Dari Language Facts

August 16, 2016 |

By Sarah-Claire Jordan

Dari Language Facts photoAfghanistan is a country full of diversity, both ethnic and linguistic. It has a rich history that has led to it being what it is today, which includes having two official languages: Pashto and Dari. Dari is Dari is sometimes called “Dari Persian” or even “Afghan Persian”, hinting at the fact that it is a dialect of Persian or Farsi. Around 30% of the population speak Dari natively, compared to about 40% speaking Pashto.

Dari has a long and interesting history, starting with Old Persian, which is the ancestor of both Farsi and Dari. This remained in use up until the 3rd century BC, when Middle Persian began to be used. Middle Persian became the basis for the development of Farsi in the 9th century AD. From that, using Farsi as a point of reference, the Dari language began to take shape and eventually became the language we know today.

Farsi and Dari obviously share many things, given the evolution of both languages or dialects. They are both written using a modified Arabic script that dates back to when what is now Iran was conquered by Muslim rulers and most Persians converted to Islam. Many people even refer to the Farsi spoken in Iran as “Western Farsi” and the Dari language of Afghanistan “Eastern Farsi”. They are also mutually intelligible, so communication is quite easy for speakers of either language.

Though many will argue that Dari hardly even warrants being called a dialect of Farsi, there are enough differences that you can easily prove that it should be. First of all, the vowels used in Dari are different from those in Farsi, along with having some extra consonants that you will not find in Farsi. In spoken Dari, pronunciation is different from that of Farsi, including the fact that accents are stressed much less in Dari than in Farsi.

Besides its important role as one of the two official languages of Afghanistan, the Dari language has another role as well. It serves as a type of lingua franca all over the country, where over thirty languages are spoken by its inhabitants overall. It has also contributed a lot to other languages in the form of loanwords, in languages such as English and Urdu. Though the words used are said to be Persian only, the Dari influence is present in the pronunciation and the later adaptation of that pronunciation in the borrowing language.

The Dari language has come a long way, from its development based on Farsi, which in turn stems from Middle Persian, to its status today as an official language and lingua franca of Afghanistan. To think, a language whose name possibly comes from the Middle Persian word for “court”, as it was originally the language spoken by those in the king’s court, possibly during the Sassanid dynasty, could still be alive and well today is rather exciting. Its official status and use as a standard language for administration, radio, television, and other media will help to keep it alive for years to come.

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Category: Foreign Language

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