Persian: Why is Persian being de-Arabized?

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James Bates

Banned
Urdu
It is no surprise that as part of his effort to distance Turkey from its Islamic past the ultra-secular Ata Turk not only discarded the Arabic script but sought to rid the Turkish language of its Perso-Arabic vocabulary as well. Similarly, after centuries of Muslim rule it was only natural for Hindus to want to replace all the Arabic loanwords in Hindi with borrowings from Sanskrit, the language of their religion. It is worth mentioning that all neologisms are drawn from Sanskrit as well.

It is also no surprise that once its speakers had converted to Islam, Persian drew heavily on the language of its speakers' religion for lexical enrichment as well as for neologisms. What surprises me greatly is that in the recent past not only has Persian stopped drawing on the Arabic reservoir for enrichment and new terminology, but there in fact seems to be a move to remove the Arabic borrowings that already exist. Does anybody have any idea why? Do Iranians now disown their Islamic past? De-Arabization would certainly have made sense under the secular Shah, but it makes no sense whatsoever under the current regime. Does anybody have any idea how and why the Iranians' attitude toward Arabic has changed in the recent past?
 
  • shannenms

    Senior Member
    Persian
    I think you would get many completely different replies on this issue. To my view, the most natable motive can be easily seen when you read Persian literature. I don't know how much you know about Persian literature, its ups and downs, and Persian history since 1000 years. If you don't have such a knowledge about Persian literature and history I have to start from the scratch:D, so I wait for your reply to see where I should start.

    De-Arabization would certainly have made sense under the secular Shah, but it makes no sense whatsoever under the current regime.
    First, I don't think Shah was secular;) Second, as for the bold phrase above, I say: "Hahaha:D, you don't know from what "current regime" we are suffering".

    Best,
     

    James Bates

    Banned
    Urdu
    I must confess I know very little about Persian literature. What I do know however is that for over a millenium Persian drew heavily on Arabic.
     

    shannenms

    Senior Member
    Persian
    So I have a long way ahead to explain the matter:confused:
    Actually, I don't know where I should start from....and whether it is proper to discuss it here...Maybe we are made to continue our talk through private message. I have to wait on one hand for the moderator's consent and on the other yours. I have no idea whether the moderator allows a discussion like this, which is related to history, language or culture to continue.

    Best:)
     

    MarX

    Banned
    Indonesian, Indonesia
    So I have a long way ahead to explain the matter:confused:
    Actually, I don't know where I should start from....and whether it is proper to discuss it here...Maybe we are made to continue our talk through private message. I have to wait on one hand for the moderator's consent and on the other yours. I have no idea whether the moderator allows a discussion like this, which is related to history, language or culture to continue.

    Best:)
    I would be totally interested following your discussion!
    After all, this forum is about the history of languages. :)
     

    Frank06

    Senior Member
    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,

    The topic of this thread is clear: Why is Persian being de-Arabized? Of course, we first have to try to establish whether or not Persian is "being de-arabized" before we can arrive at the why-question.
    This topic has already been (partially) discussed in this thread.

    What this thread is
    not about:
    1. whether or not Arabic is extensively richer than Latin;
    2. whether or not excessive purification leads to impairment of the language being purified;
    3. whether or not excessive purification efforts results from a false concept of identity.

    However, any of these issues can be addressed in separate threads.

    Groetjes,

    Frank
    Moderator EHL
     
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    Alijsh

    Senior Member
    Persian - Iran
    ... Of course, we first have to try to establish whether or not Persian is "being de-arabized" before we can arrive at the why-question.
    You hit the nail on the head. No. It's not being de-Arabized (I assume it to mean officially). Some people, according to their personal taste and interest (chacun à son goût), like to use less Arabic words and even write in pure but there isn't truly any organized and official de-Arabization nor a serious and popular one at the moment. How can one expect de-Arabization from a government that makes students learn Arabic in school — which is useless and a waste of time, money, etc. for the majority in practice — and call it "the selected language of God" in the schoolbooks?!! I refuse to consider this government as a supporter of de-Arabization. It's very funny.
     
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    Flaminius

    coclea mod
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    Hello Alijsh,

    I would like to check if you are saying that there is neither official effort at de-Arabisation of existing vocabulary nor a sizeable subcultural influence that attempts the same? [I expect less Arabic influence in the mass culture in the first place]

    Now, how about new vocabulary? When a new idea warrants a new word, what is the language of choice of the people (or the government but I think the history of language is the history of common man, not heroes or politicians :) ) to draw morphemes from? Even when a new word is not created, which language is the source of borrowing? Arabic words, English words or existing Persian words taken to represent new meanings?
     

    Aydintashar

    Senior Member
    Iran, Turkish
    How can one expect de-Arabization from a government that makes students learn Arabic in school — which is useless and a waste of time, money, etc. for the majority in practice — and call it "the selected language of God" in the schoolbooks?!! I refuse to consider this government as a supporter of de-Arabization. It's very funny.
    I beg your pardon, what is wrong in forcing the pupils to learn Arabic at school in a moslem country? Take note that Arabic is also key to understanding Persian literature.
     
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    Mahaodeh

    Senior Member
    Arabic, PA and IA.
    I don't believe that teaching a certain language at school means that loan words from that language are NOT being removed from the native language. Learning an additional language is mostly (if not always) useful and it's usually adopted for reasons that have little to do with preserving the native language.
     

    Flaminius

    coclea mod
    日本語 / japāniski / יפנית
    Hello Aydintashar,

    I don't think I have heard your stance as to whether or not Persian is officially being de-Arabised but may I take your comments in #9 supra as a negative --since a compulsory education of Arabic does not serve to rid Persian of the influence of Arabic?

    Governments do what governments always do. :) In the meantime, ordinary people may have different ideas. I look forward to answers to my questions at #8 supra.
     

    James Bates

    Banned
    Urdu
    I think everybody will agree that, despite the past millennium, Persian no longer draws on Arabic for lexical enrichment. What we do not agree on is whether Persian is being de-Arabized or not. I think it is quite clear that it is.

    Just for example, the words مدرسه متوسطه and مدرسه ابتدائيه have been replaced by دبيرستان and دبستان, I think. Similarly, the names of the zodiac used to be Arabic but are now Persian. نياز داشتن is increasingly being substituted for احتياج داشتن. I think there's an effort to replace اين قدر with اين اندازه. Need I go on?
     

    lcfatima

    Senior Member
    English USA
    It may not be official state policy to de-Arabize Persian, but it is certainly a strong social movement and has been for a while, post revolution. One should not confuse the Islamic identity of modern Iran with an Arab identity. In general, Iranians are extremely proud of their ancient and rich history, including their pre-Islamic history, and proud of their language. Preferring to use Persian terms for Arabic terms is part of a wider movement to assert and affirm Iranian identity.
     

    James Bates

    Banned
    Urdu
    I see. Do you have any idea when Iranians started re-identifying with their pre-Islamic past (and perhaps disowning their Islamic past)?
     

    lcfatima

    Senior Member
    English USA
    I don't think they are disowning their Islamic past---the Iranians I am thinking of based on your query live here in Dubai and vary in religiosity, but most tend to be fairly religious. They are temporary expats and have close ties to Iran, visiting several times per year. They are not the more secular type people of the broader diaspora. From what I understand, right after the revolution, there was a big movement against Westernisms as well as romanticisimg pre-Islamic culture. In terms of the down play of the pre-Islamic culture, for example it went out of fashion to give baby names like Pedram, Rostum, etc. But now there is a revival in those things. I can't pin point when it started, I am not familiar enough with Iranian issues to know. But I can see it as a strong cultural trend among Iranians in my local community, and it is a frequent topic of discussion. Another distinction from Arabs is that women cover in a very Iranian way and it would raise eyebrows for Iranians to wear a head scarf in an Arab style, or wear an abaya for example. Things like this, combined with linguistic trends and so forth, is just more evidence for what you are talking about.

    I added input to support your notion that it is clear that de-Arabization is a linguistic trend. However, I don't think this is a break with an Islamic heritage. I think Iranian Shi'a Islam has been distinct from other forms of Islam, even other forms of the same branch of Shi'ism that are supposedly guided by Iranian Shi'ism...such as Shi'ism in Pakistan, India, or in the Arabian Gulf. I wonder if the strong cultural trend to be so distinct from Arabs is also a result of 1) they are a completely different people in the first place 2) the Iran/Iraq war, but more importantly 3) there was a strong rise anti-Shi'a and anti-Iranian sentiment in the Arab world since the 80s tied to pan-Arabism and also the rise in the dominace of thought trends from the Wahhabi/Salafi movement in the Arab world, which is a movement that does not see Shi'ism as legitimate, condemns Shi'as, and has been the backbone of anti-Shi'a animosity and oppression in certain countries. It is kind of like by embracing pre-Islamic history along with a Shi'a Islamic identity, the Iranians are snubbing those that snubbed them. They are asserting their rich history, language, and perhaps self-percieved cultural superiority. That's just my take on it.
     
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    Stranger_

    Senior Member
    Persian
    As said by others, it is not being "de-Arabized" on any official level in Iran. Sure, it has stopped from being more "Arabized" but this happened a long time ago. I think it is better to ask this:

    Should Persian:
    1. get de-Arabized
    2. more Arabized
    3. neither?

    If your answer is one or two, then why and to what extent should it get so?
     

    tarkshya

    Senior Member
    Marwari
    You revived an 8 years old thread! In that much time Persian has probably gone through two full cycles of Arabization and de-Arabization. :)
     

    James Bates

    Banned
    Urdu
    You revived an 8 years old thread! In that much time Persian has probably gone through two full cycles of Arabization and de-Arabization. :)
    I think that over the past eight years quite a bit of Arabic has been removed from Persian (such as نیاز داشتن for احتیاج داشتن and تلاش کردن for سعی کردن and واژہ for کلمہ) but none has been added.
     

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    I think two processes are at play:
    1) Replacing of Arabic words that have perfectly good Persian equivalents.
    2) Introduction of modern, scientific & technology related words, and for this group Persian, as an IE language, is much better suited, and the reasons, for this, are well documented.

    In my view, both of the above have been happening, and under both regimes, and long may it continue.
     
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    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    So, Farsi becomes Parsi? Though it may be not a word but a letter
    Step by step, yes, but let's start with less conspicuous but more urgent cases first. :)

    As you are aware the letter 'p' has been preserved in Persian, Parsee, Persicum etc., so it's reasonable and right that it should come back to the original language's name.
     

    Russkitav

    Member
    English
    2) Introduction of modern, scientific & technology related words, and for this group Persian, as an IE language, is much better suited, and the reasons, for this, are well documented.
    What do you mean by this? Are you saying that Arabic or Semitic languages by nature are less suited for creating scientific or technological words than IE languages? Elaborate.
     

    tarkshya

    Senior Member
    Marwari
    Step by step, yes, but let's start with less conspicuous but more urgent cases first. :)

    As you are aware the letter 'p' has been preserved in Persian, Parsee, Persicum etc., so it's reasonable and right that it should come back to the original language's name.
    Just don't confuse it with Parsi :)
     

    Delvo

    Senior Member
    American English
    The language's own name for itself doesn't have an F or a P. It resembles "Iran".
     

    Russkitav

    Member
    English
    The language's own name for itself doesn't have an F or a P. It resembles "Iran".
    What are you talking about? As far as I am aware, the Persian language name for the Persian language (in Iranian Persian at least) is "Parsi" or "Farsi" (the former became the latter through Arabic influence).
     

    PersoLatin

    Senior Member
    UK
    Persian - Iran
    Are you saying that Arabic or Semitic languages by nature are less suited for creating scientific or technological words than IE languages? Elaborate.
    Not quite what I said. But specifically for Arabic, yes, and only if it used to translate modern words for use in Persian. For its own use, I can not comment, I'm sure others can.

    It is quite natural for Persian to make compound words and many of the imported technology & science related words, are compound. These compounds are easy to understand by an average person, if when seen for the first time, that's not always the case, for instance, for an English speaker when encountering a modern word of Latin/Greek makeup, for the first time, and sometimes.

    Some examples: geology: zamin-šenâsi, (earth-knowledge of) , astronomy: setâré-šenâsi (star-knowledge of), or satellite, originally the all Arabic: qamare-masnuęi, (moon-man made), replaced by Persian mâhvâré (moon-like).
     
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    Ali Smith

    Senior Member
    Urdu - Pakistan
    Is it true that some Iranians are going so far as to replace the Arabic word سلام with the purely Persian درود? Actually, I think it's only secular Iranians who are doing this. As I may have stated before, it's quite clear that the more religious the speaker, the more likely s/he is to use Arabic words. The more secular the speaker, the more likely s/he is to attempt to cleanse his or her speech from Arabic loanwords. And since with each passing generation Iranian society seems to be becoming more and more secular, it's only natural that the number of Arabic loanwords will keep decreasing with each generation. Indeed, based on my experience with Iranians over the last twenty years it's become clear to me that hating Arabic has become a very integral part of secular Iranian identity, perhaps even the most defining feature of it. Whatever their differences, secular Iranians can all agree on one thing: that they wish to have nothing to do with the Arabic language and will stop at nothing to rid their language of all Arabic and Islamic influence.
     

    Treaty

    Senior Member
    Persian
    Actually, I think it's only secular Iranians who are doing this
    The word "secular" is a bit confusing, especially in the Iranian context. It can mean non-religious, only religious in its contexts, or not in line with the Iranian theocracy. It doesn't mean non-Muslim. If we are talking about people who only use this word and deliberately refrain from using سلام, there are probably not many of them. My guess is that the Persian nationalism (or identitarianism) is more in play than lack of or opposition to Islam. There are some Iranian Muslims who have a strong impression that the "correct" Islam is more an Iranian thing than Arabian (they may also suggest the root of Islam in Zoroastrianism, etc). They may still say سلام in their prayers (in Arabic) but would rarely use it in their conversations. Another group may belong to religious non-Muslim Iranians (deist, Zoroastrian, neo-Zoroastrian, spiritualist, etc.) who may favor Persian words but they are not necessarily "secular".
    Indeed, based on my experience with Iranians over the last twenty years it's become clear to me that hating Arabic has become a very integral part of secular Iranian identity, perhaps even the most defining feature of it.
    No. I don't really think most secular Iranians would care much about Arabic or Arabic loanwords (my extended family, for example, may be defined as "secular" somehow, but only one of them almost exclusively uses درود and he is not anti-Islam but "pro-Iran"). Another example is a popular and renown "secular" author, Mahmoud Dowlatabadi, who has a book romanticizing the Arab hero Amr al-Qays. The kind of anti-Arab hatred you have in mind, can be more a feature of active anti-Islamism or pro-Persian racism than being "secular". Of course, people who are actively anti-Islam are more likely to be secular in one way or another, but the opposite direction is not true.
     
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