Dari Language Project

About Dari

Dari, which is also known as Gabri or Behdinâni, is the traditional language of the Zoroastrians of Iran. Spoken mainly in the Yazd and Kerman regions, Dari is among Iran's most immediately imperiled languages. According to one estimate, there are only 8,000-15,000 speakers (see Ethnologue), though we believe the number to be much smaller. That number will likely decrease rapidly in coming generations, however, as parents are speaking to their children in Persian, the national language of Iran, rather than in Dari. Already, only a small proportion of Iran's Zoroastrian population speaks Dari. Like most of Iran's other regional languages, Dari is not written and is thus easily overlooked, even by contemporary linguists.

The Dari language has traditionally been divided into two main dialects: one spoken in the city of Yazd and the other in the city of Kerman. This division of the language, based on the division of its speakers into their two main cities of residence, conceals the complexity of the actual dialectical situation. The Yazd dialect is itself comprised of some dozen varieties, each distinct and unique to one of the Zoroastrian neighborhoods of that city. The variety of Dari that a Zoroastrian speaks is a source of great pride and forms an integral part of his or her identity.

Estimates suggest that more than half of the world's approximately 6,000 languages will become extinct by the end of the century. Without significant efforts to halt this advance, Dari may be numbered among those fated for death. The Dari Language Project seeks to contribute to the perpetuation of the language by creating a dictionary and archive of texts (traditional stories and narratives). While currently not accessible to the public, these resources will, in the future, be available to Dari educational programs.

Listen to an elderly Dari speaker telling a traditional story (508 kB mp3).