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The Farsi language (فارسی fārsi), also commonly referred to as Persian, is a member of the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. Farsi holds official status in Iran, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan (where it is known as Dari), and is also spoken by significant minorities in parts of Uzbekistan, Iraq, Russia, and Azerbaijan. It has also influenced many other languages with which it has come into contact through the historical expansion of the Persian Empire and Islamic religion and was frequently adopted as a prestigious cultural language in large parts of Central and Western Asia. In total, there are approximately 70 million native speakers of Farsi and roughly 40 million speakers of Farsi as a second language.

According to the Ministry of the Interior of Iran, the largest number of Iranians (Persians) outside of Iran reside in the United States. However, largely as a result of a reluctance to be associated with the post-1979 Islamic Revolutionary government of Iran, it has been difficult to determine accurate figures of the number of Iranian/Persian Americans in the United States, with estimates ranging anywhere from 500,000 to 1 million. Roughly half of the Iranian/Persian American population in the United States is found in the state of California, with other large communities in New York, New Jersey, the Washington, D.C. Metro Region, and Texas. There are also significant numbers of Farsi/Persian speakers originating from other countries, including Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Armenia, and Azerbaijan.

There are three main varieties of the Persian language, which have a relatively high degree of mutual intelligibility. These include Western Persian (Farsi), which is spoken in Iran and by minorities in Iraq and some Gulf States; Dari, spoken in Afghanistan; and Tajik, which is spoken in Tajikistan. There are also numerous regional varieties and sub-dialects found in each of these three main categories. The language is regulated by the Academy of Persian Language and Literature in Tehran, Iran.

The standard word order of Farsi (Persian) is subject-object-verb (SOV); however, since pronouns can be dropped, the subject of a sentence is frequently unclear until the end of a sentence, after the verb. Persian has also evolved into a largely analytical language, with fewer cases and no grammatical gender, making it one of the few Indo-European languages without grammatical gender. Adjectives in Persian usually follow the noun that they modify, and verbs are highly regular as compared to European languages. Persian verbs are inflected for three singular and three plural persons, and contain fewer tenses than in English, with the greatest variety found when referring to past events. The most common tenses in Persian are infinitive, past, imperfect, perfect, pluperfect, future, present, present subjunctive.

The foundation of Persian (Farsi) vocabulary comes from its direct ancestor, Middle Persian, and word building, affixation, and compounding are commonly used to create new words. There are also a large number of words originally borrowed from Arabic that were then “Persianized,” often rendering them different from the original Arabic word in both meaning and usage. There are also a significant number of French loanwords in the modern Persian language.

The Farsi and Dari varieties of Persian are written in a modified form of the Arabic script, while the Tajik variety of Persian is written using the Cyrillic alphabet. The Persian alphabet includes an additional four characters to the original Arabic script, and the letters have different pronunciations. Like the Arabic alphabet, the Persian alphabet is an abjad, meaning that no vowels are written, and it is written from right to left in cursive style. Before adopting the Arabic script in the 9th century, the Persian language utilized the Pahlavi script, which itself was derived from Aramaic.

FUN FACTS: Farsi (Persian) is one of the oldest languages in the world, with cuneiform texts written in Old Persian being dated to the 6th century BCE. As a result of the dominance of the Mughal Empire in the Indian subcontinent during the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the Persian language has heavily influenced many of the languages of India.

At Piedmont Global Language Solutions (PGLS), we offer document translation, interpretation, localization, and other language services in Farsi (Persian). Whether you need to translate public information materials into Farsi, need a Farsi interpreter for a legal deposition, or want to localize your website into Farsi to market your products internationally, PGLS is here to help with all of your Farsi language needs.

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