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Indo-European Languages

The Indo-European family of languages is the largest and the most important language family in the world and speakers of these languages can be located throughout the world. On the basis of latest researches, the main branches of this family of languages are as follows:

i. Āryan comprising Indic or Indo-Āryan and Iranian;

ii. Armenian;

iii. Anatolian;

iv. Tocharian

v. Italic

vi. Venetic;

vii. Celtic;

viii. Germanic;

ix. Baltic;

x. Slavic; and

xi. Albanian.

The oldest surviving written texts from this family of languages are some documents in the Hittite language, the most important language from the Anatolian branch, some of which belong to c. 18th Century BC.

Armenian: This language is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages and is the official language of the Republic of Armenia. Besides Armenia and Iran, the speakers of this language can also be found in the Republic of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, as well as in countries like Romania, Poland, France, and the USA. The oldest written texts in this language are some inscriptions in the Greek script belonging to the 5th Century AD. Owing to the long interactions between the Armenian-speakers and the speakers of other language branches, the Armenian language has been influenced by other languages to such an extent that the phonetic structure of this language reveals a great resemblance to the Caucasian languages and a large number of words have permeated into it from the Greek, Syriac, and especially the Iranian languages. The permeation of Iranian words in this language is so remarkable that it was earlier considered to have belonged to one of branches of the Iranian languages. However, in the year 1875 AD, Hubschmann proved that the Armenian language should be regarded as an independent branch of the Indo-European languages.

The Armenian language has passed through the three, Old (5th-12th Centuries AD), Middle (12th-17th Centuries AD), and Modern (17th Century onwards) phases. The written language, called classical Armenian or “Grabar”, remained the Armenian literary language, with various changes, until the 19th century and continues to remain the canonical language of the Armenian church. The Armenian language comprises two main dialects. The dialect that is based on the language of the Arārāt region and Yeravan in particular is referred to as Eastern Armenian whereas the offshoot of the language of the Armenians of Istanbul is referred to as the Western Armenian language. The Armenian languages spoken in Iran fall under the category of Eastern Armenian languages. The main concentration of the Iranian Armenians are in the cities of Tehran, Esfahān, Tabriz, Khoie, Salmās, and Jolfa.

Some of the most important characteristics of the Armenian language are as follows:

- The stress is always on the last syllable;

- Lack of grammatical genders;

- Nouns are declined in seven cases;

- The adjective precedes the noun and is indeclinable;

- There are only two main tenses, past and present/future while the rest of the tenses are compounded from these two basic tenses;

- The normal verbal sentence word order is verb-subject-object.

The Armenian script was invented on the basis of the Greek and Syriac scripts by a Christian priest called Saint Mashtots (also called Mesrop or Mesrob) in 406 AD. In the 12th century two new phonemes were added to it for indicating “o” and “f”. The Armenians believe that before Mashtots, a Syriac bishop named “Daniel” had invented a script for their language, which went out of use since it was not suitable to the phonetics of the Armenian language.

Romani (Romano): The Romani language belongs to the Indic or Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-Iranian family of languages which is spoken mainly by gypsies (this language is different from the Romanian language which belongs to the Italic branch of languages). Gypsies are the descendents of the Rajputs of northwest India who had escaped from there after the advent of Islam in the Middle Ages and migrated to Europe via Iran and Asia Minor. Today, gypsies can be found in most of the countries of the world including Spain, Ireland, India, and even China and the Philippines. As regards the gypsies of Iran they are spread throughout the country.

The Romani language has several dialects and since the gypsies have spread throughout the world, this language has either been deeply influenced by the various regional languages, or has at times even fallen prey to them. Some linguists believe that the Romani language, which is spoken in Europe is divided into eight main groups. Today, most of the speakers of this language speak either in the Velachi or the Balkan Romani dialects.

Presently, the only known form of the Romani language in Iran is the Romano dialect with limited number of speakers in Quchān as well as the Zargar and Bāqerābād villages of Ābyek of Qazvin and the winter quarters of the people of Zargar. The other gypsies of Iran speak in the language of the places in which they have settled and, at times, even speak in code languages that they have invented on the basis of the grammatical structure of the dialect of their region of which reference can be made to the Jugiyān dialect of Astarābad, the Ghorbati dialects, and the Seliri dialect, which is used around Firuzkuh. Nevertheless, some original Hindi words can also be found in these code languages.

The Romani language has no script, but the gypsies of Europe use Latin and Cyrillic scripts to write in their language.

* source: Rezaie Baghbidi , Hasan " Iran Entry " The Great Islamic Encyclopedia . Ed. Kazem Musavi Bojnourdi.Tehran: The Center of Great Islamic Encyclopaedia , 1989-, V.10 , pp.554 - 556

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