Role in Society
Persian, until recent centuries, was culturally and historically one of the most prominent languages of the Middle East and regions beyond. For example, it was an important language during the reign of the Moguls in Indian where knowledge of Persian was cultivated and encouraged; its use in the courts of Mogul India ended in 1837, banned by officials of the East Indian Company (British Colonialism). Persian scholars were prominent in both Turkish and Indian courts during the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries in composing dictionaries and grammatical works. A Persian Indian vernacular developed and many colonial British officers learned their Persian from Indian scribes.
Persian is the first language of about 55 percent of the population in Iran, and is the country’s official language. It is the language of government, the media, and school instruction. Of the rest of Iran’s population, 20 percent speak related Western Iranian languages and 25 percent speak Arabic, New Aramaic, Armenian, Georgian, Romany, and Turkic languages.
In Afghanistan, Dari Persian, along with Pashtu, are official languages of the country. The language is taught in schools and radio Afghanistan is promoting a standardized pronunciation of the literary language. The Persian spoken in Teheran serves as a model for more formal styles, but some colloquial styles are closer to Tajik. Only minor lexical differences exist between the literary forms used in Iran and Afghanistan. Although both Pashtu and Dari are official languages, Dari has a special social status in the country because of its historical prestige; it is the preferred language for communication among speakers of different linguistic backgrounds.
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