The Centre for the Great Islamic Encyclopaedia (Centre for Iranian and Islamic Studies) published “Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Iranian Languages and Dialects (Past and Present)”, compiled and edited by Mahmoud Jaafari-Dehaghi and Shima Jaafari-Dehaghi.
The present work is a collection of papers from the fourth International Conference on Iranian Languages and Dialects, held in 2018 at the Centre for the Great Islamic Encyclopaedia. In this conference, linguists, specialists, and researchers presented papers on the latest achievements in the field of Iranian languages and dialects.
At the beginning of the book, we read: One of the principal advantages of Iran is having a variety of languages and dialects. Iranian historical and geographical sources report that in addition to the Pahlavi language, which was once the official and scientific language of Iran and also the Dari Persian language, which has been prevalent in Iran since the late Sassanid era and was the national and official language during Islamic Iran, numerous dialects have been spoken, of which there is no significant name left today. Some of these dialects are:
Azari, Arani, Ardabili, Isfahani, Bamiani, Bukharian, Bosti, Bacterian, Tabrizi, Jorjani, Jozjani, Chachi, Khwarazmian, Khuzi, Deilami, Razi, Ramhormozi, Zanjani, Sajestani, Sogdian, Samarqandi, Shirazi, Tabari, Tocharian, Tusi, Ghuri, Fahlavi, Qazvini, Qumesi, Kermani, Kuchi, Maraghi, Marvi, Mokri, Neyshabouri, Heravi, and Hamedani.
Almost all of these dialects and languages are gone, and merely their scattered specimens are mentioned in the works of Estakhri, Maqdisi, Hamdollah Mostowfi, Yaqut Hamavi, Hamzeh Isfahani, Ibn Esfandiar, Qabus ibn Voshmagir Ziari, Saadi, Hafez, Owhadi Isfahani and Ibn Bazzaz.
Several languages in Iran, which are among the valuable cultural resources of this region, such as Azerbaijani Turkish, Khuzestan Arabic, Turkmen, and Armenian, have also undergone the same decline and none of them are fully recorded.
The same indifference to languages and dialects continues today. Many of them have been exposed to extinction, and there seems to be no plan to care for them. Various languages and dialects show the richness of culture and civilization of their speakers and are among the country’s distinctive cultural heritage.
There are no exact statistics, but Talysh in Gilan, Tati in Qazvin, Natanzi, Naeini, Khansari, and Gazi in Isfahan, Horami in Kurdistan, Sivandi and Koroshi in Fars, Larestani in Hormozgan, Sui in Sistan and Baluchestan, Behdinan dialect in Yazd, Vafsi in the Markazi province, Mandaic in Khuzestan, Khalaji and Ashtiani in Markazi province are among the endangered Iranian languages and dialects.
According to official statistics of UNESCO, more than 50% of the 7,000 known languages in the world are on the verge of extinction. Of the 7,000 languages, only a few hundred are offered in the world’s educational and formal systems, and less than 100 are used in the digital world.
Languages have been born, lived, and extinct since time immemorial. Nevertheless, today they are being destroyed at an unprecedented rate. Ten languages are now extinguished every year, and linguists predict that if this trend continues, ninety percent of languages will be extinct by the next century. Since culture is dependent on language and flourishes, continues to exist, and transmits through it, with the death of any language, the culture associated with it is also exposed to destruction.
On the other hand, each language provides its speakers with the necessary adaptations to the specific social, economic, and environmental conditions and enables them to understand existence through a particular lens. Thus, the death of languages is the destruction of essential possibilities for social life and the continuation of culture.
We alerted a national problem and a cultural danger. Due to economic considerations or the need for long-term planning, it is impossible to immediately implement the plan to protect ethnic languages and local dialects. However, in the most immediate action possible, we hope to create a bank of Iranian languages and dialects. In this regard, the role of the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Science, Research, and Technology, Radio and Television of the Islamic Republic of Iran, faculties of Persian language and literature, professors, students, and graduates of the Persian language and literature, and Islamic Local Councils in the target provinces is prominent and efficient.
Using the experiences of other countries in this field and receiving technical assistance and advice from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) is helpful. According to experts, the disappearance of languages and dialects is a global threat, and every day several dialects and languages are removed from the field of communication. For instance, no trace is left from some languages spoken recently in Oceania, Amazon forests, and Guinea tribes. Let us not forget that tomorrow may be late, and the lives of some of the existing dialects depend on the lives of a few elderly speakers. With their death, their dialects will die with all the historical background.
“Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Iranian Languages and Dialects (past and present)” is published in 608 pages and 200 copies.
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