajikistan. Official statistics in Uzbekistan state that the Tajik community comprises 5% of the nation's total population [Uzbekistan. The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency (December 13, 2007). Retrieved on 2007-12-26.] . However, these numbers do not include ethnic Tajiks, who for a variety of reasons, declare themselves to be (ethnic) "Uzbeks" [See for example the Country report on Uzbekistan, released by the United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor [http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/1999/369.htm here] ] [ [http://tajikam.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2786 Uzbekistan: Human Rights Practices - Tajiks Worldwide Community ] ] . During the Soviet 'Uzbekization' supervised by Sharof Rashidov, the head of the Uzbek Communist Party, Tajiks had to choose either stay in Uzbekistan and get registered as Uzbek in their passports or leave the republic for a less developed agricultural mountainous Tajikistan. Tajiks may make up closer to 45 percent of Uzbekistan's population. [http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/1999/369.htm Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (February 23, 2000). Uzbekistan. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - 1999. U.S. Department of State. Retrieved on 2007-12-19.] [D. Carlson, "Uzbekistan: Ethnic Composition and Discriminations", Harvard University, August 2003] [ [http://tajikam.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2786y Uzbekistan: Human Rights Practices - Tajiks Worldwide Community ] ]

Tajiks constitute roughly more than 80% of Tajikistan's population, and Persian language dominates in most parts of the country. Some Tajiks who are original East-Iranians in Badakhshan in the southeast, where the Pamiri languages are the native languages of most residents, are bilingual-speaker. Tajiks are the dominant ethnic group in Northern Afghanistan as well, and are also the majority group in scattered pockets elsewhere in the country, particularly urban areas such as Kabul, Mazar, Kunduz, Ghazni and Herat. Tajiks constitute between 25% and 30% of the total population of the country. In Afghanistan, the dialects spoken by ethnic Tajiks are written using the Perso-Arabic script and referred to as Dari, along with the Persian dialects of other groups in Afghanistan such as the Hazara and Aimaq. 50% of the Afghan citizens are native speakers of Dari. A large Tajik-speaking diaspora exists due to the instability that has plagued Central Asia in recent years, with significant numbers of Tajiks found in Russia, Kazakhstan, and beyond.


Tajik dialects can be approximately split into the following groups:

# Northern dialects (Northern Tajikistan, southern parts of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan).
# Central dialects (dialects of Mastjoh, Aini, Hissor and, parts of Varzob).
# Southern dialects (dialects of Qarotegin, Kulob, dialects of Badakhshan, etc.)
# Southeastern dialects (dialects of Panj and Darvoz).

The dialects used among the native Bukharian Jews of Central Asia are known as Bukhori, and belong to the northern dialect grouping. They are chiefly distinguished by the inclusion of Hebrew terms, principally religious vocabulary, and a historical use of the Hebrew alphabet. Despite these differences, Bukhori is readily intelligible to other Tajik-speakers, particularly speakers of northern dialects.



The table below illustrates the vowels in standard, literary Tajik. Local dialects frequently have more than the six seen below.


Tajiki is conservative in its vocabulary, retaining numerous terms that have long since fallen into disuse in Iran and Afghanistan, such as арзиз (arziz), meaning 'tin,' and фарбеҳ (farbeh), meaning 'fat.' Most modern loan words in Tajik come from Russian as a result of the position of Tajikistan within the Soviet Union. Vocabulary also comes from the geographically close Uzbek language and, as is usual in Islamic countries, from Arabic. Since the late 1980s, an effort has been made to replace loanwords with native equivalents, using either old terms that had fallen out of use, or coined terminology. Many of the coined terms for modern items such as гармкунак (garmkunak), meaning 'heater' and чангкашак (changkashak), meaning 'vacuum cleaner' differ from their Afghan and Iranian equivalents, adding to the difficulty in intelligibility between Tajiki and other forms of Persian.

In the table below, Persian refers to the standard language of Iran, which differs somewhat from the Dari Persian of Afghanistan. Another Iranian language, Pashto, has also been included for comparative purposes.

Writing system

Tajiki is currently written in the Cyrillic alphabet in the former Soviet Union, although it has been written in both the Latin alphabet and the Persian alphabet in certain parts of its history. In the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic, the use of the Latin script began in 1928, and was later replaced in the 1930s by the Cyrillic script. In Afghanistan, Tajiks continued to use the Persian script, which remains in use among Afghan Tajiks today. In more recent developments, Tajikistan has announced that once certain conditions are met, it will switch its alphabet from Soviet influenced Cyrillic script to Persian script [ [http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=53991&sectionid=351020406 Tajikistan to use Persian script] ] thereby forging closer cultural ties with the Persian speaking nations of Iran and Afghanistan.


According to many scholars, the New Persian language (which subsequently evolved into the Persian forms spoken in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan) developed in Transoxiana and Khorasan, in what are today parts of Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. While the New Persian language was descended primarily from Middle Persian, it also incorporated substantial elements of other Iranian languages of ancient Central Asia, such as Sogdian.

Following the Arab conquest of Iran and most of Central Asia in the 8th century AD, Arabic for a time became the court language, and Persian and other Iranian languages were relegated to the private sphere. In the 9th century AD, following the rise of the Samanids, whose state covered much of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and northeastern Iran and was centered around the cities of Bukhoro (Bukhara), Samarqand and Herat, New Persian emerged as the court language and swiftly displaced Arabic. Arabic influence continued to show itself in the form of the Perso-Arabic script used to write the language (replaced in Tajik by Latin and then Cyrillic in the 20th century) and a large number of Arabic loanwords.

New Persian became the lingua franca of Central Asia for centuries, although it eventually lost ground to the Chaghatai language in much of its former domains as a growing number of Turkic tribes moved into the region from the east. Since the 16th century AD, Tajiki has come under increasing pressure from neighboring Turkic languages, particularly Uzbek, which has largely replaced it in most areas of what is now Uzbekistan. Once spoken in areas of Turkmenistan, such as Merv, Tajik is today virtually non-existent in that country. Nevertheless, Tajik persisted in pockets of what is now Uzbekistan, notably in Samarqand, Bukhoro and Surxondaryo Province, as well as in much of what is today Tajikistan.

The creation of the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic within the Soviet Union in 1929 helped to safeguard the future of Tajik, as it became an official language of the republic alongside Russian. Still, substantial numbers of Tajik-speakers remained outside the borders of the republic, mostly in the neighboring Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic, which created a source of tension between Tajiks and Uzbeks. Neither Samarqand nor Bukhoro was included in the nascent Tajik S.S.R., despite their immense historical importance in Tajik history. After the creation of the Tajik S.S.R., a large number of ethnic Tajiks from the Uzbek S.S.R. migrated there, particularly to the region of the capital, Dushanbe, exercising a substantial influence in the republic's political, cultural and economic life. The influence of this influx of ethnic Tajik immigrants from the Uzbek S.S.R. is most prominently manifested in the fact that literary Tajik is based on their northwestern dialects of the language, rather than the central dialects that are spoken by the natives in the Dushanbe region and adjacent areas.

After the fall of the Soviet Union and Tajikistan's independence in 1991, the government of Tajikistan has made substantial efforts to promote the use of Tajik in all spheres of public and private life. Tajik is gaining ground among the once-Russified upper classes, and continues its role as the vernacular of the majority of the country's population. There has been a rise in the number of Tajik publications. Increasing contact with media from Iran and Afghanistan, after decades of isolation under the Soviets, is also having an effect on the development of the language.

As a main program, Iranian scholar, Hamid Hassani, is supposed to prepare a "Tajik Language Corpus", consisting of one-million words.

ee also

*Tajik alphabet
*Academy of Persian Language and Literature
*Persian language
*Dari (Afghanistan)
*Iranian people
*Tajik singers



*Korotow, M. (2004) "Tadschikisch Wort für Wort. Kauderwelsch" ISBN 389416347X
* Lazard, G. (1956) "Caractères distinctifs de la langue tadjik". "Bulletin de la Société Linguistique de Paris". 52. pp. 117--186
* Lazard, G. "Le Persan". "Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum". Wiesbaden. 1989.
* Windfuhr, G. (1987) in Comrie, B. (ed.) "Persian". "The World's Major Languages". pp. 523--546
* Perry, J. R. (2005) A Tajik Persian Reference Grammar (Boston : Brill) ISBN 90-04-14323-8
* Rastorgueva, V. (1963) A Short Sketch of Tajik Grammar (Netherlands : Mouton) ISBN 0-933070-28-4

External links

* [http://tajikam.com/forum A Worldwide Community for Tajiks]
* [http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=tgk Ethnologue report for Tajik]
* [http://www.bbc.co.uk/persian/tajikistan/ BBC news in Tajik]

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