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Indo-Iranian language

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Title: Indo-Iranian language  
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Subject: Sanskrit, Darius I, Nuristani languages, Badeshi language, Montra
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Indo-Iranian language

Eastern Europe, Southwest Asia, Central Asia, South Asia
Linguistic classification: Indo-European
  • Indo-Iranian
Proto-language: Proto-Indo-Iranian
Ethnologue code: ISO 639-5: iir

The approximate present-day distribution of the Indo-European branches of Eurasia:

The Indo-Iranian languages, also known as the Aryan languages,[1] constitute the easternmost extant branch of the Indo-European language family. It is also the largest branch, with more than 1 billion speakers stretching from Europe (Romani) and the Caucasus (Ossetian) eastward to Xinjiang (Sarikoli) and Assam (Assamese) and south to Sri Lanka (Sinhalese).


Indo-Iranian consists of three groups:

The largest in terms of native speakers are Hindustani (Hindi–Urdu, ca. 240 million), Bengali (205 million), Punjabi (100 million), Marathi (75 million), Persian (60 million), Pashto (ca. 50 million), Gujarati (50 million), Kurdish (20 million), Bhojpuri (40 million), Awadhi (40 million), Maithili (35 million), Oriya (35 million), Marwari (30 million), Sindhi (25 million), Rajasthani (20 million), Chhattisgarhi (18 million), Assamese (15 million), Sinhalese (16 million), and Rangpuri (15 million).

There is also a supposed Badeshi language, which has not been confirmed to be a distinct language.


Indo-Iranian languages were once spoken across a still wider area. The Scythians were described by Roman writer Strabo as inhabiting the lands to the north of the Black Sea in present-day Ukraine, Moldova and Romania. The river-names Don, Dnieper, Danube etc. are possibly of Indo-Iranian origin. The so-called Migration Period saw Indo-Iranian languages disappear from Eastern Europe, apart from the ancestors of Ossetian in the Caucasus, with the arrival of the Turkic-speaking Pechenegs and others by the 8th century AD.

Sanskrit was widely spoken throughout Southeast Asia from 7th century onwards due to Indian trade and colonization.

The oldest attested Indo-Iranian languages are Vedic Sanskrit (ancient Indo-Aryan), Older and Younger Avestan and Old Persian (ancient Iranian languages). A few words from a fourth language (very closely related to Indo-Aryan; see Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni) are attested in documents from the ancient Mitanni kingdom in northern Mesopotamia and Syria and the Hittite kingdom in Anatolia.



  • Chakrabarti, Byomkes (1994). A comparative study of Santali and Bengali. Calcutta: K.P. Bagchi & Co. ISBN 81-7074-128-9
  •, abstract of the study of Minoan language and its link with Indo-Iranian (Hubert La Marle)
  • Indo-Iranian Languages and Peoples, edited by Nicholas Sims-Williams. Published 2002 for the British Academy by Oxford University Press

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