Farsi and Dari: Divergent Dialects

There is power in naming a language in the context of its own culture. And we want to put that power in our user’s hands.

In addition to updating existing language names to respect local cultures, we also want to provide choices for speakers whose language has more than one name.

Dari and Farsi are two dialects of the Persian language. In written form, Dari and Farsi can be considered mutually intelligible due to their similar grammar and syntax. However, their spoken forms differ in vocabulary, pronunciation, and history.

To give our users this choice, Amara’s integration with Vimeo now supports exporting subtitles labeled Dari [prs] to Vimeo, in addition to subtitles labeled Farsi [fa-af].

Note: Since Vimeo only supports Farsi, there are limitations:

  • Dari subtitles exported from Amara will still show up as [fa-af] on Vimeo
  • If a video on Amara has both Farsi and Dari tracks, only Farsi will export to Vimeo

Persian Language Differences:

Language differences come in many forms: vocabulary, pronunciation, and national borders (to name just a few). As cultures grow and change, so do their languages. As Dari evolved, for example, it adopted words from Pashto, Urdu, and English. While Farsi created its own vocabulary in modern fields like medicine and computer science, Dari used English words like “hardware, processor, and software.”

Vowel pronunciation also differs between Dari and Farsi, making the distinction between the two language forms very important for video audiences. For example, Farsi merged majhul vowels ( ē / ī and ō / ū in International Phonetic Alphabet) while Dari kept them separate.

Dari and Farsi have different vocabulary for common household items (like chair, eraser, hammer and pepper), so speakers of Dari and Farsi can have some difficulty understanding each other in casual settings. However, in formal settings like news reports or educational media, there is a greater chance of understanding between Dari and Farsi speakers.

Persian Language History:

Originally called “Parsi,” the Persian language belongs to the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European family of languages. This language existed long before any of its current speakers’ countries were founded. Let us take a look at how Persian has evolved through conquest, linguistics, and policy.

In Old Persian, speakers named their own language: “Pārsa.” Over the Aegean Sea, the Greeks Hellinized the name: Περσίς (or “Persís”). Through further trade and conquest, the name was Latinized: “Persian/Persa/Persane/Persisch” and this is how speakers of Western languages historically referred to the Persian language.

“Farsi” is an Arabicized name of the Persian language adopted in 1st millenium AD after the Arab conquest of Iran. Standard Arabic did not contain the phoneme /p/, so the /p/ was changed to /f/. Farsi is the official language of Iran.

In the 20th century, the Afghan government changed the language’s official name from “Farsi” to “Dari” to make a distinction from the Iranian usage of the Persian language. Today, Dari is an official language of Afghanistan, along with Pashto.

Farsi and Dari evolved around divergent cultural and political boundaries, but they have a shared history. It is important that we can use the names we identify with for our own languages. But let us not forget this history or the names that came before. It can be an enlightening journey to trace languages from the farthest branches all the way back to its roots.


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