Eastern Iranian languages

Eastern Iranian
Geographic
distribution
Central Asia, northwestern South Asia, Caucasus. Historically in Scythia and Sarmatia.
Linguistic classificationIndo-European
Subdivisions
  • Northeastern
  • Southeastern
Glottologeast2704[1]

The Eastern Iranian languages are a subgroup of the Iranian languages emerging in Middle Iranian times (from c. the 4th century BC). The Avestan language is often classified as early Eastern Iranian. The largest living Eastern Iranian language is Pashto, with some 50–60 million speakers between the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan and the Indus River in Pakistan. As opposed to the Middle Western Iranian dialects, the Middle Eastern Iranian preserves word-final syllables.

The living Eastern Iranian languages are spoken in a contiguous area, in eastern Afghanistan as well as the adjacent parts of western Pakistan, Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province of eastern Tajikistan, and the far west of Xinjiang region of China, while it also has two other living members in widely separated areas, the Yaghnobi language of northwestern Tajikistan (descended from Sogdian) and the Ossetic language of the Caucasus (descended from Scytho-Sarmatian). These are remnants of a vast ethno-linguistic continuum that stretched over most of Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and parts of the Caucasus, and West Asia in the 1st millennium BC, otherwise known as Scythia. The large Eastern Iranian continuum in Eastern Europe would continue up to including the 4th century AD by the successors of the Scythians, namely the Sarmatians.[2]

History

Eastern Iranian is thought to have separated from Western Iranian in the course of the later 2nd millennium BC, and was possibly located at the Yaz culture.

With Greek presence in Central Asia, some of the easternmost of these languages were recorded in their Middle Iranian stage (hence the "Eastern" classification), while almost no records of the Scytho-Sarmatian continuum stretching from Kazakhstan west across the Pontic steppe to Ukraine have survived.

Middle Persian/Dari spread around the Oxus River region, Afghanistan, and Khurasan after the Arab conquests and during Islamic-Arab rule.[3][4] The replacement of the Pahlavi script with the Arabic script in order to write the Persian language was done by the Tahirids in 9th century Khurasan.[5] The Persian Dari language spread and led to the extinction of Eastern Iranic languages like Bactrian, Khorezmian with only a tiny amount of Sogdian descended Yaghnobi speakers remaining among the now Persian speaking Tajik population of Central Asia, due to the fact that the Arab-Islamic army which invaded Central Asia also included some Persians who later governed the region like the Samanids.[6] Persian was rooted into Central Asia by the Samanids.[7]

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