Persian, Linguistic Domination and Cultural Hegemony

  July 01, 2021   Read time 2 min
Persian, Linguistic Domination and Cultural Hegemony
Persian has been the dominant language of Iranian lands and adjacent regions for over a millennium. From the tenth century onward it was the language of literary culture, as well the lingua franca in large parts of West, South, and Central Asia until the midnineteenth century.

It began with the political domination of these areas by Persianspeaking dynasties, first the Achaemenids (c. 558-330 BCE), then the Sassanids (224-65 1 CE), along with their complex political-cultural and ideological Perso-Iranianate constructs, and the establishment of Persian-speaking colonies throughout the empires and beyond. The advent of Islam (since 651 CE) represents a crucial shift in the history of Iran and thus of Persian.

It resulted in the emergence of a double-focused Perso-Islamic construct, in which, after Arabic in the first Islamic centuries, Persian reasserted itself as the dominant high register linguistic medium, and extended its dominance into formerly non-Persian and non-Iranian-speaking territories in the East and Central Asia. The writing system became that of the new dominant religion, and there occurred increasing infusion of Arabic features into the lexicon, phonology and grammar (comparable to the absorption of the Norman component into English). However, throughout the evolution of the literary standards from Early New Persian to Modern Standard Persian the considerable typologcal changes that Persian underwent are due to both internal Persian developments, induding the leveling of regional features, and to the assimilation of expanding areal cross-linguistic typological isoglosses.

Overall, Persian varieties are divided into a Western group mainly in Iran and an Eastern group in Afghanistan and Central Asia, with transitional varieties. The northwestern outpost of Persian is Caucasian Tat Persian spoken in an Azeri Turkic, Caucasian and Armenian environment, with three varieties: (a) M uslim and (b) Jewish (Juhuri) in Azerbaijan and Dagestan, and (c) Christian Armeno-Tat in Armenia.

(I) Persian sociolinguistic registers include: (a) Modern Standard Persian, the written norm in Iran (Farsi) and Afghanistan (Dari), evolved during the last few centuries: (b) Colloquial Persian, specifically the normalized form of Colloquial Tehrani Persian, used for most polite spoken communication, which increasingly shows reflexes in the standard language; (c) Xodemuni 'our own', i.e. familiar speech, the non-normalized local variant such as in Tehran. (2) Regional and local varieties in the urban centers throughout Iran in non-Persian dialect and language areas. (3) Khorasan Persian varieties, representing a major distinct regional subgroup and stretching from east of Tehran to the Afghan border. Tehran to the Afghan border.