• Farsi Language History

The language of Rumi

Farsi, formerly and now more commonly called Persian, is a member of the Iranian branch of Indo-European languages. It is spoken by about 70 million people, mainly in Iran as well as another 50 million in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Iraq and Azerbaijan.

With over 110 million speakers across the globe, Farsi is an extremely popular language in Iran and Afghanistan and also happens to be one of the official languages of both of those countries. If you’re a fan of the mystical poetry of Rumi and Hafez (aka “Hafiz”,) chances are that you’re already aware of the power of the Farsi language.

The Farsi language has a rich history and used to be spoken and easily understood among people in a vast area that stretched from the Middle East to India. Currently, there are two major variations of the Farsi language. The language can be classified into the Persian spoken in Iran and the variation of the language that is spoken in countries like Afghanistan and Pakistan which is more commonly known as Dari Persian.

Origins & Roots of the Farsi Language

Farsi has roots in the West Iranian group of languages that includes other languages spoken in the region such as Tajik and Dari. West Iran is one of the two subgroups of the Indo-Iranian family of languages. While Persian may not be spoken or understood as commonly as it was in the past, Indo-Iranian languages are still spoken extensively in the region.

Persian has been written with a number of different scripts, including the Old Persian Cuneiform, Aramaic, and Avestan, Cyrillic and Latin alphabets. After the Islamic conquest of the Persian Sassanian Empire in 642 AD, Arabic became the language of government, culture and especially religion. Modern Persian appeared during the 9th century. It is written in a version of the Arabic script and is full of words of Arabic origin.

Farsi has had a considerable influence on neighbouring languages especially Urdu. The Persian alphabet adds four letters to the Arabic alphabet. It also modifies some letters from the Arabic alphabet. Writing the letters in their original Arabic form is not typically considered to be incorrect. Obviously, the Persian language is greatly influenced by Arabic, which explains why there are so many common words in both languages.

Persian, as we know it today, is known to have come from inscriptions of the Achaemenid Dynasty that ruled the region until the conquest of Alexander the Great. The language that developed from those inscriptions is what is now known as the Old Persian period in the history of the Farsi language.

Middle Persian is characterised as the time period in the history of the Farsi language that began after the collapse of the empire of Alexander the Great. The Persian language developed slightly in this period and was used in the religious scripts of the Zoroastrians.

The Early Modern period of the Farsi language is characterised by the literature and poetry of renowned poets including Khayyam. It was also during this period that the language became the commonly spoken language among eastern Islamic nations.

It was only when Tehran was chosen as the capital of Persia in 1787 that Classical Persian began to change. After this prominent change, the dialect of Tehran became the norm and became the foundation of Contemporary Standard Persian.

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