Dari Language Blog

Roots of Arabic in Dari Posted by on Mar 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

Dari, the official language of Afghanistan, is a flexible language with a vast vocabulary. New words and phrases are constantly coined and compound verbs are formed that incorporate new words. Like many other languages, this flexibility has allowed Dari to borrow words from other languages, among them Urdu, Turkish, Latin, and English. The primary contributor to Dari vocabulary, however, has been Arabic.

Dari uses the Perso-Arabic alphabet. For novices to the Dari language it is very easy to confuse the Arabic and Dari (or Persian) script. Letters from the Arabic alphabet form the basis of the Dari alphabet; a few more letters are then added to produce the sounds specific to Dari, including  پ , چ , ژ , and گ. Because of the similarity of the Dari and Arabic scripts, native Dari speakers are able to read some Arabic texts and even understand many Arabic words.

One significant reason that Arabic has played a leading role in the Dari language is due to the coming of Islam to Dari/Persian-speaking lands. The arrival of Islamic education provided by the mosque ensured that Arabic would be an integral aspect of education in Afghanistan and other Persian-speaking lands. Religious education is extremely important in Afghanistan – specifically, the study of the Qu’ran in its original Arabic text. As the country continues to overcome barriers to providing public education for all Afghan children, in many places the only opportunity for an education is through the local mosque. Mosques have provided religious education to many Afghan citizens, and these Afghans tend to use more words with Arabic roots, due to the focus of studying Qu’ranic Arabic in the mosque.

The import of Arabic words did not change the structure of  Dari language; rather, Dari used its own structure to adopt the foreign words. For example, students of Dari will begin to observe the frequency of compound verbs that have Arabic roots, while Dari retains its own rules for grammar and conjugation. Dari particles such asکردن  (kardan – to do) make it very easy to form compound verbs using nouns and adjectives from many languages. Here are just a few examples of Dari words with Arabic roots:

جمع کردن to collect/gather
وعده کردن to promise
معامله transaction
دعوت کردن to invite
عبادت worship
صبر patience
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