Dari (Zoroastrian)

Dari (Zoroastrian)

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Dari is a Northwestern Iranian ethnolect
Ethnolect is a variety of a language spoken by a certain ethnic/cultural subgroup and serves as a distinguishing mark of social identity. The term combines the concepts of an ethnic group and dialect....

 spoken as a first language by an estimated 8,000 to 15,000 Zoroastrians
Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster and was formerly among the world's largest religions. It was probably founded some time before the 6th century BCE in Greater Iran.In Zoroastrianism, the Creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil...

 in and around the cities of Yazd
Yazd is the capital of Yazd Province in Iran, and a centre of Zoroastrian culture. The city is located some 175 miles southeast of Isfahan. At the 2006 census, the population was 423,006, in 114,716 families....

 and Kerman
- Geological characteristics :For the Iranian paleontologists, Kerman has always been considered a fossil paradise. Finding new dinosaur footprints in 2005 has now revealed new hopes for paleontologists to better understand the history of this area.- Economy :...

 in central Iran. The ethnolect
Ethnolect is a variety of a language spoken by a certain ethnic/cultural subgroup and serves as a distinguishing mark of social identity. The term combines the concepts of an ethnic group and dialect....

 is often overlooked by linguists because the region is predominantly Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 and because Dari is primarily spoken (rarely written).

Speakers of Dari may also be found among the Irani community of South Asia with major concentrations in Karachi
Karachi is the largest city, main seaport and the main financial centre of Pakistan, as well as the capital of the province of Sindh. The city has an estimated population of 13 to 15 million, while the total metropolitan area has a population of over 18 million...

, Pakistan and Bombay, India.

Dari is also known as Gabri (sometimes Gavrŭni or Gabrōni), or Behdināni. Dari has numerous dialects. It is incomprehensible to speakers of standard Persian.


Genealogically, Dari is a member of the Northwestern Iranian language subfamily, which includes several other closely related languages, for instance, Gilaki
Gilaki language
The Gilaki language is a Caspian language, and a member of the northwestern Iranian language branch, spoken in Iran's Gīlān Province.The language is divided into three dialects: Western Gilaki, Eastern Gilaki, and Galeshi . Furthermore, the Gilaki language is closely related to Mazanderani, and the...

, Zazaki
Zazaki is an Indo-European language spoken primarily in eastern Turkey. According to Ethnologue, the language is a part of the northwestern group of the Iranian section of the Indo-European family. Zazaki shares many features, structures, and vocabulary with Gorani, Talyshi and other Caspian...

 and Balochi
Balochi language
Balochi is a Northwestern Iranian language. It is the principal language of the Baloch of Balochistan, Pakistan, eastern Iran and southern Afghanistan. It is also spoken as a second language by some Brahui. It is designated as one of nine official languages of Pakistan.-Vowels:The Balochi vowel...

. These Northwestern Iranian languages are a branch of the larger Western Iranian language group, which is in turn a subgroup of the Iranian language family.


Indigenous speakers of Dari prefer the name 'Dari', but among Iran's Muslims, the language is also known as 'Gabri'. This latter name can be considered offensive as it carries a pejorative connotation (cf. Gabr
Gabr is a New Persian term originally used to denote a Zoroastrian.Historically, gabr was a technical term synonymous with mōg, "magus", denoting a follower of Zoroastrianism, and it is with this meaning that the term is attested in very early New Persian texts such as the Shahnameh...

for details).

Dari as spoken by Iran's Zoroastrians should not be confused with the Dari
Dari (Afghanistan)
Dari or Fārsī-ye Darī in historical terms refers to the Persian court language of the Sassanids. In contemporary usage, the term refers to the dialects of modern Persian language spoken in Afghanistan, and hence known as Afghan Persian in some Western sources. It is the term officially recognized...

Persian language
Persian is an Iranian language within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and countries which historically came under Persian influence...

 dialect spoken in Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 and Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...



The Dari language has traditionally been divided into two main dialects: the variety spoken in Yazd and the one spoken in Kerman. This division of the language, based on the division of its speakers into their two main cities of residence, conceals the complexity of the actual dialectical situation. The Yazdi dialect itself has some thirty varieties, each distinct and unique to one of the Zoroastrian neighborhoods in and around Yazd. The variation amongst the Yazdi dialects is so great that, were they not for their geographic proximity, they would no doubt be classified as distinct dialects. The Kermani dialect may also contain (or may have contained at one time) a comparable level of dialectical complexity.

Endangered status

The vitality of the Dari language is being affected, or has been affected in the past, by two main types of pressure: economic
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

 and political
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...


The pressures affecting the vitality of Dari today are largely economic. In order to obtain an economic advantage, speakers are giving up their traditional language for the dominant language of Iran, Persian. Parents intentionally do not transmit Dari to their children in order that they may have what is felt to be an advantage in school and in life. The language loss can also occur more indirectly and less visibly when people move to larger urban centers or abroad in pursuit of better economic opportunities; the lack of a complete language environment in which to immerse a child decreases or completely inhibits the transmission of the language to new generations.

In past times, Dari speakers have experienced political pressures to yield up their language as well. The period since the seventh-century Muslim conquest of Persia has been a time of great persecution for the Zoroastrians of Iran. Political pressures have directly resulted in language loss when Zoroastrians have deliberately abandoned their language as a means of hiding their identity so as to escape persecution. Political pressures have also led to language loss indirectly; the oppression the Zoroastrians have been experienced under Iran’s various rulers over the past thousand or so years has driven a steady stream of Zoroastrians to more tolerant areas, mostly the capital, Tehran
Tehran , sometimes spelled Teheran, is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With an estimated population of 8,429,807; it is also Iran's largest urban area and city, one of the largest cities in Western Asia, and is the world's 19th largest city.In the 20th century, Tehran was subject to...

, or abroad. Again, a complete language environment does not exist in these places, inhibiting the transmission of Dari to new generations.

Linguists currently consider Dari to be in a state of language shift. Many of the language’s speakers have assimilated to the dominant culture of the society they live in and have given up—intentionally or unintentionally—their traditional language. Languages like Dari are transferring from a state of language maintenance, in which a language is being sustained in the face of pressure from a dominant culture, to language death, a state in which the language is no longer spoken.

Many of Dari’s dialects are facing extinction at an even more rapid pace than the language as a whole. Since each of Dari’s many dialects has a smaller community of speakers, they are more susceptible to the forces driving the language towards extinction. Some dialects have already effectively reached extinction, for example, the Mohammadabad dialect, which, it is reported, possesses only a few speakers living in Tehran. The Kerman dialect, always susceptible because of the smaller size of its Zoroastrian population, also seems to be largely lost.