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Tajik, Tajik Persian, or Tajiki, (sometimes written Tadjik or Tadzhik; , , ) is a modern variety of Persian spoken in Central Asia. Most speakers of Tajik live in Tajikistanmarker and Uzbekistanmarker. Tajik is the official language of Tajikistanmarker.

The language has diverged from Persian as spoken in Afghanistanmarker and Iranmarker, as a result of political borders, geographical isolation, the standardisation process, and the influence of Russian and neighbouring Turkic languages. The standard language is based on the north-western dialects of Tajik (region of old major city of Samarkandmarker), which have been somewhat influenced by the neighbouring Uzbek language as a result of geographical proximity. Tajik also retains numerous archaic elements in its vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar that have been lost elsewhere in the Persophone world, in part due to its relative isolation in the mountains of Central Asia.

Geographical distribution

The most important historically Tajik/Persian-speaking cities of Central Asia, Samarqandmarker and Bukharamarker, are in present-day Uzbekistanmarker. In Uzbekistan Tajiks are the largest part of the population of the ancient cities of Bukhara and Samarqand, and are found in large numbers in the Surxondaryo Provincemarker in the south and along Uzbekistan's eastern border with Tajikistan.

Official statistics in Uzbekistan state that the Tajik community comprises 5% of the nation's total population. However, these numbers do not include ethnic Tajiks who, for a variety of reasons, choose to identify themselves as Uzbeks in population census forms. During the Soviet "Uzbekization" supervised by Sharof Rashidov, the head of the Uzbek Communist Party, Tajiks had to choose either stay in Uzbekistan and get registered as Uzbek in their passports or leave the republic for the less developed agricultural and mountainous Tajikistan. Subjective expert estimates suggest that Tajiks may make up 15 to 25 percent of Uzbekistan's population.

Tajiks constitute 80% of Tajikistan's population, and Persian dominates in most parts of the country. Some Tajiks in Badakhshan in southeastern Tajikistan, where the Pamiri languages are the native languages of most residents, are bilingual-speakers. Tajiks are the dominant ethnic group in Northern Afghanistanmarker as well, and are also the majority group in scattered pockets elsewhere in the country, particularly urban areas such as Kabulmarker, Mazar, Kunduzmarker, Ghaznimarker and Heratmarker. Tajiks constitute between 25% and 30% of the total population of the country. In Afghanistan, the dialects spoken by ethnic Tajiks are written using the Perso-Arabic script and referred to as Dari, along with the Persian dialects of other groups in Afghanistan such as the Hazara and Aimaq. 50% of the Afghan citizens are native speakers of Dari. A large Tajik-speaking diaspora exists due to the instability that has plagued Central Asia in recent years, with significant numbers of Tajiks found in Russiamarker, Kazakhstanmarker, and beyond.


Tajik dialects can be approximately split into the following groups:

  1. Northern dialects (Northern Tajikistan, southern parts of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan).
  2. Central dialects (dialects of Mastjoh, Aini, Hissor and, parts of Varzobmarker).
  3. Southern dialects (dialects of Qaroteginmarker, Kulobmarker, dialects of Badakhshan, etc.)
  4. Southeastern dialects (dialects of Panjmarker and Darvoz).

The dialects used among the native Bukharian Jews of Central Asia are known as Bukhori, and belong to the northern dialect grouping. They are chiefly distinguished by the inclusion of Hebrew terms, principally religious vocabulary, and a historical use of the Hebrew alphabet. Despite these differences, Bukhori is readily intelligible to other Tajik-speakers, particularly speakers of northern dialects.



The table below illustrates the vowels in standard, literary Tajik. Local dialects frequently have more than the six seen below.
Tajik vowels
Front Central Back
Mid 1

  1. The open back vowel has varyingly been described as (actually mid-back), , , and


Bilabial/Labio-dental Dental/
Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal м


Plosive п б

т д

к г



Fricative ф в

с з

ш ж

х ғ


Affricate ч

Trill р

Approximant л


Word stress

Word stress generally falls on the ultimate syllable. Examples of where stress does not fall on the last syllable are: бале (bale, meaning "yes") and зеро (zero, meaning "because"). Stress also does not fall on enclitics, nor on the marker of the direct object.


The word order of Tajiki Persian is Subject-Object-Verb. Tajik Persian grammar is almost identical to the classical Persian grammar (and the grammar of modern varieties such as Iranian Persian), although there are notable differences.


Nouns are not marked for grammatical gender, although they are marked for number. Gender is usually distinguished by a change of word, as in English, e.g. мурғ (murgh) 'fowl' and хурус (khurus) 'rooster'. Alternatively the modifiers 'нар' (nar) for male or 'мода' (moda) for female can be pre or post-posed to the noun, e.g. хари нар (xari nar) 'male donkey' and хари мода (xari moda) 'female donkey'.

Two forms of number exist in Tajik, singular and plural. The plural is marked by either the suffix -ҳо or -он, although Arabic loan words may use Arabic forms. There is no definite article, but the indefinite article exists in the form of number 'one' як (yak) and '-е' (-e), the first positioned before the noun and the second joining the noun as a suffix, although the direct object is marked by the suffix '-ро' (-ro), e.g. Рустамро задам (Rustam-ro zadam), 'I hit Rustam.'


Simple prepositions
Tajik English
аз from, through, across
бо with
бар on, upon, onto
ба to
бе without
дар at, in
чун like, as
то up to, as far as, until


Tajiki is conservative in its vocabulary, retaining numerous terms that have long since fallen into disuse in Iran and Afghanistan, such as арзиз (arziz), meaning 'tin,' and фарбеҳ (farbeh), meaning 'fat.' Most modern loan words in Tajik come from Russian as a result of the position of Tajikistanmarker within the Soviet Unionmarker. Vocabulary also comes from the geographically close Uzbek language and, as is usual in Islamic countries, from Arabic. Since the late 1980s, an effort has been made to replace loanwords with native equivalents, using either old terms that had fallen out of use, or coined terminology. Many of the coined terms for modern items such as гармкунак (garmkunak), meaning 'heater' and чангкашак (changkashak), meaning 'vacuum cleaner' differ from their Afghan and Iranian equivalents, adding to the difficulty in intelligibility between Tajiki and other forms of Persian.

In the table below, Persian refers to the standard language of Iranmarker, which differs somewhat from the Dari Persian of Afghanistan. Another Iranian language, Pashto, has also been included for comparative purposes.

Tajik моҳ












Other Iranian languages
Persian māh now mādar xͮāhar šab bīnī se siyāh sorx zard sabz gorg
Pashto myāsht nəwai mōr khōr shpa pōza dre tōr sur zyarr shin, zarghun lewə
Other Indo-European languages
English month new mother sister night nose three black red yellow green wolf
Latin mēnsis novus māter soror nox nasus trēs āter, niger ruber flāvus, gilvus viridis lupus
Greek μήνας
Lithuanian mėnuo naujas motina sesuo naktis nosis trys juoda raudona geltona žalias vilkas
Polish miesiąc nowy matka siostra noc nos trzy czarny czerwony żółty zielony wilk
Albanian muaj i ri nënë motër natë hundë tre i zi i kuq i verdhë i gjelbër ujk

Writing system

In Tajikistan and other countries of the former Soviet Unionmarker, Tajik Persian is currently written in the Cyrillic alphabet, although it was written in both the Latin alphabet in 1930s, and the Persian alphabet before 1920s. In the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republicmarker, the use of the Latin script began in 1928, and was later replaced in the late 1930s by the Cyrillic script. In an interview to Iranian news media in May 2008, Tajikistan's deputy culture minister said Tajikistan would study the issue of switching its Tajik alphabet from Cyrillic to Persian script used in Iran and Afghanistan when the government feels that "the Tajik people became familiar with the Persian alphabet".


According to many scholars, the New Persian language (which subsequently evolved into the Persian forms spoken in Iranmarker, Afghanistanmarker and Tajikistanmarker) developed in Transoxiana and Khorasan, in what are today parts of Afghanistanmarker, Iranmarker, Uzbekistanmarker and Tajikistanmarker. While the New Persian language was descended primarily from Middle Persian, it also incorporated substantial elements of other Iranian languages of ancient Central Asia, such as Sogdian.

Following the Arab conquest of Iran and most of Central Asia in the 8th century AD, Arabic for a time became the court language, and Persian and other Iranian languages were relegated to the private sphere. In the 9th century AD, following the rise of the Samanids, whose state covered much of Uzbekistanmarker, Tajikistanmarker, Afghanistanmarker and northeastern Iranmarker and was centered around the cities of Bukhoromarker (Bukharamarker), Samarqandmarker and Heratmarker, New Persian emerged as the court language and swiftly displaced Arabic. Arabic influence continued to show itself in the form of the Perso-Arabic script used to write the language (replaced in Tajik by Latin and then Cyrillic in the 20th century) and a large number of Arabic loanwords.

New Persian became the lingua franca of Central Asia for centuries, although it eventually lost ground to the Chaghatai language in much of its former domains as a growing number of Turkic tribes moved into the region from the east. Since the 16th century AD, Tajiki has come under increasing pressure from neighboring Turkic languages, particularly Uzbek, which has largely replaced it in most areas of what is now Uzbekistanmarker. Once spoken in areas of Turkmenistanmarker, such as Mervmarker, Tajik is today virtually non-existent in that country. Nevertheless, Tajik persisted in pockets of what is now Uzbekistanmarker, notably in Samarqandmarker, Bukhoromarker and Surxondaryo Provincemarker, as well as in much of what is today Tajikistanmarker.

The creation of the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republicmarker within the Soviet Unionmarker in 1929 helped to safeguard the future of Tajik, as it became an official language of the republic alongside Russian. Still, substantial numbers of Tajik-speakers remained outside the borders of the republic, mostly in the neighboring Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic, which created a source of tension between Tajiks and Uzbeks. Neither Samarqandmarker nor Bukhoromarker was included in the nascent Tajik S.S.R., despite their immense historical importance in Tajik history. After the creation of the Tajik S.S.R., a large number of ethnic Tajiks from the Uzbek S.S.R. migrated there, particularly to the region of the capital, Dushanbemarker, exercising a substantial influence in the republic's political, cultural and economic life. The influence of this influx of ethnic Tajik immigrants from the Uzbek S.S.R. is most prominently manifested in the fact that literary Tajik is based on their northwestern dialects of the language, rather than the central dialects that are spoken by the natives in the Dushanbe region and adjacent areas.

After the fall of the Soviet Union and Tajikistan's independence in 1991, the government of Tajikistan has made substantial efforts to promote the use of Tajik in all spheres of public and private life. Tajik is gaining ground among the once-Russified upper classes, and continues its role as the vernacular of the majority of the country's population. There has been a rise in the number of Tajik publications. Increasing contact with media from Iranmarker and Afghanistanmarker, after decades of isolation under the Sovietsmarker, is also having an effect on the development of the language.

See also


  2. Lazard, G. 1989
  3. Uzbekistan. The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency (December 13, 2007). Retrieved on 2007-12-26.
  4. See for example the Country report on Uzbekistan, released by the United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor here.
  5. Rahim Masov, The History of the Clumsy Delimitation, Irfon Publ. House, Dushanbe, 1991 . English translation: The History of a National Catastrophe, transl. Iraj Bashiri, 1996.
  6. Richard Foltz, "The Tajiks of Uzbekistan", Central Asian Survey, 15(2), 213-216 (1996).
  7. Lazard, G. 1956
  8. Perry, J. R. (2005)
  9. Writing Systems of the World
  10. Ido, S. (2005)
  11. Korotkow, M. (2004)
  12. Perry, J. R. 2005
  13. "Tajikistan may consider using Persian script when the conditions are met", interview of Tajikistan's Deputy Culture Minister with Iranian News Agency, 2 May 2008.


  • Ido, S. (2005) Tajik ISBN 3895863165
  • Korotow, M. (2004) Tadschikisch Wort für Wort. Kauderwelsch ISBN 389416347X
  • Lazard, G. (1956) "Caractères distinctifs de la langue tadjik". Bulletin de la Société Linguistique de Paris. 52. pp. 117--186
  • Lazard, G. "Le Persan". Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum. Wiesbaden. 1989.
  • Windfuhr, G. (1987) in Comrie, B. (ed.) "Persian". The World's Major Languages. pp. 523--546
  • Perry, J. R. (2005) A Tajik Persian Reference Grammar (Boston : Brill) ISBN 90-04-14323-8
  • Rastorgueva, V. (1963) A Short Sketch of Tajik Grammar (Netherlands : Mouton) ISBN 0-933070-28-4

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