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Dari (Eastern Persian)

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Dari (Eastern Persian)

"Dari" redirects here. For other uses, see Dari (disambiguation).
"Dari Persian" redirects here; this article is about the variety of Persian spoken in Afghanistan. For the language group of which it is a part, which has also historically been called "Dari" or "Dari Persian," please see Persian language.
Afghan Persian
Nasta`liq style)
Pronunciation [dæˈɾi]
Native to Afghanistan, Eastern Iran
Native speakers 9.6 million  (2011)
Spoken by more than 25% (lowest estimates) to 50% (highest estimates), and understood by over 90% of Afghanistan's population.[1] Also spoken and understood by around 2.5 million people in Pakistan and Iran with communities who speak Dari as their primary language, but understood by every Iranian.[2]
Language family
Dialects Kaboli, Mazari, Herati, Badakhshi, Panjshiri, Laghmani, Sistani, Aimaqi, Hazaragi[3]
Writing system Persian alphabet
Official status
Official language in  Afghanistan
Regulated by Academy of Sciences of Afghanistan
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Variously:
haz – Hazaragi
Linguist List
Linguasphere 58-AAC-ce (Dari) + 58-AAC-cdo & cdp (Hazaragi) + 58-AAC-ck (Aimaq)
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Dari (Persian: دری[dæˈɾiː]) or Dari Persian (Persian: فارسی دری[fɒːɾsije dæˈɾiː]) is a name given to the New Persian language at a very early date and widely attested in Arabic and Persian texts since the 10th century.[4] Farsi-Dari, can be classified linguistically as a continuation of Middle Persian, the official religious and literary language of Sassanian Iran, itself a continuation of Old Persian, the language of the Achaemenids.[5][6] In Afghanistan, Dari refers to a modern dialect form of Persian that is the standard language used in administration, government, radio, television, and print media in Afghanistan, as well as in parts of Iran and Tajikistan (where the Cyrillic script is used in place of Perso-Arabic). Because of preponderance of Dari native speakers, who normally refer to the language as Farsi, it is also known as Afghan Persian in some Western sources.[7][8] Dari is the term officially recognized and promoted in 1964 by the Afghan government for the Persian language.[9] As defined in the Constitution of Afghanistan, it is one of the two official languages of Afghanistan; the other is Pashto.[10] Dari is the most widely spoken language in Afghanistan and the native language of approximately 50%[7][11][12][13] of the population, serving as the country's lingua franca.[14] The Iranian and Afghan types of Persian are highly mutually intelligible, with differences found primarily in the vocabulary and phonology. In historical usage, Dari refers to the Middle Persian court language of the Sassanids.[15]

Dari, spoken in Afghanistan, should not be confused with Dari or Gabri of Iran, a language of the Central Iranian sub-group, spoken in some Zoroastrian communities.[16][17]


Dari is the name given to the New Persian literary language at a very early age and was widely used in Arabic (cf. Al-Estakhri, Al-Muqaddasi, and Ibn Hawqal) and Persian texts.[9]

There are different opinions about the origin of the word Dari. The majority of scholars believes that Dari refers to the Persian word dar or darbār (دربار), meaning "Court", as it was the formal language of the Sassanids.[9] The original meaning of the word dari is given in a notice attributed to Ibn al-Muqaffaʿ (cited by Ibn al-Nadim in Al-Fehrest).[18] According to him, "Pārsī was the language spoken by priests, scholars, and the like; it is the language of Fars." It is obvious that this language refers to the Middle Persian.[9] As for Dari, he says, "it is the language of the cities of Madā'en; it is spoken by those who are at the king’s court. [Its name] is connected with presence at court. Among the languages of the people of Khorasan and the east, the language of the people of Balkh is predominant.”[9]

The origin of Dari comes from the middle Persian which was spoken during the rule of the Sassanid dynasty. In general, Iranian languages are known from three periods, usually referred to as Old, Middle, and New (Modern) periods. These correspond to three eras in Iranian history, the Old era being the period from sometime before, during and sometime after the Achaemenid period (that is, to 300 BC), the Middle Era being the next period, namely, the Sassanid period and part of the post-Sassanid period, and the New era being the period afterwards down to the present day.[19][20][21]

Research Sir John Malcolm did 200 years ago is based on a work from Italy in 1650 Lingua Corteggiana when he wrote (Dari was written in Europe Deri):

The name Deri is derived from Der, a word which runs through so many languages, and is to be traced in the Greek Θύρα, the German Thur, and our door. For it was [...] the usage of the Persians, as it is of the Ottoman Porte, to name what approaches royalty from the gate, while we name it from the court within the gate: so that the Deri language may be rendered precisely by the lingua corteggiana of the Italians. In earlier times, after the dialect of Bactria had been established at court by Baharam, this received the honour of being called the Deri. Subsequently, under the early Sassanidae, the title might have been given with propriety to the Pehlevee; since the medals and inscriptions seem to prove, that the Pehlevee was then the favorite of royalty: the name of Deri, however, does not appear ever to have been assigned to it. And perhaps the superior melody of the Farsee had obtained for it the preference as the language of conversation, even before Baharam Ghoor enacted that it should be adopted in all public documents. For such was the sweetness and elegance of the Deri, that there is a tradition of Mahomet having declared, that "if God says any thing kind or gentle to the angels around him, he speaks in Deri; if anything harsh or hard, in Arabic." "For (says Ibn Fakereddin) the language of the inhabitants of Paradise will be either the Arabic or the Persian Deri.[22]

But it is thought that the first person in Europe to use the term Deri for Dari was Thomas Hyde, at Oxford, in his chief work, Historia religionis veterum Persarum (1700).[23]

Dari has two meanings:

  • language of the court
  • Dari, sometimes Araki-Methods (Iraqi), is a kind of poetry form since Rudaki to Jami. In 1500 AD appeared in Herat in Persian speaking Timurid and by speaking in Farsi Indian poet in Mughal Empire and the Indian verse methods or rhyme methods like Bedil and Muhammad Iqbal. Iqbal loved both Metods of literature and poetry, when he wrote:
گرچہ هندی در عذوبت شکر است 1[24]

garche Hindi dar uzūbat2 shekkar ast

طرز گفتار دري شيرين تر است

tarz-e goftar-e Dari shirin tar ast

Translation according to literature and poetry: Even though in euphonious Hindi* is sugar – (but) Rhyme method in Dari (Persian) is sweeter *

Qandi Parsi or [Ghand e Parsi] (Rock candy of Parsi) is an allegory for the Persian language and poetry

This poem as a poetic statement of the poet Iqbal respect to the poem of Hafez 600 years ago, when Hafiz wrote:

شکرشکن شوند همه طوطیان هند

Shekker shekan shavand hameh totiyān-e Hend

زین قند پارسی که به بنگاله می‌رود

ze en qand-e Pārsi ke ba Bengāle meravad

Translation according to literature and poetry:

All the parrots of India will crack sugar

Through this Persian Candy which is going to Bengal[25][26]

Geographical distribution

Dari, which is sometimes called Farsi (Persian), is one of the two official languages of Afghanistan (the other being Pashto). In practice though, it serves as the de facto lingua franca among the various ethno-linguistic groups.

Dari is spoken by about half of the population of Afghanistan as a first language.[7][11][14][12][13] Tajiks who comprise approximately 27% of the population are the primary speakers, followed by Hazaras (9%) and Aymāqs (4%). Moreover, many Pashtuns living in Tajik and Hazara concentrated areas also use Dari as a first language. About 2.5 million people in Iran and Pakistan also speak Dari as one of their primary languages.[2]

Dari dominates the northern, western and central areas of Afghanistan, and is the common language spoken in cities such as Mazar-i-Sharif, Herat, Fayzabad, Panjshir, Bamiyan, and the Afghan capital of Kabul where all ethnic groups are settled. Dari-speaking communities also exist in southwestern and eastern Pashtun-dominated areas such as in the cities of Ghazni, Farah, Zaranj, Lashkar Gah, Kandahar, and Gardez.

Cultural influence

Dari has contributed to the majority of Persian borrowings in other Asian languages, such as Urdu, Punjabi, Gujarati, etc., as it was the administrative, official, cultural language of the Persocentric Mughal Empire and served as the lingua franca throughout the South Asian subcontinent for centuries. The sizable Persian component of the Anglo-Indian loan words in English and in Urdu therefore reflects the Dari pronunciation. For instance, dopiaza or pyjama come from the Dari pronunciation, while in the Iranian Persian they're pronounced do-piyāzeh and pey-jāmeh. Persian lexemes and certain morphological elements (e.g., the ezāfe) have often been employed to coin political and cultural concepts, items, or ideas that were historically unknown outside the South Asian region, as it is the case with the aforementioned "borrowings". The Dari language has a rich and colorful tradition of proverbs that deeply reflect Afghan culture and relationships, as demonstrated by U.S. Navy Captain Edward Zellem in his bilingual books on Afghan Dari proverbs collected in Afghanistan.[27][28]

Differences between Iranian and Afghan Persian

There are phonological, lexical,[29] and morphological[21] differences between Dari and western Persian. There are no significant differences in the written forms, other than regional idiomatic phrases.


Phonetically, Dari generally resembles a more archaic and classical form of Persian (Farsi). The differences in pronunciation of Iranian and Afghan Persian can be considerable, on par with Scottish and Cockney English, although educated speakers generally have no difficulty understanding each other (except in the use of certain lexical items or idiomatic expressions). The principal differences between standard Iranian Persian, based on the dialect of the capital Tehran, and Afghan Dari, as based on the Kabul dialect, are:

  1. The merging of majhul vowels "ē" / "ī" and "ō" / "ū" into "ī" and "ū" respectively in Iranian Persian, whereas in Afghan Persian, they are still kept separate. For instance, the identically written words شیر 'lion' and 'milk' are pronounced the same in Iranian Persian as /šīr/, but /šēr/ for 'lion' and /šīr/ for 'milk' in Afghan Persian. The long vowel in زود "quick" and زور "strong" is realized as /ū/ in Iranian Persian, in contrast, these words are pronounced /zūd/ and /zōr/ respectively by Persian speakers in Afghanistan.
  2. The treatment of the diphthongs of early Classical Persian "aw" (as "ow" in Engl. "cow") and "ay" (as "i" in English "ice"), which are pronounced [ow] (as in Engl. "low") and [ej] (as in English "day") in Iranian Persian. Dari, on the other hand, is more archaic, e.g. نوروز 'Persian New Year' is realized as /nowrūz/ in Iranian, and /nawrōz/ in Afghan Persian, and نخیر 'no' is /naχejr/ in Iranian and /naχajr/ in Afghan Persian.
  3. The high short vowels /i/ and /u/ tend to be lowered in Iranian Persian to [e] and [o].
  4. The pronunciation of the labial consonant و, which is realized as a voiced labiodental fricative [v], but Afghan Persian still retains the (classical) bilabial pronunciation [w]; [v] is found in Afghan Persian as an allophone of [f] before voiced consonants.
  5. The convergence of voiced uvular stop [ɢ] (ق) and voiced velar fricative [ɣ] (غ) in Iranian Persian (presumably under the influence of Turkic languages like Azeri and Turkmen),[30] is still kept separate in Dari.
  6. The realization of short final "a" (-ه) as [e] in Iranian Persian.
  7. The realization of short non-final "a" as [æ] in Iranian Persian.
  8. [æ] and [e] in word-final positions are separate in Dari, [e] is a word-final allophone of [æ] in Iranian Persian.


There are some words that differ in Persian-Dari as to Persian-Farsi. Some examples are listed below.

English Persian-Farsi Persian-Dari
to try سعی کردن سعی کردن/کوشش کردن
to speak حرف زدن حرف زدن/گپ زدن
to see دیدن سیل کردن/دیدن
to understand فهمیدن فامیدی/فهمیدن

All the above words in the Persian language. Gap zadan (گپ زدن) is an old Persian word. Harf zadan (حرف زدن) is from Arabic word Harf and auxiliary zadan. Gapidan (گپيدن), "to speak", was correct, but is now considered outdated. Dari retains the use of Gap zadan (گپ زدن) for conversations whereas Harf zadan (حرف زدن) is almost always used in Iran. Iranians seldom use gap zadan (گپ زدن) in informal conversations.

Dialect continuum

The dialects of Dari spoken in Northern, Central and Eastern Afghanistan, for example in Kabul, Mazar, and Badakhshan, have distinct features compared to Iranian Persian. However, the dialect of Dari spoken in Western Afghanistan stands in between the Afghan and Iranian Persian. For instance, the Herati dialect shares vocabulary and phonology with both Dari and Iranian Persian. Likewise, the dialect of Persian in Eastern Iran, for instance in Mashhad, is quite similar to the Herati dialect of Afghanistan.

The Kabuli dialect has become the standard model of Dari in Afghanistan, as has the Tehrani dialect in relation to the Persian in Iran. Since the 1940s, Radio Afghanistan has been broadcasting its Dari programs in Kabuli Dari, which ensured the homogenization between the Kabuli version of the language and other dialects of Dari spoken throughout Afghanistan. Since 2003, the media, especially the private radio and television broadcasters, have carried out their Dari programs using the Kabuli variety.

Political views on the language

The native-speakers of Dari usually call their language Farsi. However, the term Dari has been officially promoted by the government of Afghanistan for political reasons, and enjoys equal official status alongside Pashto in Afghanistan. The local name for Persian language was officially changed from Farsi to Dari in 1964.[31][32] Within their respective linguistic boundaries, Dari and Pashto are the medium of education.

See also


Further reading

  • Lazard, G. "Encyclopædia Iranica Online Edition.
  • Sakaria, S. (1967) Concise English – Afghan Dari Dictionary, Ferozsons, Kabul, OCLC 600815
  • Farhadi, Rawan A. G. (1975) The Spoken Dari of Afghanistan: A Grammar of Kaboli Dari (Persian) Compared to the Literary Language, Peace Corps, Kabul, OCLC 24699677
  • Zellem, Edward. 2012.
  • Zellem, Edward. 2012.

External links

  • Encyclopædia Britannica
  • Encyclopædia Iranica
  • Dari language, alphabet and pronunciation
  • Dari language resources
  • Dari alphabet
  • Learn Dari
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