Three Reasons Persian is Important

December 9, 2015 |

By Sarah-Claire Jordan

Nastaliq persianThe word “Persian” nowadays has the tendency to evoke feelings of an ancient time and place that doesn’t exist anymore the way it did before. However, in Iran and a few other countries, the language of the Persian Empire lives on, albeit in a modernized form. Persian is the official language of Iran, meaning it is used for government, educational, and other formal and official purposes. In Afghanistan it is spoken as well, though the dialect is known as Dari or Afghan Persian. The dialect spoken in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan is known as Tajiki, or Tajiki Persian.

Persian as it is today has much more influence than we may think. Here are three good reasons why Persian is an important language to know about:

1. Persian was once the most important language in Asia and the Middle East

One of the reasons many of us are transported to an ancient place with amazing architecture and culture when we hear the word “Persian” is the fact that there was once an amazing empire that used that exact adjective to describe itself. The influence of Persia extended beyond what we know today as Iran, however. From 1526 to 1857, with a small break from 1540 to 1555, a huge part of the Indian subcontinent was part of the Mughal Empire, which was ruled over by a Persianate (influenced greatly by Persian culture, language, etc) dynasty. Though not Persian themselves, Babur and other famous leaders were strongly influenced by the Persian language as well as its culture.

2. It has left its mark on a number of other languages

Since Persian had such a strong presence in India for such a long time, it’s no wonder that many languages native to India and neighboring countries picked up more than a few Persian words over time. The languages that show the most Persian influence are Armenian, Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, and Turkish, among others. Persian’s relationship with Arabic has always been interesting, with words from both languages being used interchangeably at one point in history. They have greatly influenced each other, so much so that it is hard to say which influenced the other more. That being said, the influence of Persian can even be seen in some French and English words.

3. Persian literature has greatly impacted the rest of the world

Given that modern Persian is a direct descendant of Old Persian and then Middle Persian, the latter of which is considered a classical language, it is completely plausible that there would be a huge body of literature written in the language. In fact, Persian literature is among the world’s most ancient literatures, going back 2,500 years to the time of the Persian Empire. Persian literature has influenced so many other literatures in the world that it is impossible to talk about poetry, prose, and tragic love stories without mentioning several authors and poets. Shakespeare himself may have been influenced by the Persian Sufi poets, like Rumi, whose work perhaps gave him the idea for the tragic romance of Romeo and Juliet. Even if this can’t be proven, there is no denying the fact that anyone who writes today has probably been influenced by something originally written in Persian.

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Category: Foreign Language

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