Interdisziplinäres Zentrum für Kognitive Sprachforschung

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Abstract Mumm & Nölle-Karimi

This subproject is concerned with New Persian (NP). NP developed on the basis of dialectal differences in the course of the 20th century into three national standard languages: Fārsi in Iran, Dari in Afghanistan and Tojiki in Tajikistan. These three languages, which are mutually largely comprehensible, show specific developments that can be attributed in great part to the inherent possibilities of the system of Classical New Persian (CNP). In accordance with the guiding concepts of the Collaborative Research Centre (entrenchment and conventionalization), this subproject aims at investigating the impact of social, historical, and language contact-induced factors as well as universal cognitive factors on the emergence and increasingly conventionalized structures of present-day Dari. The leading hypothesis is that some typical “cognitively simple” characteristics of present-day Dari can be explained by the predominant special language contact situation in Afghanistan. This hypothesis

• is to be checked against system-inherent explanations.

• is not merely to be confirmed by reference to similar phenomena in the contact lan-guages but requires proof of a persisting cognitive and linguistic acceptance of such phenomena.

• is set against a pervasive policy of language planning and language manipulation in Iran and Tajikistan, which in turn distort phenomena pertaining to “natural” language change.

Regarding the third point Afghanistan presents a most suitable field for linguistic investi-gation. In this setting the NP language largely developed unimpaired by political and ideological influences until the 1970s. Unlike in Tajikistan and Iran, no systematic or politically motivated language standardization took place in the segmented society of Afghanistan until the short-lived communist regime of 1979-1992. Thus we find “linguistic laboratory conditions” for the study of entrenchment in Afghanistan. Moreover, these conditions allow insights into the entire history of the development of the NP language from its beginnings in the 10th century. This gives rise to the corollary hypothesis that the conditions for the development of Dari may serve as a model for those determining the development of the NP language as a whole.

The leading hypothesis regarding the first two points takes its departure from the well-known assessment of NP as a “structurally simple” language. This assessment is supported by the reduction of the phoneme system on the phonological level, by the reduction of inflection on the morphological level, and by the dominance of light verb constructions (LVC) etc. on the phraseological level. For these structural reduction phe-nomena system-inherent reasons have been adduced; see, for instance, Mumm (2009, 36) concerning the role of the 'Pänultimagesetz' for the inflection reduction. But these approaches based on system-inherent reasons do not capture the entire range of phe-nomena. For example, while the system does provide an inventory of means for the LVC, it does not explain the motive for their development. The question arises whether the constant tendency of NP for “simplicity” can be explained on the basis of its use as lingua franca in a multilingual environment (Arabic, Turkish, Mongolian, smaller Iranian languages, Caucasus languages). The multilingual influence (above all of Arabic and Turk-ish) is well-known in lexical terms. The assumption of a multilingual influence on the development of grammar still needs to be proven.

LVCs in NP usually form the subject of purely syntactic research (e.g. Karimi Doostan among others). An exception is Kazzazi (forthc.) which combines the investigation of LVC in Fārsi (Ahadi 2001) with research on language contact and cognition (Jarvis & Pavlenko 2008, Siemund & Kintana 2008). For the lexicography of Dari see Bāteni 2008. Rzehak’s (2001) research concerning Tojiki is exemplary in terms of sociolinguistic method.

The long-term goal of the project is a new description and explanation of the NP grammar against the background of the surrounding languages. Such a revision and re-description of the development of the NP grammar would have to take place in several stages. A worthwhile and in the short-term feasible first step will be an investigation of syntax and phraseology. A recent study on language contact and language acquisition (Kazzazi, to appear) attributes the massive post-classical development of LVC in NP (today LVCs are the single productive pattern of “verbal word formation”) to their easy cognitive grasp. This hypothesis was tested with a four-year old girl growing up in a trilingual milieu. The girl, having heard LVCs like NP fekr kardan "think (lit. thought make)", bāzi kardan "play (lit. play make)", formed German or German/English constructions like sitzen machen "sit (sit make)", cake machen, tea machen "to eat cake, to drink tea", Auto machen "to go by car". Afterwards she learned and used the appropriate lexicalized verbs or phrases. It may be assumed that a similar process took place in the development of NP during the past thousand years. A study on the change of the basic vocabulary in NP (M.K. Kazzazi, forthc.) seems to confirm this assumption. The study shows for instance that the phrase gāz gereftan "to bite (to take pliers / a bite)", in CNP only a marginal and probably markedly poetic construction, has developed in modern NP into an unmarked expression for "to bite". This example further shows that a form conventionalized later on does not develop out of the blue but has its occasional precursors in the system. Preferences determined by cognition or language contact are apparently not injected into the language as foreign bodies but rather seem to stimulate and enhance its inherent potential for formation and expression.

The tendency towards LVC, present in Fārsi, Dari and Tojiki, is particularly strong in Dari. This can be seen for instance in the pair taṣavvor kardan: angāštan/angāridan "to think, to imagine". The synthetic verb angāštan/angāridan exists in Fārsi as an archaism, revived on political grounds, but is completely lacking in Dari. The phrase taṣavvor kardan is the unmarked expression in Fārsi and the only one in Dari. The motivation for the LVC seems obvious, considering the surrounding languages: the Arabism taṣavvor can be verbalized in a constructional manner and need not be replaced or subjected to a morphological adaptation strategy.

In sum, the project will investigate the conditions for the productivity of LVC in NP and particularly in Dari. For a thorough understanding of these conditions it is not suffi-cient to take account of the languages spoken in Afghanistan. Rather, an exact knowledge of the social structures of Afghanistan and their specific implications for multilingualism, language preferences and language change is of decisive sociolinguistic importance.

The contribution of this project lies in the assessment of the impact of multilingual-ism and language contact on conventionalization. Should the leading hypothesis not be confirmed, the focus will be on compiling, describing and arranging the material. This scenario might serve to strengthen the hypothesis of system inherence. If, on the contrary, the leading hypothesis is confirmed, fundamental insights will be gained concerning the interplay of sociolinguistic, cognitive and system-inherent factors.



Ahadi, S. (2001), Verbergänzungen und zusammengesetzte Verben im Persischen. Eine valenztheoretische Analyse. Iran - Turan Bd. 3, Wiesbaden: Reichert.

Bāteni, M. R. (2008), “Recent advances in Persian lexicography”, in: S. Karimi, V. Samiian, D. Stilo, eds., Aspects of Iranian Linguistics, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 3-18.

Scott, J., A. Pavlenko (2008), Crosslinguistic influence in language and cognition, New York/London: Routledge.

Karimi-Doostan, G. (2008), “Event structure of verbal nouns and light verbs”, in: S. Karimi, V. Samiian, D. Stilo, eds., Aspects of Iranian Linguistics, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 209-226.

Kazzazi, K. (forthc.), “Ich brauche mix-cough: Crosslinguistic influence involving German, English and Farsi”, International Journal of Multilingualism.

Kazzazi, M. K. al-Din (fortch.), „Kontinuität und Wandel. Eine Untersuchung über Basic Words des Neupersischen (Dari, Fārsi, Tadschiki, Klassisch-Neupersisch)“, PhD thesis.

Mumm, P.-A. (2009), Strukturkurs Neupersisch,

Rzehak, L. (2001), Vom Persischen zum Tadschikischen. Sprachliches Handeln und Sprachpla-nung in Transoxanien zwischen Tradition, Moderne und Sowjetmacht (1900-1956). Iran - Turan Bd. 2, Wiesbaden: Reichert.

Siemund, P., N. Kintana (2008), eds., Language contact and contact languages. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.