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What Language Do They Speak in Iran?

What Language Do They Speak in Iran

Iran, known as Persia until 1935, is a country of cultural richness and ancient history that goes back thousands of years. Situated at the crossroads of the Middle East, Iran has been a significant player in the region’s historical, political, and cultural developments. A key aspect of its cultural identity is the languages spoken within its borders. This article delves into the linguistic landscape of Iran, exploring the predominant language, Farsi, as well as other languages spoken across different regions.

Key Takeaway Table

Predominant LanguagePersian (Farsi)
Other LanguagesAzerbaijani, Kurdish, Lori, Mazanderani, Gilaki, Balochi, Arabic, and others
ScriptPerso-Arabic script
Official LanguagePersian (Farsi)
Number of Native Persian SpeakersApproximately 60 million
Linguistic HeritageIndo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family

The Predominant Language: Persian (Farsi)

Persian, also known as Farsi, is the predominant language spoken in Iran. It’s an Indo-European language which traces its linguistic roots back to the ancient languages of the region. Persian has played a vital role in the literary, cultural, and scientific heritage of the Iranian people.

Historical Evolution

The historical evolution of Persian is typically divided into three main phases:

  1. Old Persian (600 BCE – 300 BCE): This period marked the initial phase of the Persian language, which was used in the Achaemenid Empire.
  2. Middle Persian (300 BCE – 800 CE): Also known as Pahlavi, Middle Persian was the official language of the Sassanian Empire.
  3. Modern Persian (800 CE – Present): The language underwent significant developments during this phase, adopting a vast number of Arabic words and evolving into the modern variant spoken today.

Dialects of Persian

Persian dialects vary primarily based on geographical regions. Here’s a table illustrating the major dialects and their respective regions.

TehraniTehran and surrounding areas
KermaniKerman Province
YazdiYazd Province

Linguistic Diversity

Iran is home to a plethora of languages reflecting the country’s ethnic and cultural diversity. The linguistic landscape is a mirror to the historical migrations, invasions, and trade relations that have shaped modern-day Iran.


A significant number of people in Iran speak Azerbaijani, especially in the northwestern regions. It’s a Turkic language that shares many elements with Turkish.


Kurdish is predominantly spoken in the western regions of Iran, where the Kurdish ethnic group resides.

Other Regional Languages

Other regional languages include Lori, Mazanderani, Gilaki, Balochi, and Arabic. Here’s a brief list of these languages and the regions where they’re predominantly spoken:

  • Lori: Western Iran
  • Mazanderani and Gilaki: Northern Iran along the Caspian Sea
  • Balochi: Southeastern Iran
  • Arabic: Southwestern Iran

The Script: Perso-Arabic Script

Persian is written using a modified version of the Arabic script, known as the Perso-Arabic script. It has a few additional letters to accommodate Persian phonetics.

Adaptation and Characteristics

The adaptation of the Arabic script occurred around the 9th century, coinciding with the Islamic conquest of Persia. Over the centuries, this script has become an integral part of Persian identity.

  1. Alphabet: The Perso-Arabic script consists of 32 letters.
  2. Direction: It’s written and read from right to left.
  3. Diacritical Marks: These marks are used to indicate vowel sounds and differentiate letters with similar shapes.

Language Policies and Education

Language policies in Iran have historically favored Persian. It’s the medium of instruction in schools and the language of official communication. However, the government recognizes the importance of linguistic diversity and has provisions for the use of regional languages in local media and education.

Iran’s rich linguistic tapestry is a reflection of its diverse cultural heritage. The languages spoken across its vast territory tell tales of ancient civilizations, empires, and the historical melding of cultures.