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Learn the Dari Language & Culture

Overview of the Dari Language

Dari, sometimes also called Dari Persian, is one of the official languages of Afghanistan, along with Pashto. The people who speak Dari are concentrated largely in the north and center parts of the country, as well as the capital, but the Dari language also functions as a lingua franca among many of Afghanistan's diverse inhabitants. In addition, it serves as the language of business and higher education in much of the country, and as such carries great prestige.

Dari is a member of the West Iranian branch of the Indo-European languages. Like its closest relatives, Farsi and Tajiki, Dari traces its roots to the ancient Persian language, one of the oldest known languages in the world. It also is more distantly related to Afghanistan's other main language, Pashto, which is an East Iranian language. However, some people learning Dari may be surprised to realize that despite being written in a variant of the Arabic script and having borrowed many Arabic words, Dari is not linguistically related to Arabic.

Classification of the Dari Language and Dari Vocabulary

The bulk of Dari vocabulary comes from native Iranian roots. Enough words are shared between Dari, Farsi, and Tajiki that people who speak Dari can often understand and make themselves understood to speakers of the other two languages.

Nonetheless, like most languages, Dari has also borrowed words from other languages around it. Unsurprisingly, many loanwords come from Pashto, the other official language of Afghanistan. Arabic elements are also an indispensable part of spoken and written Dari. Arabic grammar and syntax have not affected the structure of Dari to any great extent; however, the influence of Arabic on Dari vocabulary has been enormous. More recently, there has been an influx English borrowings, many of which are simply sounded out phonetically in the Dari script. Loanwords from Indian and Turkic languages are also present.

Dari has given words to other languages as well. The exchange with Pashto goes both ways, for example, especially since it is not uncommon for Afghani Pashto speakers to learn Dari as well. Dari has also contributed vocabulary words to a number of South Asian languages, such as Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, and Bengali.

The Dari Alphabet and Dari Pronunciation

The Dari alphabet is based on the Arabic alphabet, although it has four additional letters that do not exist in Arabic. The Dari alphabet consists of 32 letters in total. Some letters represent sounds that are familiar to English speakers, while others represent sounds that are not used in English. People who are trying to learn Dari pronunciation should pay particular attention to the unfamiliar sounds.

The Dari language is usually written using only consonants and long vowels. There are small diacritic marks which can be used above or below letters to indicate short vowels, but these marks are normally used only by children or by people learning Dari as a foreign language. To master Dari pronunciation, however, it is important to remember that the short vowels are pronounced even though they are usually not written.

Dari text is written in a flowing script that runs from right to left, the opposite of English. Dari letters do not have capital and lowercase forms. However, most Dari letters connect to the letters preceding and following them, just as in English cursive writing. Due to these connections, letters often change shape depending on their placement within a word. In general, each letter will have one shape at the beginning of a word, another shape in the middle of a word, a third shape at the end of a word, and a fourth shape when it occurs by itself.

Dari Grammar

Learning Dari grammar is comparatively simple. Gender, noun inflection, agreement of adjectives, irregular verb conjugations - all of those things that can be so challenging to master in some languages - are absent from Dari. However, the syntax (the ordering of words in a sentence) of Dari is fixed and therefore important. The most common word order for a Dari sentence is Subject-Object-Verb. Verbs are conjugated by adding prefixes and suffixes to indicate tense, mood, and person. Dari adjectives usually follow the nouns they modify. The nouns themselves have singular, plural, and dual forms.

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