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Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Languages of the Near & Middle East at SOAS: Persian

Persian is one of the oldest living languages of the world and one of the few whose millennium-old prose and poetry is perfectly understood by its modern native speakers and by those who learn it properly as a second language. Persian, known to its native, Iranian speakers as Farsi, is the official language of Iran, the second largest country in the Middle East sitting on the famous silk-route connecting the west to central Asia. Written in the Cyrillic alphabet, Persian is the official language of Tajikistan and as Dari it is one of the two official languages of Afghanistan. Persian is an Indo-European language and therefore speakers of European languages will find it a lot easier to learn than say a Semitic language such as Arabic or a Sinitic language such as Chinese. As Muslim armies began to conquer their neighbouring lands in the 7th century CE the local languages of conquered Iraq, Syria and Egypt, for example, were gradually wiped out and were superseded by Arabic. Iran was the only country in that region whose language, Persian, was not replaced by Arabic. Although Persian started to be written in what became the Perso-Arabic script it retained its solid grammatical features and indeed, after it became a Muslim empire in its own right, it took the Perso-Arabic script and numerous Persian loan words further east to many parts of the Indian subcontinent, the Malay Archipelago, Brunei (Jawi script) and to the borders of China (Uyghur). Until the 18th century Persian was the official court and administrative language of India. Students who choose to study for a degree in Persian will gain access to some of the richest examples of classcial and modern poetic literature. Students also have the opportunity to study Middle Persian (Pahlavi) at SOAS.

If you would like to learn Persian contact Ms Narguess Farzad (N.Farzad@soas.ac.uk) Department of the Languages and Cultures of Near & Middle East; if you are interested in Middle Persian specifically, contact contact Professor Almut Hintze (ah69@soas.ac.uk) Department of the Study of Religions.

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