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”

On varieties of Persian and related languages

Persian accents

To better illustrate the diversity of accents of Persian as it is spoken in main cities of Iran, I decided to quote a couple of sentences from the wonderful “Descriptive Dictionary of Linguistic Varieties in Iran” (if you have a chance – buy it! It’s really a great resource) by dr. Iran Kalbassi. To make the differences of pronunciation more visible, I use my own transcription in Latin rather than Perso-Arabic script.

First the literary language (ie. standard Persian, which is not normally spoken):

ruzi yek mard va yek sarbāz hamrāh budand. sarbāz kuze’i dāsht ke dar ān māst bud. u be mard goft: kuze rā bardār va tā deh biyāvar, man do gharān be to mideham.

Now, the same as it would be spoken by a Tehrani:

ye ruz ye mardi-yo ye sarbāz bā ham budan. sarbāze kuze’i dāshtesh ke tush mās budesh. un be marde goftesh kuza ro bardār-o tā deh biyār, man do zār behet midam

For comparison – Esfahani version:

ye ruz ye mard-ā ye sarbāz bā ham budan. sarbāze kuzey dāsh ke tush mās bud. un be mard-e gof kuze rā vardār-ā tā de biyār, man do gherun bed midam.

I hope you can see that Tehrani and Esfahani versions are closer to each other than either of them is to the literary language.

Let’s see if this holds for other regional accents as well:


ye ruzi ye mard-o ye sarbāzi bo ham budan. sarbāzu ye kuzey dosh ke tush mās bud. u be mardu gof kuzow re vardor, to de biyār, man do qqerun behet midam.


yeg ruz yeg mard-o yeg sarbāz bā ham budan. sarbāze yeg kuze dāsht ke tush māst bud. u be marde goft, kuza re bardār-o tā deh biyār, mo do gherun behet modom.


ya ru yattā mard-o yattā sarbāz bā’am budan. sarbāze yattā kuze dāsh ke tush mās bud. u bere mardeke gof kuze ro vardār-o tā de biyār man do qerunet medam

Now a comparison with non-Persian Iranian languages:

Khorramabadi Lori (as an example of Lori dialects ie. non-Persian, but still South-West Iranian):

ruzi ye piyā va ye sarvāz vā yak bin. sarvāz kize’i dāsh ke de va mās bi. u ve u piyā got kizane verdār va tā ābādi biyār. me dö ghero ve tö mem

Semnani (one of so-called ‘central dialects’ only distantly related to Persian):

 i ru i mirdekā vo i sarbāz homrā beben. sarbāzi iya kollā derd ko dela māst duritbesh. żö ra bātesh ena kollā veyr o tā kelāta mö ra biyār, a do gharön ta medun

Rashti (a dialect of Gilaki, a North-West Iranian language but under heavy Persian influence)

ita ruz ita mərday o ita sərbāz bā ham esəbid. sərbāz ita kuzə dashti ke une miyan māst dubu. un mərdaya bogoftə kuzəya usana tā deh bavəra mən du ghərān tə rā fādəma

I’m fully aware that the above is not a lot of information (but still – I haven’t seen anything like it on the web so far) and surely it raises more questions than answers. Additional notes and explanations are needed practically for all the versions, sometimes explaining their grammar, sometimes – their sociolinguistics (eg. what’s quoted here under Semnani is not what you will hear most when in Semnan – locally-accented Persian is more common on the streets). These will hopefully follow, along with yet more examples, as well as short descriptions of peculiarities of particular accents, dialects and languages.

Oh, nearly forgot, the meaning of the text is:

One day, a man was (walking) with a soldier. The soldier had a jug with yoghurt in it. He said to the man: take the jug and carry it to the village (for me) and I will give you two qrans (a kind of coin).