Monday, May 26, 2014

Language Profile: Tajik

Today we're taking a look at Tajik, also known as Tajiki. This member of the Indo-Iranian language family is the official language of Tajikistan. The Tajik language is a modern variety of Persian that diverged from the Persian spoken in Afghanistan (where it is known as Dari) and Iran due to geographic isolation as well as the influence of the Russian language and other Turkic languages like Uzbek.

Over 90% of Tajikistan is covered in mountains.
While the grammar of Tajik is mostly identical to that of other Persian varieties, there are many lexical differences that cause intelligibility issues with the speakers of Persian in Iran and Afghanistan. Tajik contains many older words that have fallen out of use in the other countries, as well as a significant number of loanwords. Most loanwords in Tajik come from Russian since the country was once part of the Soviet Union, but it also contains many terms from Uzbek as well as Arabic.

There are several dialects of Tajik that pertain to specific geographic regions of the country. There is also a dialect known as Bukhori, which is spoken by the Bukharian Jews of Central Asia and contains many Hebrew words.

The Tajik alphabet was written using an Arabic script prior to 1928, followed by a Latin script from 1928 to 1939. Soon after, the country switched to the Cyrillic alphabet, which it uses to this day. However, the government is currently considering switching to the Perso-Arabic script used by Persian in Iran and Afghanistan. There is also an effort to promote the widespread use of Tajik in hopes of replacing the use of Russian, which linguistically dominated the country for some time.