The Tehrani vernacular

Do you speak exactly the same way that you write? A rhetoric question, don’t answer. The fact is – no one does. Vernaculars always differ from the literary standards – a dull, basic fact. The interesting point is that depending on the language in question the degree of their dissimilarity varies. That is to say in some cases the differences between spoken and written are minuscule and in some other – humungous. My native Polish could serve as a template of the first type – apart from obvious-to-happen differences in vocabulary registers used, the standard Polish of sound is very close to the standard Polish of ink. Syntax is not as elaborate, some secondary usage rules are not always followed, the nasal vowels tend to be denasalized – but that’s just about all. No big deal. On the other hand, in case of Persian the written and the spoken are virtually different idioms. One cannot expect that even profound knowledge of the written standard will grant them understanding of what is actually spoken on the streets. There’re far too serious differences in phonology, morphology and syntax (not to mention vocabulary) to enable this. What one may count on is to be understood (and to sound funny to Iranians, too). After all, the Iranians have all learned the ketaabi (ie. written language) in school and thus can easily understand it. Continue reading “The Tehrani vernacular”

تعارفات ايراني or The Iranian ways of courtesy

تعارفات [ta’ārofāt] is a Persian word meaning ‘courtesies, polite formulas and expressions’. As Persian society is a very politeness-conscious one (and loquacious, too), the Persian language is exceptionally rich in polite, formal ways of saying things. Without knowing them it is virtually impossible to survive in the Iranian society. This page is an attempt to gather and list for your reference all I know about Persian verbal etiquette. Some of the expressions may seem poetic, or perhaps even baroque, be sure though that in Persian they sound perfectly natural. Be also warned, that often they are almost deprived of ‘real’ meaning and used just rhetorically.

Continue reading “تعارفات ايراني or The Iranian ways of courtesy”

کتاب ماه – فرهنگ توصیفی گونه‌های زبانی ایران

فرهنگ توصیفی گونه‌های زبانی ایران

این کتاب, که به کوشش دکتر ایران کلباسی از بزگواران زبانشناسی ایرانی نوشته شده, یک جواهر بی‌نظیری است. به نظرشخصی من دسترسی به آن برای همه علاقمندان گویش‌شناسی ضروری است.

کتاب شامل ترجمه یک گفتار کوتاهی به بیش از دویست گونه‌های زبانی ایران, از لهجه‌های محلی فارسی معیار گرفته تا سایر گویش‌ها و زبان‌های ایرانی (و گاهی حتی غیر ایرانی) می‌باشد. به این صورت شباهت‌ها  و تفاوت‌های آوائی و ساختاری زبان‌ها و گویش‎های ایرانی به راحتی مورد مشاهده قرار می‌گیرند.

تنها عیبی که به این کتاب پر ارزش وارد گردیده, اشتباه‌های حروف‌چینی است که دلیل شد در بعضی موارد علامت‌های آوانویسی به کار نرفته و باعث ابهامات راجع به تلفظ دقیقی کلمات شده است.

A blog to recommend

A friend of mine, Rémy LeBeau (unfortunately, it seems that’s not the name in his papers) apart from the very promising-but-hibernated blog on Pashto runs a blog which is generally worth reading.

One of his last entries, on the language situation in Afghanistan as well as disproportionate focus of Western academia on Iranian (actually Tehrani) Persian which in practice translates to neglect other varieties, deserves a particular attention, just as the article which prompted it (also on the language issue in Afghanistan but from the perspective of an US officer). Why? Because what they say rings true, and is quite rarely said.

My two cents:  On one hand, given the disparity between Iran and Afghanistan in population, economic potential, literacy levels and emigration patterns, it is no wonder most departments of Persian Language and Culture focus on Iran and Iranian Persian. Quite similar argument can be made for Dari vs. Pashto. However, the dangers of looking at people  only through the lenses of their neighbours’ language need to be stressed.

An astray thought: Poles should know about it well. For obvious reasons, most scholars of Slavic languages and cultures worldwide (and especially in the West) start their journey with Russian (I personally would recommend Russian over Polish to any foreign learner who has no special reasons/prior preference), and in the process, many of them acquire through a kind of osmosis, internalise  and  hold as their own, the Russian views on Eastern European history, politics and culture, many of which (the views) smell to us as neo-imperialist and plain dangerous. Sorry for that digression, I guess the bottom line is: if you want to learn about the Pashtuns, ask them themselves, not people they have had a troubled realationship with.