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THE TAJIK LANGUAGE

The Tajik language is the national and state language of the Republic of Tajikistan. Outside the country, the language is spoken on the territory of Uzbekistan, and, to some extent, in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Tajik dialects prevail among the Tajik population of the Islamic State of Afghanistan and some Tajik-speaking ethnic groups of China.
The Tajik language belongs to the sub-group of Persian languages of the south-western Iranian group of the Indo-European family of languages. The language had formed on the basis of Farsi and some of the eastern Iranian languages spoken in the IX-X centuries on the territory of Maveranahr and Khorasan. Early medieval manuscripts, especially of the IX-X centuries, refer to this language as "Farsi-Dari", "Farsi", or "Dari". This language is a common historical foundation of three contemporary literary languages: Tajik (in Tajikistan), Persian (in Iran), and Dari (in Afghanistan). The history of the Farsi-Dari language development falls under the following stages:
1) Ancient Persian language (around IX c. BC - IV-III c. BC);
2) Middle Persian language (IV-III c. BC - VII-VIII c. AD);
3) New Persian language - Farsi-Dari (IX-X c. AD - to the present day).
The first mention of the ancient Persian language refers to the IX c. BC. However, ingenuous written manuscripts of the period are dated by the VI-V c. BC. The ancient Persian language which was the mother tongue of the Akhemenid kings - natives of the Fars (Persida), had been used as a literary and official language of the Akhemenid Empire (VI-V c. BC). Cuneiform - a special script based on the wedge-shaped drawings was used by the ancient Persian language. Cuneiform scripts had been carved, on behalf of the Akhemenid kings, on huge rocks, building walls and columns, jugs, gems, etc. Thus, parts of these written monuments survived to the present day in their original shape having avoided any subsequent alterations and therefore, present a great historical value. 
A few centuries after Alexander the Great invasion and the collapse of the Akhemenid Empire, the Sasanid State had been formed on the territory of Iran that played an enormous role in the development of the mid-Persian language, literature and culture. In the times of the Sasanid dynasty, the middle Persian language becomes the language of the government, literature and religion. Along with the now dead Avestian language, middle Persian was used as the second written language of Zoroastrism (fire-worshipping religion). Middle Persian manuscripts have survived to the present day in "Pekhlevi" created on the basis of the Aramaic script. After the Arab conquest and the expansion of Islam, a considerable part of middle Persian manuscripts had been destroyed.
Two hundred years after the Arab conquest, attempts had been made to reconstruct Farsi yet these attempts in the western part of the historical Iran did not succeed. 
The first attempts to reconstruct literary Farsi were made in the second half of the IX century on the territory of Khorasan and Maveronahr during the Safarid Dynasty. However, it is the X century that is considered the golden age of the literary "Porsi-Dar" language: this was the rule of Persian kings and the time of formation of the key norms of the middle Persian literary language. The oldest Farsi manuscripts written in Arabic script were created in the second half of the IX century. Describing the events of 725 when the Arabs lost their battle with the Khutallon (now Khatlon) population, the Arab historian Tabari quotes a Farsi song recorded in the Arab script.
The "Farsi-Dari" language or "Farsi" was formed under the influence of eastern dialecticians of Maveronahr, including Sogd dialects used at the outskirts and in the city of Bukhara - the capital of the Samanid State. It therefore reflects some of peculiarities of eastern Iranian languages and dialects. 
Literary Farsi required creation of a Persian modification of the Arab script that appeared in the IX-X centuries and had four additional symbols missing in the Arab alphabet. By that time, Maveronahr nations acquired their political rights and started using Farsi-Dari for official purposes and as a written literary language. The dialect of Bukhara - the capital city of the Samanid power - played an important part in this process.
Despite the considerable differences between the territorial dialects, they had hardly reflected themselves in the literary language. For example, up to the XVI century, there had not been any clear distinctions between the literary languages of Maveronahr and Khorasan - that is between Tajik and Farsi spread on the western territory of the historical Iran because Tajiks and Persians used the same literary language. Later on, Farsi was spread in Northern India, Eastern Turkestan, Transcaucasia, Turkey, and Kurdistan yet lexical and grammatical norms of the language remained the same on this whole huge territory.
After the Persian territories had become part of the Arab Caliphate, Farsi was developing under the influence of the Arab language. This influence continued through several centuries. This accounts for Arabic words in the Farsi vocabulary and, later on, in the Tajik language.
The second half of the XIX century witnessed the merge of the literary language with the Tajik dialect speech yet these modifications did not make any considerable impact on the established literary norms.
In the XX century, the language of the Persian-speaking population of Central Asia acquired a new name - the Tajik language. This term is closely related to the political events that took place in Central Asian region in the first decade of the XX century.
In 1924, following the national-territorial division of the USSR, the Tajik Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic was formed. In 1929, it was transformed into the Tajik SSR, and Tajik got the status of the state language. Heated arguments around the further development of the Tajik language resulted in the main principles of the literary language development. The Tajik literary language developed on the basis of the living Tajik speech on the one hand, and on the classical Persian-Tajik literature on the other. 
Gradually, the Arab script was replaced by a new alphabet based on the Latin script, and in 1939, it was again replaced by a new one based on the Cyrillic. Considering the specifics of the phonetic structure of the Tajik literary language, the modern Tajik alphabet consists of 35 symbols.
Now, 10 centuries after the collapse of the Samanid State, Tajik has again acquired its status of the national language brought about by the national sovereignty of the Republic of Tajikistan. In accordance with the Law on the Language, Tajik has been announced the state language on the territory of the Republic of Tajikistan.
At present, there are four living dialects of the Tajik language:
1. Northern dialects (Northern Tajikistan, southern parts of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan).
2. Central dialects (dialects of Matcha, Aini, Gissar and, partly, Varzob).
3. Southern dialects (dialects of Karategin, Kuliab, Tajik dialects of Badakhshan, etc.)
4. South-eastern dialects (dialects of Pianj and Darvaz).
According to its grammatical structure, the Tajik language relates to analytical languages: nouns do not have case and gender categories; words, especially in phrases, are connected by prepositions, endings and word order; and the sequence is observed only between nouns (subjects) and verbs (predicates).
Tajik is a native, and in some cases, the only language for many non-Tajik nations, including Central Asian gypsies ("djughi"), Central Asian or "Bukharian" Jews, Central Asian Arabs and some other ethnic groups of Central Asia.

A. M. Mirboboev
Ph.D in Philology, Assistant Professor


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