How many people speak Persian?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Syzygys, Jul 10, 2008.

  1. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    I'm not accusing them of lying, I'm accusing them of incompetent data collection and analysis. The CIA was largely responsible for the intelligence given to Carter and Brzezinski, assuring them that the best way to counter the Soviet threat in Afghanistan was to adopt, train and fund a third-rate militia that turned into the Taliban. In the wake of 9/11/2001 the CIA admitted that it still had a huge staff of Russian translators but very few who knew Mideastern languages, and with their five-year backlog for all they knew they might have a PowerPoint presentation detailing the entire 9/11 operation sitting in the bottom of somebody's in-basket. As for WMDs, I don't necessarily think they lied about them, I think they just once again did their job incompetently and drew an erroneous conclusion. The CIA is a classic example of government grown too big for its britches with an enormous budget but no effective oversight, and I don't trust a word they say.
    You can look those three countries up for yourself on Wikipedia which, imperfect as it is, is a more reliable source than the CIA because it undergoes continuous peer review. The population of Afghanistan is 32 million. Tajikistan 7 million, Uzbekistan 27 million. That's a total of about 70 million. Half of those people do NOT speak Farsi!

    An older dialect of Persian was the language of government, commerce and education in those countries under the Mughal Empire, but most of the population were nomads living on the fringe of civilization, so the percentage of citizens who had any reason to bother learning Persian was tiny. Once the Mughals faded away and the Ottoman Empire took its place, Turkish became the language to learn. You'd be far more likely to run into people who know Turkish there. How many do you suppose there are? The Tajiks and the Uzbeks both had Russian imposed on them within our lifetimes. Do you see any signs that they're going to keep the language of those conquerors alive after Perestroika?

    When I was in Czechoslovakia in 1973 I found that most people slightly older than me spoke fluent German, because they were occupied by Germans during WWII and forced to learn it. Very few Czechs born after WWII have chosen to study German.

    The language of a hated conqueror is forgotten as quickly and deliberately as possible.
    It's probably closer to 99.9%. Iran has a good educational system and everyone is taught Farsi. There are a few ethnic minorities who speak languages such as Kurdish and Aramaic, but they also speak fluent Farsi, just like the Welsh all speak fluent English, the Basques all speak fluent French, Spanish or Catalan, and the Gypsies all speak fluently the languages of their host countries.
    It's hard to find good information on this subject without the resources of a professional scholar in the field. I wonder about Tajik too because of the Tajiks being the descendants of a stray tribe of Persians, but I don't know much more about it than you do. I don't know how long they've been separated. Two languages can diverge considerably in only a thousand years. Look at Spanish and Portuguese or Danish and Swedish.

    Based on the few sentences on this subject in the Wikipedia articles, I'd say that Pashto and Tajik are not sufficiently similar to Farsi to be construed as dialects. But I will defer to anyone who has better information.
    Then this is not Pashto, which AFAIK is the most widely spoken language in Afghanistan. Pashto is a modern language descended from Old Persian like Tajik or perhaps it split off even earlier than that.
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2008
  2. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  3. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    12,671
    "Afghanistan is 32 million. Tajikistan 7 million, Uzbekistan 27 million. That's a total of about 70 million. Half of those people do NOT speak Farsi!"

    So the other half do? That would make 35 million people in my book. 70 from Iran and 35 from these countries makes it 105 millions, which is way more tha your 70.

    And we still could throw in a few millions from around the world...
     
  4. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  5. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    Very funny.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     
  6. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  7. nirakar ( i ^ i ) Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,383
    Crap! I am getting older and more retarded and screwing up the info that I once knew.
     
  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    The internet was invented for us old people. You can verify anything you think you know in a few seconds.

    Which brings me back to Farsi. I've seen several websites that quote that same figure of 70 million speakers living outside of Iran. And they all cite the CIA as their reliable source of information. Now THAT is retarded.

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     
  9. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    72,822
    I've read that there are Iranian immigrants in the ME, Canada and Australia. As a community, even in India, they are low key. I have seen lots of Irani establishments in Bombay for example, but I could not identify them as Iranis if I were to meet them on the street. Who, for example, would look at Freddie Mercury and identify him as Farukh Balsara, a Parsi boy from Mumbai?
     
  10. nirakar ( i ^ i ) Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    3,383
    I bet that most educated people outside of India ( and maybe Iran and Pakistan ) don't know what a Parsi is.

    My next door neighbor here in California is from Iran.
     
  11. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    72,822
    Probably even in India, in some places, they may not know what a Parsi is.

    We happen to be very fond of our Parsis in Mumbai, they are our intelligent, humurous community, much like the Jews in New York. From Adi Marzban to Sabira Merchant to Zubin Mehta, Rohinton Mistry, Persis Khambatta, Homi Bhabha and Madame Cama, we would be impoverished without our bawas

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     
  12. Syzygys As a mother, I am telling you Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    12,671
    I found another website, a blog saying 40 millions, but I thought that was rather low. I don't have a problem with 90-100 million, the whole thread started because a website stated that farsi was one of the most popular internet languages, and I thought that was baloney. I guess I was right...
     
  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    If they came to America I'm sure they also went to Canada and Australia. But those are small countries (in population) that could barely absorb half a million of any one ethnic group before it became a huge news story. As for Iranian expats in the Middle East, well sure. It's a short drive. But they're not Arabs and they're not Sunnis, so just how welcome are they going to be? Maybe a few thousand of them are construction workers, building those towers in Dubai?
    Iranians are one of the most "Western" looking of all the Mideastern peoples. I've known quite a few and none would draw a second glance walking down any street in America.
    40,000,000 total or expats? There are 70,000,000 Iranians.
    I never took issue with that. I don't know if it's correct, but it's not nearly as implausible as 140 million speakers. For all of its contemporary problems with Neolithic Abrahamists, Iran's people are modern at heart. I'm sure they spend a lot of time on the internet now that they can't go drinking and dancing.
     
  14. mathman Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,434
    Using Google I was able to get many sites with information about the number of Persian speakers. In passing, Farsi is the dialect that Iranians used. The dialects used in Afghanistan and Tadjikstan have different names. All the sites I saw said that Persian is the first language of about 70 million people and 30-50 million have it as a second language. One further note, there is a substantial minority in Iran where Farsi is not their first language.
     
  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    You have to be careful, not everyone agrees on the distinction between a "dialect" and a "separate language." The best definition is that dialects are mutually comprehensible. But even then you get into trouble when you have a spectrum of dialects across a wide swath of land and the people at the two ends can't understand each other.
    We're getting closer to a believable number now. I'll accept 30 and maybe I could be talked into 50 with enough evidence. (Credible evidence, not U.S. government research. I've seen how that sausage is made and I will never eat it.) But 70 is an "extraordinary assertion."
    Sure, but there's hardly anybody there who doesn't speak it fluently. It's just not the kind of country that has pockets of backwoods where people are so far out of the mainstream that they can't speak the national language. There's an Assyrian community who keep their language alive, but they all speak perfect Farsi too.
     
  16. mathman Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,434
  17. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    None of these sources get us close to the 140 million speakers that was originally postulated in this thread. Well one does, but it cites that same CIA source which I don't trust.

    The site that seems to be proudly run by Iranians comes up with much lower figures, and, tellingly, it does not boast of huge Iranian communities in other countries, which would bolster the statistics.

    In particular, the CIA's claim that, after being occupied by Russia and filled with ethnic Russian immigrants, half the people in Uzbekistan can inexplicably speak Farsi, is not corroborated by anyone.

    These sources also didn't do much toward clearing up the muddle over "dialects" of Farsi versus "Persian languages." I guess Pashto, or Pushtun as they call it, is a separate language, but I'm still not sure about Tajik.
     
  18. Letticia Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    300
    Could this "140 million" figure include people who learned Farsi to various extent, but are not fluent in it? Or is it explicitely fluent/native speakers?
     
  19. Gustav Banned Banned

    Messages:
    12,575

    dude
    you rock!!

    /happy eek
     
  20. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Messages:
    24,690
    Even if it does, where are there seventy million people outside of Iran who have any knowledge at all of Farsi? The Persian empire collapsed a very long time ago. There's no one left alive who needed to know a little bit of Farsi to get along in business or culture. No one bothers teaching the language of their now-defunct conqueror to their children!

    The Pashto/Pushtuns in Afghanistan and the Tajik people speak Persian languages--if not precisely Farsi--because they are Persian peoples, closely related to the Iranians. Those are their native languages. There's nobody else who has such a good reason.

    I keep seeing the Uzbeks mentioned, and there are thirty or forty million people in Uzbekistan who could make the difference in this statistic. The Uzbeks fall into the category of a people who were once conquered by the Persian Empire but that part of their history is over. It's been many generations since anyone would have taught Farsi to their children. In the 20th century they all had to learn Russian!
     
  21. Cellar_Door Whose Worth's unknown Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,310
    My sister is a Pashto linguist, but she speaks a few other similar languages. Persian is one, but I've never met anyone else who speaks a word of it.
     
  22. Mr_Bad Registered Member

    Messages:
    1
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iranian_citizens_abroad

    Fraggle Rocker
    You can look those three countries up for yourself on Wikipedia which, imperfect as it is, is a more reliable source than the CIA.
    :
    -------
    I agree with you completely Fraggle. And please note that on the same site i.e Wikipedia, it is mentioned that "There are an estimated 150 to 200 million native speakers of Iranian languages".
    Check yourself the link: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iranian_citizens_abroad
    -------
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2009
  23. DiamondHearts Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    2,557
    Most people in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikstan can speak Farsi. In Afghanistan, the major dialect is Dari, Tajik is also another dialect but it is highly influenced by Turkic languages. Substantial minorities in Uzbekistan, Pakistan, and Turkmenistan can also speak Farsi.

    It is interesting to note that Farsi was the lingua franca of Pakistan region during the Mughal Empire for nearly one thousand years. Upon the British conquest of the region, Farsi was forbidden as a language, and the British launched a campaign to persecute those who still taught or propagated the Farsi language. The purpose was to cut off British dominions of India from contact and influence with Afghanistan and Iran. Eventually, Urdu evolved as the common language of the region, containing many Farsi, Turkish, Arabic, and local loan words. Most people who speak Urdu, can in fact understand Farsi. Farsi is still taught in Pakistan, and Farsi speakers in Pakistan number in the millions.

    As a matter of fact, majority of the people of Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Azeribaijan are Aryan (Iranian) people. According to popular folk lore, the people of these regions arrived into their lands from Central Asia. There are tremendous cultural similarities between the people of the regions, not to mention that the regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan were part of the Eastern Persian Empire for hundreds of years known as "Khorasaan". Today Khorasaan is a much smaller province in Eastern Iran.
     

Share This Page