Planning research on the language of Yaz's Zoroastrians (Dari)
By Annahita Farudi &
January 21, 2003
We are Iranian-American linguistics students in our fourth year of undergraduate
study at the University of Virginia. Under the guidance of Dr. Lise Dobrin, we are
currently engaged in an independent research project, in which we are analyzing the
grammar of Modern Standard Farsi (Tehrani dialect) by relating it to past and contemporary
linguistic theory. While we find this investigation fascinating in its own right,
we also feel that it is providing impetus for the pursuit of our own personal interests
in the field of Persian linguistics. We have a great interest in studying Iran's
many and varied languages and dialects, especially those least studied and most endangered.
Specifically, we are interested in the Gabri language (referred to as Dari by
native speakers) of the Zoroastrian community of Yazd.
Dari is among Iran's most immediately imperiled languages. In 1999, there were an
estimated 8,000 speakers. However, that number will likely decrease rapidly in coming
generations, as personal and anecdotal evidence suggests that parents are speaking
to their children in Standard Farsi rather than Dari, thereby halting children's
first-language acquisition of the latter and impeding its transmission from generation
to generation. Indeed, of the country's less the one percent Zoroastrian population,
only a small percent speaks Dari. Like most of Iran's other regional languages, Dari
is not written; its exclusively spoken status adds to the imperativeness of studying
it before it becomes extinct. In addition to an absence of a written tradition, there
is a significant dearth of linguistic literature on our proposed language of study.
This is abundantly apparent from the enclosed bibliography, which is, to the best
of our knowledge, comprehensive.
In the hopes of effectively responding to this exigency as well as developing our
own linguistic aptitude, we propose to conduct field research in Yazd, Iran, for
one month of the summer immediately following our graduation (June, July, or August
2003). Our ultimate goals in undertaking this research would be collecting and recording
accurate data and developing, through analysis of our collected data, significant
linguistic conclusions pertaining to Dari. Our method of obtaining this data will
consist in gaining access to the Zoroastrian community in Yazd through personal connections,
and then finding various informants with whom to spend time eliciting data.
Our approach in gathering data will be determined by the twofold nature of our linguistic
enquiry. That is, our study will be sociolinguistic in our attempts to reach an understanding,
through observation as well as questioning informants, of the language's current
usage spheres, number of native speakers, and rate of acquisition. The second and
primary aspect of our intended study, however, will be grammatical. We will focus
on Dari's phonology, or sound system, and, to as great an extent as time allows,
its morphology, or system of word formation.
We hope to consider our conclusions in relation to Standard Farsi, and ultimately
present them in the form of a contrastive study between the two languages. In so
doing, we would develop conclusions that are relevant not only to Dari in particular
but also to Farsi, specifically as regards the latter's origins and development in
the wider context of Iranian languages. Linguistic research of the type we are proposing
is potentially of use not only to the academic community but also to the community
of native speakers. The report we would publish would increase awareness of this
lesser known Iranian language while providing linguistic documentation. Such linguistic
documentation could be of use in pedagogy.
Because of our Persian and Zoroastrian backgrounds, our ideal research project would
allow us to pursue our academic interest in linguistics while at the same time increasing
our awareness and knowledge of Persian culture. We feel that going to Iran and conducting
this study through research in the field is the best course through which to combine
these interests. There is no better way of learning about a particular culture than
through immersion. In addition, such research would provide an ideal opportunity
to put into practice the data collection and analysis skills we have been learning
in the classroom.
Finally, we recognize that a note of explanation concerning our proposal to undertake
the project outlined above jointly instead of individually is appropriate. We feel
that collaboration on this project is justified academically as well as practically.
With respect to the former, we feel fairly confident that due to the collaborative
nature of our current linguistic investigation of Farsi, we will produce a superior
contrastive study if we are able to work together on the data collection and analysis.
In terms of the actual field work, one of us has a greater proficiency in spoken
and colloquial Farsi and extensive experience traveling in Iran, while the other
has more knowledge of the formal and written language and important family connections
to the Zoroastrian community in Yazd.
As we have already stated, we share with you an avid enthusiasm for the preservation
and dissemination of all aspects of Iran's ancient and beautiful culture and Zoroastrian
heritage, including language. It is on the basis of this shared interest that we
write to request a small financial grant, in any amount, to aid us in defraying
the costs of carrying out our proposed project. Without such support, we would not
be able to otherwise achieve our goals. We would of course make formal and prominent
acknowledgement of your patronage in the final report detailing our findings. Should
you desire, we would also send regular reports on the progress of our research, as
well as provide you with a copy of our final report.
We have also included an itemized budget and a bibliography. If you have any questions
or would like further information regarding any aspect of our proposal, we invite
you to contact us directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
or email@example.com. We sincerely
appreciate your time and thank you in advance for your consideration of our proposal.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Ivanow, W. (1934, 1938, 1939) "The Gabri dialect spoken by the Zoroastrians
of Persia". Rivista degli Studi Orientali. 16: 37-97, 17: 1-39, 18: 1-59.
Lorimer, D. L (1916) "Notes on the Gabri dialect of Modern Persia". Journal
of the Royal Asiatic Society. 423-489.
Lorimer, D. L. (1928) "Is there a Gabri dialect of Modern Persia?". Journal
of the Royal Asiatic Society. 287-319.
Vahman, F. and G. Asatrian. (2002) Notes on the Language and Ethnography of the
Zoroastrians of Yazd. Copenhagen: C. A. Reitzel.
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