Tajik Language
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Tajik Language
"Tajik", written in Cyrillic (T) and Nastaliq ().svg
"Tojik?" written in Cyrillic script and Persian (Nasta?l?q script)
Native toTajikistan and Uzbekistan
Native speakers
8.1 million (6.4 million in Tajikistan, 2012 UNSD) (2012)[1]
Cyrillic, Latin, Persian (historically), Tajik Braille
Official status
Official language in
Recognised minority
language in
Language codes
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Tajik or Tajiki (Tajik: ? ?, zaboni tojik?, [za'b?ni t?d?i'ki]),[3] also called Tajiki Persian (Tajik: ? ?, forsii tojik?, [f?r'siji t?d?i'ki]) (Persian: Tajik or Tadzhik) and Tadzhiki, is the variety of Persian spoken in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan by Tajiks. It is closely related to neighboring Dari Persian with which it forms a continuum of mutually intelligible varieties. Since the beginning of the twentieth century and independence of Tajikistan from the Soviet Union, Tajik has been considered by a number of writers and researchers to be a variety of Persian.[4][5][6][clarification needed] The popularity of this conception of Tajik as a variety of Persian was such that, during the period in which Tajik intellectuals were trying to establish Tajik as a language separate from Persian language, Sadriddin Ayni, who was a prominent intellectual and educator, made a statement that Tajik was not a "bastardized dialect" of Persian.[7] The issue of whether Tajik and Persian are to be considered two dialects of a single language or two discrete languages[8] has political sides to it (see Perry 1996).[7]

By way of Early New Persian, Tajiki Persian, like Iranian Persian and Dari Persian, is a continuation of Middle Persian, the official religious and literary language of the Sasanian Empire (224-651 CE), itself a continuation of Old Persian, the language of the Achaemenids (550-330 BC).[9][10][11][12]

Tajik is the official language of Tajikistan. In Afghanistan (where the Tajik people minority forms the principal part of the wider Persophone population), this language is less influenced by Turkic languages, is regarded as a form of Dari and as such has co-official language status. The Tajik of Tajikistan has diverged from Persian as spoken in Afghanistan and Iran due to political borders, geographical isolation, the standardization process and the influence of Russian and neighboring Turkic languages. The standard language is based on the northwestern dialects of Tajik (region of old major city of Samarqand), which have been somewhat influenced by the neighboring Uzbek language as a result of geographical proximity. Tajik also retains numerous archaic elements in its vocabulary, pronunciation and grammar that have been lost elsewhere in the Persophone world, in part due to its relative isolation in the mountains of Central Asia.


Up to and including the nineteenth century, speakers in Afghanistan and Central Asia had no separate name for the language and simply regarded themselves as speaking "Farsi" which is the endonym for the Persian language. The term "Tajik", derived from the Persian for "foreigner", was an exonym used by Turkic speakers to refer to Persian speakers (the word Tat has a similar origin), though since adopted by the speakers themselves.[13]

In 1989, with the growth in Tajik nationalism, a law was enacted declaring Tajik the state language. In addition, the law officially equated Tajik with Persian, placing the word Farsi (the endonym for the Persian language) after Tajik. The law also called for a gradual reintroduction of the Perso-Arabic alphabet.[14][15][16][17][18][19][20][21][22][23][24][25]

In 1999, the word Farsi was removed from the state-language law.[2]

Geographical distribution

The most important cities of Central Asia--Samarkand and Bukhara--are in present-day Uzbekistan, where ethnic Tajiks comprise a majority.[26][27] Today, virtually all Tajik speakers in Bukhara are bilingual in Tajik and Uzbek.[] This Tajik-Uzbek bilingualism has had a strong influence on the phonology, morphology, and syntax of Bukharan Tajik.[28] Tajiks are also found in large numbers in the Surxondaryo Region in the south and along Uzbekistan's eastern border with Tajikistan. Tajik is still widely spoken in Samarqand and Bukhara today, as Tajiks account for perhaps 70% of the total population of Samarqand and have been estimated to make up as much as 90% of Bukhara.[29][30]

Official statistics in Uzbekistan state that the Tajik community comprises 5% of the nation's total population.[31] However, these numbers do not include ethnic Tajiks who, for a variety of reasons, choose to identify themselves as Uzbeks in population census forms.[32] During the Soviet "Uzbekisation" supervised by Sharof Rashidov, the head of the Uzbek Communist Party, Tajiks had to choose either to stay in Uzbekistan and get registered as Uzbek in their passports or leave the republic for the less-developed agricultural and mountainous Tajikistan.[33] The "Uzbekization" movement ended in 1924.[34] Native Tajiks living in the nation of Uzbekistan have reportedly estimated that Tajiks make up 25%-35% of the nation's population.[29]

Tajiks constitute 80% of Tajikistan's population, and the language dominates in most parts of the country. Some Tajiks in Gorno-Badakhshan in southeastern Tajikistan, where the Pamir languages are the native languages of most residents, are bilingual. Tajiks are the dominant ethnic group in Northern Afghanistan as well, and are also the majority group in scattered pockets elsewhere in the country, particularly urban areas such as Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif, Kunduz, Ghazni and Herat. Tajiks constitute between 25% and 35% of the total population of the country. In Afghanistan, the dialects spoken by ethnic Tajiks are written using the Persian alphabet and referred to as Dari, along with the dialects of other groups in Afghanistan such as the Hazaragi and Aimaq dialects. Approximately 48%-58% of Afghan citizens are native speakers of Dari.[35] A large Tajik-speaking diaspora exists due to the instability that has plagued Central Asia in recent years, with significant numbers of Tajiks found in Russia, Kazakhstan, and beyond. This Tajik diaspora is also the result of the poor state of the economy of Tajikistan, and each year approximately one million men leave Tajikistan in order to gain employment in Russia.[36]


Tajik dialects can be approximately split into the following groups:

  1. Northern dialects (Northern Tajikistan, Bukhara, Samarkand, Kyrgyzstan, and the Varzob valley region of Dushanbe).[37]
  2. Central dialects (dialects of the upper Zarafshan Valley)[37]
  3. Southern dialects (South and East of Dushanbe, Kulob, and the Rasht region of Tajikistan)[37]
  4. Southeastern dialects (dialects of the Darvoz region and the Amu Darya near Rushon)[37]

The dialect used by the Bukharan Jews of Central Asia is known as the Bukhori dialect and belongs to the northern dialect grouping. It is chiefly distinguished by the inclusion of Hebrew terms, principally religious vocabulary, and a historical use of the Hebrew alphabet. Despite these differences, Bukhori is readily intelligible to other Tajik-speakers, particularly speakers of northern dialects.

A very important moment in the development of the contemporary Tajik, especially of the spoken language, is the tendency in changing its dialectal orientation. The dialects of Northern Tajikistan were the foundation of the prevalent standard Tajik, while the Southern dialects did not enjoy either popularity or prestige. Now all politicians and public officials make their speeches in the Kulob dialect, which is also used in broadcasting.[38]



The table below lists the six vowel phonemes in standard, literary Tajik. Letters from the Tajik Cyrillic alphabet are given first, followed by IPA transcription. Local dialects frequently have more than the six seen below.

Tajik vowels [39]
Front Central Back
Close ?, ?
Mid ?
Open ?

In central and southern dialects, /?/ merges with /u/.[40]

The open back vowel has varyingly been described as mid-back,[41][42][?],[43][?],[7] and [?:].[44] It is analogous to standard Persian â (long a).


The Tajik language contains 24 consonants, 16 of which form contrastive pairs by voicing: [?/?] [?/?] [?/?] [?/?] [?/?] [?/?] [?/?] [?/?].[39] The table below lists the consonant phonemes in standard, literary Tajik. Letters from the Tajik Cyrillic alphabet are given first, followed by IPA transcription.

Labial Dental/
Post-Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal ?
Stop ? ?
/p b/
? ?
/t d/
? ?
/t? d?/
? ?
/k ?/
Fricative ? ?
/f v/
? ?
/s z/
? ?
/? ?/
? ?
/? ?/
Approximant ?
Trill ?

Word stress

Word stress generally falls on the first syllable in finite verb forms and on the last syllable in nouns and noun-like words.[39] Examples of where stress does not fall on the last syllable are adverbs like (bale, meaning "yes") and ? (zero, meaning "because"). Stress also does not fall on enclitics, nor on the marker of the direct object.


The word order of Tajiki Persian is subject-object-verb. Tajik Persian grammar is almost identical to the classical Persian grammar (and the grammar of modern varieties such as Iranian Persian), although there are notable differences.[45] The most notable difference between classical Persian grammar and Tajik Persian grammar is the construction of the present progressive tense in each language. In Tajik, the present progressive form consists of a present progressive participle, from the verb ? istodan 'to stand', and a cliticized form of the verb -ac? -ast 'to be'.[7]

? -
man maktub navi?ta istoda-am
I letter write be
'I am writing a letter.'

In Classical Persian, the present progressive form consists of the verb d?r 'to have' followed by a conjugated verb in either the simple present tense, the habitual past tense, or the habitual past perfect tense.[46]

man d?r-am k?r kon-am
I have work do
'I am working.'


Nouns are not marked for grammatical gender, although they are marked for number.

Two forms of number exist in Tajik, singular and plural. The plural is marked by either the suffix - -ho or - -on (with contextual variants - -yon and - -gon), although Arabic loan words may use Arabic forms. There is no definite article, but the indefinite article exists in the form of the number "one" yak, and -? -e, the first positioned before the noun and the second joining the noun as a suffix. When a noun is used as a direct object, it is marked by the suffix - -ro, e.g. (Rustam-ro zadam), "I hit Rustam". This direct object suffix is added to the word after any plural suffixes. The form - can be literary or formal. In older forms of the Persian language, - could indicate both direct and indirect objects and some phrases used in modern Persian and Tajik have maintained this suffix on indirect objects, as seen in the following example: ( ? Xudo-ro ?ukr - "Thank God"). Modern Persian does not use the direct object marker as a suffix on the noun, but rather, as a stand-alone morpheme.[39]


Simple prepositions
Tajik English
(az) from, through, across
(ba) to
(bar) on, upon, onto
(be) without
(bo) with
(dar) at, in
(to) up to, as far as, until
(?un) like, as


Tajik is conservative in its vocabulary, retaining numerous terms that have long since fallen into disuse in Iran and Afghanistan, such as (arziz), meaning "tin", and (farbeh), meaning "fat". Most modern loan words in Tajik come from Russian as a result of the position of Tajikistan within the Soviet Union. The vast majority of these Russian loanwords which have entered the Tajik language through the fields of socioeconomics, technology, and government, where most of the concepts and vocabulary of these fields have been borrowed from the Russian language. The introduction of Russian loanwords into the Tajik language was largely justified under the Soviet policy of modernization and the necessary subordination of all languages to Russian for the achievement of a Communist state.[47] Vocabulary also comes from the geographically close Uzbek language and, as is usual in Islamic countries, from Arabic. Since the late 1980s, an effort has been made to replace loanwords with native equivalents, using either old terms that had fallen out of use, or coined terminology. Many of the coined terms for modern items such as (garmkunak), meaning 'heater' and (?angka?ak), meaning 'vacuum cleaner' differ from their Afghan and Iranian equivalents, adding to the difficulty in intelligibility between Tajik and other forms of Persian.

In the table below, Persian refers to the standard language of Iran, which differs somewhat from the Dari Persian of Afghanistan. Two other Iranian languages, Pashto and Kurdish (Kurmanji), have also been included for comparative purposes.






Other Iranian languages
















shin, z?rghun
Kurdish (Kurmanji) meh xwî?k ?ev poz sisê, sê re? sor zer kesk gur
Other Indo-European languages
English month new mother sister night nose three black red yellow green wolf
Armenian ?




















krasnyi, ryzhyi


Writing system

Tajik Republic's 1929 coat of arms with Tajik language in Perso-Arabic script ? ?

In Tajikistan and other countries of the former Soviet Union, Tajik Persian is currently written in Cyrillic script, although it was written in the Latin script beginning in 1928 and the Arabic alphabet prior to 1928. In the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic, the use of the Latin script was later replaced in 1939 by the Cyrillic script.[48] The Tajik alphabet added six additional letters to the Cyrillic script inventory and these additional letters are distinguished in the Tajik orthography by the use of diacritics.[49] In an interview to Iranian news media in 2008, Tajikistan's deputy culture minister said Tajikistan would study the issue of switching its Tajik alphabet from Cyrillic to Perso-Arabic script used in Iran and Afghanistan when the government feels that "the Tajik people become familiar with the Persian alphabet".[50]


According to many scholars, the New Persian language (which subsequently evolved into the Persian forms spoken in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan) developed in Transoxiana and Khorasan, in what are today parts of Afghanistan, Iran, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. While the New Persian language was descended primarily from Middle Persian, it also incorporated substantial elements of other Iranian languages of ancient Central Asia, such as Sogdian.

Following the Arab conquest of Iran and most of Central Asia in the 8th century AD, Arabic for a time became the court language, and Persian and other Iranian languages were relegated to the private sphere. In the 9th century AD, following the rise of the Samanids, whose state was centered around the cities of Bukhoro (Buxoro), Samarqand and Herat, and covered much of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and northeastern Iran, New Persian emerged as the court language and swiftly displaced Arabic. Arabic influence continued to show itself in the form of the Perso-Arabic script used to write the language (replaced in Tajik by Latin and then Cyrillic in the 20th century) and a large number of Arabic loanwords.

New Persian became the lingua franca of Central Asia for centuries, although it eventually lost ground to the Chaghatai language in much of its former domains as a growing number of Turkic tribes moved into the region from the east. Since the 16th century AD, Tajik has come under increasing pressure from neighboring Turkic languages. Once spoken in areas of Turkmenistan, such as Merv, Tajik is today virtually non-existent in that country. Uzbek has also largely replaced Tajik in most areas of modern Uzbekistan. Nevertheless, Tajik persisted in pockets, notably in Samarqand, Bukhoro and Surxondaryo Province, as well as in much of what is today Tajikistan.

The Russian Empire in Russian Turkestan implemented Turkification upon the Ferghana and Sarmakand Tajiks replacing the Tajik language with Uzbek resulting in an Uzbek dominant speaking Samarkand whereas decades before Tajik was the dominant language in Samarkand.[51]

The creation of the Tajik Soviet Socialist Republic within the Soviet Union in 1929 helped to safeguard the future of Tajik, as it became an official language of the republic alongside Russian. Still, substantial numbers of Tajik-speakers remained outside the borders of the republic, mostly in the neighboring Uzbek Soviet Socialist Republic, which created a source of tension between Tajiks and Uzbeks. Neither Samarqand nor Bukhoro was included in the nascent Tajik S.S.R., despite their immense historical importance in Tajik history. After the creation of the Tajik S.S.R., a large number of ethnic Tajiks from the Uzbek S.S.R. migrated there, particularly to the region of the capital, Dushanbe, exercising a substantial influence in the republic's political, cultural and economic life. The influence of this influx of ethnic Tajik immigrants from the Uzbek S.S.R. is most prominently manifested in the fact that literary Tajik is based on their northwestern dialects of the language, rather than the central dialects that are spoken by the natives in the Dushanbe region and adjacent areas.

After the fall of the Soviet Union and Tajikistan's independence in 1991, the government of Tajikistan has made substantial efforts to promote the use of Tajik in all spheres of public and private life. Tajik is gaining ground among the once-Russified upper classes, and continues its role as the vernacular of the majority of the country's population. There has been a rise in the number of Tajik publications. Increasing contact with media from Iran and Afghanistan, after decades of isolation under the Soviets, is also having an effect on the development of the language.

See also


  1. ^ Tajik/Tajiki at Ethnologue (23nd ed., 2020)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Tajik". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ "Tajik".
  4. ^ Lazard, G. 1989
  5. ^ Halimov 1974: 30-31
  6. ^ Oafforov 1979: 33
  7. ^ a b c d Shinji ldo. Tajik. Published by UN COM GmbH 2005 (LINCOM EUROPA)
  8. ^ Studies pertaining to the association between Tajik and Persian include Amanova (1991), Kozlov (1949), Lazard (1970), Rozenfel'd (1961) and Wei-Mintz (1962). The following papers/presentations focus on specific aspects of Tajik and their historical modern Persian counterparts: Cejpek (1956), Jilraev (1962), Lorenz (1961, 1964), Murav'eva (1956), Murav'eva and Rubinl!ik (1959), Ostrovskij (1973) and Sadeghi (1991).
  9. ^ Lazard, Gilbert 1975, "The Rise of the New Persian Language"
  10. ^ in Frye, R. N., The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 4, pp. 595-632, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  11. ^ Frye, R. N., "Dar?", The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Brill Publications, CD version
  12. ^ Richard Foltz, A History of the Tajiks: Iranians of the East, London: Bloomsbury, 2019, pp. 2-5.
  13. ^ Ben Walter, Gendering Human Security in Afghanistan in a Time of Western Intervention (Routledge 2017), p. 51: for more details, see the article on Tajik people.
  14. ^ ed. Ehteshami 2002, p. 219.
  15. ^ ed. Malik 1996, p. 274.
  16. ^ Banuazizi & Weiner 1994, p. 33.
  17. ^ Westerlund & Svanberg 1999, p. 186.
  18. ^ ed. Gillespie & Henry 1995, p. 172.
  19. ^ Badan 2001, p. 137.
  20. ^ Winrow 1995, p. 47.
  21. ^ Parsons 1993, p. 8.
  22. ^ RFE/RL, inc, RFE/RL Research Institute 1990, p. 22.
  23. ^ Middle East Institute (Washington, D.C.) 1990, p. 10.
  24. ^ Ochsenwald & Fisher 2010, p. 416.
  25. ^ Gall 2009, p. 785.
  26. ^ B. Rezvani: "Ethno-territorial conflict and coexistence in the Caucasus, Central Asia and Fereydan. Appendix 4: Tajik population in Uzbekistan" ([1]). Dissertation. Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, University of Amsterdam. 2013
  27. ^ Paul Bergne: The Birth of Tajikistan. National Identity and the Origins of the Republic. International Library of Central Asia Studies. I.B. Tauris. 2007. Pg. 106
  28. ^ Shinji Ido. Bukharan Tajik. Muenchen: LINCOM EUROPA 2007
  29. ^ a b Richard Foltz, "The Tajiks of Uzbekistan", Central Asian Survey, 15(2), 213-216 (1996).
  30. ^ "Uzbekistan".
  31. ^ Uzbekistan. The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency (December 13, 2007). Retrieved on 2007-12-26.
  32. ^ See for example the Country report on Uzbekistan, released by the United States Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor here.
  33. ^ Rahim Masov, The History of the Clumsy Delimitation, Irfon Publ. House, Dushanbe, 1991 (in Russian). English translation: The History of a National Catastrophe, transl. Iraj Bashiri, 1996.
  34. ^ http://www.angelfire.com/rnb/bashiri/Masov/MasovHistoryNationalCatastrophe.pdf
  35. ^ "Afghanistan v. Languages". Ch. M. Kieffer. Encyclopædia Iranica, online ed. Retrieved 2010. Persian (2) is the language most spoken in Afghanistan. The native tongue of twenty five percent of the population ...
  36. ^ "Tajikistan's missing men | Tajikistan | al Jazeera".
  37. ^ a b c d Windfuhr, Gernot. "Persian and Tajik." The Iranian Languages. New York, NY: Routledge, 2009. 421
  38. ^ E.K. Sobirov (Institute of Linguistics, Russian Academy of Sciences). On learning the vocabulary of the Tajik language in modern times, p. 115.
  39. ^ a b c d Khojayori, Nasrullo, and Mikael Thompson. Tajiki Reference Grammar for Beginners. Washington, DC: Georgetown UP, 2009.
  40. ^ A Beginners' Guide to Tajiki by Azim Baizoyev and John Hayward, Routledge, London and New York, 2003, p. 3
  41. ^ Lazard, G. 1956
  42. ^ Perry, J. R. (2005)
  43. ^ Nakanishi, Akira, Writing Systems of the World
  44. ^ Korotkow, M. (2004)
  45. ^ Perry, J. R. 2005
  46. ^ Windfuhr, Gernot. Persian Grammar: History and State of Its Study. De Gruyter, 1979. Trends in Linguistics. State-Of-The-Art Reports.
  47. ^ Marashi, Mehdi, and Mohammad Ali Jazayery. Persian Studies in North America: Studies in Honor of Mohammad Ali Jazayery. Bethesda, MD: Iran, 1994.
  48. ^ Windfuhr, Gernot. "Persian and Tajik." The Iranian Languages. New York, NY: Routledge, 2009. 420.
  49. ^ Windfuhr, Gernot. "Persian and Tajik." The Iranian Languages. New York, NY: Routledge, 2009. 423.
  50. ^ "Tajikistan may consider using Persian script when the conditions are met", interview of Tajikistan's Deputy Culture Minister with Iranian News Agency, 2 May 2008.
  51. ^ Kirill Nourzhanov; Christian Bleuer (8 October 2013). Tajikistan: A Political and Social History. ANU E Press. pp. 22-. ISBN 978-1-925021-16-5.


  • Azim Baizoyev, John Hayward: A beginner's guide to Tajiki. - 1. publ. - London [u. a.]: RoutledgeCurzon, 2004. (includes a Tajiki-English Dictionary)
  • Ido, S. (2005) Tajik ISBN 3-89586-316-5
  • Korotow, M. (2004) Tadschikisch Wort für Wort. Kauderwelsch ISBN 3-89416-347-X
  • Lazard, G. (1956) "Caractères distinctifs de la langue tadjik". Bulletin de la Société Linguistique de Paris. 52. pp. 117-186
  • Lazard, G. "Le Persan". Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum. Wiesbaden. 1989.
  • Windfuhr, G. (1987) in Comrie, B. (ed.) "Persian". The World's Major Languages. pp. 523-546
  • Perry, J. R. (2005) A Tajik Persian Reference Grammar (Boston : Brill) ISBN 90-04-14323-8
  • Rastorgueva, V. (1963) A Short Sketch of Tajik Grammar (Netherlands : Mouton) ISBN 0-933070-28-4
  • , ?. - , ?. - ?, ?. - , ?. ?. (2008) ( ?). I. ? - ?.[permanent dead link] II. ? - ?.[permanent dead link] (?).
  • Khojayori, Nasrullo, and Mikael Thompson. Tajiki Reference Grammar for Beginners. Washington, DC: Georgetown UP, 2009. ISBN 978-1-58901-269-1
  • Windfuhr, Gernot. "Persian and Tajik." The Iranian Languages. New York, NY: Routledge, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7007-1131-4
  • Windfuhr, Gernot. Persian Grammar: History and State of Its Study. De Gruyter, 1979. Trends in Linguistics. State-Of-The-Art Reports. ISBN 978-9027977748
  • Marashi, Mehdi, and Mohammad Ali Jazayery. Persian Studies in North America: Studies in Honor of Mohammad Ali Jazayery. Bethesda, MD: Iran, 1994. ISBN 978-0936347356

Further reading

External links

Wiktionary has a category on Tajik language

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