The Tajik language, or Tajik Persian, or Tajiki, (sometimes written Tadjik or Tadzhik) is a modern variety of the Persian language spoken in Central Asia. An Indo-European language of the Iranian language group, most speakers of Tajik live in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, though there are speakers in Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, and other countries in the region. It shares nearly the same grammar, vocabulary, and beautiful pronunciation as "classical" Persian, which is actually believed to have come from ancient Khorasan, in central Asia.
The progenitor of modern Tajik language was widely spoken throughout central Asia, in particular the areas that are now part of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and northern Turkmenistan, owing to the fact that Persian people and culture dominated the region. As Turkic people began to infiltrate these lands, processes of "turkification" began, culminating during the Soviet period in the "Uzbekification" of millions of Tajiks. Today, Tajik language can be heard primarily in the "Uzbek" cities of Bukhara, Samarkand, and Khiva, in addition to being the official language of Tajikistan. In Tajikistan, a modified Cyrillic alphabet is used; in Uzbekistan, a mix of modified Cyrillic and Latin alphabets; in Afghanistan, traditional Persian script is still standard.
The language has diverged from Persian as spoken in Afghanistan and Iran, as a result of political borders, geographical isolation, the standardization process, and the influence of Russian and neighboring Turkic languages. The standard language is based on the northwestern dialects of Tajik (region of the old major city of Samarkand), which have been somewhat influenced by the neighboring Uzbek language as a result of geographical proximity. Tajiki also retains numerous archaic elements in its vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar that have been lost elsewhere in the Persephone world, in part due to its relative isolation in the mountains of Central Asia.
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. мур? (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 -?о 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 (Rustamro zadam), 'I hit Rustam.'
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 фарбе? (farbeh), meaning 'fat.' Most modern loan words in Tajik come from Russian as a result of the position of Tajikistan within the Soviet Union. 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 Iran, which differs somewhat from the Dari Persian of Afghanistan. Another Iranian language, Pashto, has also been included for comparative purposes.
Tajiki is currently written in the Cyrillic alphabet in the former Soviet Union, although it has been written in both the Latin alphabet and the Persian alphabet in certain parts of its history. In the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic, the use of the Latin script began in 1928, and was later replaced in the 1930s by the Cyrillic script. In Afghanistan, Tajiks continued to use the Persian script, which remains in use among Afghan Tajiks today. In more recent developments, Tajikistan has announced that once certain conditions are met, it will switch its alphabet from Soviet influenced Cyrillic script to Persian script.
According to many scholars, the New Persian language (which subsequently evolved into the Persian forms spoken in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan) developed in Transoxiana and Khorasan, in what are today parts of Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. 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 Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and northeastern Iran and was centered around the cities of Bukhoro (Bukhara), Samarqand and Herat, 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 Uzbekistan. Once spoken in areas of Turkmenistan, such as Merv, Tajik is today virtually non-existent in that country. Nevertheless, Tajik persisted in pockets of what is now Uzbekistan, notably in Samarqand, Bukhoro and Surxondaryo Province, as well as in much of what is today Tajikistan.
The creation of the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic within the Soviet Union 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 Samarqand nor Bukhoro 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, Dushanbe, 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 Iran and Afghanistan, after decades of isolation under the Soviets, is also having an effect on the development of the language.
As a main program, Iranian scholar, Hamid Hassani, is supposed to prepare a Tajik Language Corpus, consisting of one-million words.