Muslim Persian language
16 Dec 2009 14:32
As all of us know, linguistics’ main responsibility is to represent the impact of other languages on Persian in particular its influence from Arabic. The more the researches are precise the more it can be effective for the next generation. Dr. Azartash Azarnoush is a noted author who has studied Persian language and literature and assessed the interaction between Persian and Arabic.
IBNA: Azartash Azarnoush was born in 1927 in Qom but since his childhood his family moved to Tehran. Accompanying his father, the head of the accounting section of Iran’s railway, he traveled to Ahwaz and concluded his elementary school there. Returning to Tehran he spent his high school in Razi. Since he desired to study literature he swapped his high school in 1956 and went to Dar-al Fonoon. During that year he attended many literary associations and composed poems occasionally which were published in magazines. Alongside some virtuoso friends, Azarnoush established a poetry association which was unquestionably vital in nurturing his literary taste and destiny.
In 1957 he registered for the Arabic Literature in Tehran University which was newly formed. By the end of the year he throve on a competition, which was held by the university on Iraq’s scholarship. Getting through the competition he traveled to Iraq and registered for Arabic Literature once again, however he returned back to Tehran due to Iraq’s chaotic condition. He graduated form Tehran University in 1960 and traveled to France. Fluent in Arabic and French he easily received his Ph.D. He defended his first Ph.D. thesis which was on researching and translating a part of Tabaghate Ul-Shoara by Ibn Motaz. In line with penning another thesis he again registered in the Arabic literature field and since he had attended librarianship courses he was employed in the Arabic section of Paris National Library. The job created a great opportunity as he discovered 2 versions of “Kharid Al-Ghasr Emad uddin Esfahani and penned his 2nd thesis on it.
The book was published in 1972 in Tunisia. Receiving his 2nd Ph.D. he returned to Iran and following working in “Iran’s culture foundation”, researching on Persian-Arabic words and translating “Fotoh ulboldan Baladari” he was employed in the same university (he studied) in 1346. He was the first Iranian who received his Ph.D. in Arabic literature as he organized the university’s first Arabic group, so after he was selected as the university’s deputy, yet his office work never disturbed his researches. Besides penning several Persian, Arabic and French articles he attended many foreign congresses and rendered “A guide to the influence of Persian language in Arabic language” and “Music, Farabi’s panacea” into Persian.
In 1977 he resigned and traveled to England. Considering his fluency in Indian and European languages in particular his mother tongue and his knowledge in linguistics he authored a book on instructing Arabic with a new grammar structure and method.
Since 1985 Azarnoush was selected as the director of the Arabic department of The Center for the Great Islamic Encyclopedia in Tehran. So far he has authored many personal compilations, more than 200 articles which were published as small books and has edited hundreds of articles.
In 1999 he became the director of the Arabic department of Theology University (Elahiat) as in 2000 he was selected as the chief editor of Assessments and Articles magazine, one of the oldest academic magazines.
3 of his books won the Islamic Republic of Iran’s book of the year award: Rendering “Music, Farabi’s panacea”, translating “Atlas of Islam’s history” by Hussein Mounes and “Persian Arabic contemporary dictionary”.
Cooperating with IRIB in 2000, Iranian academic assembly picked up 30 Iranian characters as “Iran’s everlasting figures” and honored them in many ceremonies; one of them was Azarnoush.
- Except Arabic which other languages you are fluent in?
I am fluent in Arabic, Persian, French, English and more or less ancient languages as I had to know them for Persian and Arabic researches. As I lived in England for a while I had to learn Aramaic for accomplishing a research or in another case I had to learn the Hebrew handwriting to read and compare ancient words.
- How literature and language are linked to linguistics and hermeneutics?
This is a matter of choice and it is based on every individual’s work. Old researches were usually not related to hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is derived form a Greek word and was introduced into philosophy as well as religion. On the other hand our view towards the society and literature has altered during the recent years. The primary basics are changing. But through hermeneutics which considers religious and Quranic maters, besides literature, the matter bares a new concept since Quran semantics challenges us a lot. In line with figuring out deep meanings of the Quranic words, we have to employ various tools in particular hermeneutics.
- How Arabic and Persian are connected and how they interact?
My recent book is on the challenges between Persian and Arabic. I always recall my Persian professor’s word: Persian and Arabic are 2 close friends. As a matter of fact the closeness of these 2 languages is not due to their friendship but a bit of it is created by the conflicts which exist in linguistics and sociology. Form the very beginning these 2 languages struggled together but as a main point I have to say that they complete each other. We helped Arabic in a very reasonable manner as they borrowed whatsoever philosophic, scientific, astronomical, medical and etc… words the needed. They altered the words and gave them an Arabic cover and destroyed if morphologic form completely. Occasionally the meaning was changed so far. Thus some 2500 words exist in Arabic which are used as Persian forms. On the other hand Arabic replied in the same way, during the 2nd, 3rd and 4th century Arabic gave us many words which made our language richer as we are using them so far.
- So when and how did the challenge occur?
Following the period, we reached a bad condition since Arabic changed into a show off tool and destroyed Persian words as they was used frequently. A great part of literature encounters such a problem.
- How much Ferdowsi, Farokhi Sistani and Kasaee’s era helped Persian to return back to its origin?
Helping was not the matter. Persian has many capabilities considering its words, structure and back ground. The matter existed before Ferdowsi as well, but we received less works. I mean to say that sources didn’t help us in indicating the importance of Persian language and they acted oppositely, they veiled Persian since our sources are more in Arabic. Thus in a period which was entitled “Silence era” Persian was very dynamic.
- Was it dynamic since Ferdowsi?
Persian became dynamic since the 2nd and 3rd century. Before Ferdowsi many beautiful works were created. Quran was translated. Though it seems easy but some 300 years the matter was challenged. Nobody dared to translate. But Transoxiana Iranians translated Quran. Thus the current translation of Tabari interpretation is very rich.
- If Arabic was converted into Persian would it remain so or would obligatory changes occur?
It would have changed as the same matter will happen if you change Persian to Arabic or English to Persian.
- You said “Arabic harmed us when talking it was a matter of pride”, please explain more.
Iranian’s work was very great. They didn’t become Muslims due to Arabic but wisely the made their own language Muslim and gave Persian an Islamic flavor.
- Are there any other books compiled as “The challenges of Persian and Arabic languages”?
I think I am the first person, who believes so. We desire to pursuit the old same ways. But in fact our way is wrong. These 2 languages are always struggling but they have compromised as both of them are living in Iran. Nor Persian can sack Arabic neither Arabic can replace Persian.
- Have any other languages entered Persian in such a scale?
We can’t compare. Supposing 500 French, English and Russian words have entered the language, the number boosts to 100000 Arabic ones. Occasionally Arabic has harmed Persian a lot, for instance we can not pen a comprehensive Persian dictionary since Arabic words should be added. For finding an Arabic word we have to look up in the Arabic lexicon. If we want to read a Persian book do we have to do the same? And if so that is not an easy matter. We have to know Arabic to find out the word therefore Persian can’t have a proper grammar.
- How much you trust the sources you use?
Providing sources are our responsibilities. But it should not be restricted to a month or so; my sources are a result of 40 years of experience. As I am attracted to a subject and I feel that it’s a national requirement I use my researches and my experience but still that is not enough and I search for new sources and organize them; I find whatsoever I don’t have although the author is important as well. Many new sources should be discovered in line with writing a new book.
- How your books are written?
I write them individually. Although in penning a work as “Historical Atlas” some of my students cooperated and helped me a lot in translating as I edited and reviewed them. Authoring the book required lot of time. Those who work on the field should be very sensitive towards it.
- What is your opinion on reading and books in Iran?
We have a strange society. Some read a lot and comparing them to other countries, they create a vast gathering. If we compare Iran with Egypt we will discover that their scientific production is not as mush as ours. We have much more books than Arabic countries. But on the other hand many don’t read books. Most of our villagers spend their leisure time watching TV instead reading a book or magazine. Libraries should be built. We don’t have many readers and in a result when I for instance pen a book which takes 5 years, nobody reads it.
- How mush you study a day?
I have an academic responsibility for which I have to read books and articles and go through theses. But some times a subject attracts a person which encourages me to read.
- What do you prefer to read?
It depends on the time. I was interested in Najib Mahfooz novels and some times the Brothers of the French girls. We have to read 10-40 pages every night. Occasionally I like to read Hafez and Saadi.
- How much your family impressed your improvement?
My wife is French and holds 2 bachelor degrees. She helps me a lot on French books and articles as well as typing and editing. I appreciate her work a lot.
- How much knowing a language and literature can help conveying beliefs to the next generation?
Literature is a country’s life and if it is stopped, a generation will be vanished. We have to work on our own lives and preserve our identification. Besides literature, humanistic sciences should develop and the result will present thought and intellectuality. Therefore we can get a better concept from ourselves and our religion. We have to identify our past and link it with the future and communicate.
- As time passed Persian language and literature altered a lot, does it still communicate as well as before?
Yes of course it has changed but any way we have to communicate. If some one reads a French poem or prose for us which dates back to 300 years ago, we won’t understand any thing since the language is changed too much. But the news is good! I mean language’s requirements are fulfilled during various times. New words are coined or borrowed and therefore a more complete language exists nowadays.
- How much do new words and expressions harm Persian?
Following the Greek era, Sasanids launched the Pahlavi language. Aramaic was spoken in Iran; after that Sourianis came through and etc…
After that the Arabs came to Iran and a new crisis was created but Persian still remained.
- Modern expression and world differ with the past period etc…
The new expressions hold a cultural and technical power. Moreover it holds a civilization and routine load as well. We can’t change a country’s belief and we attract its expression gradually.
- When all behaviors, technologies and etc…are unique why shouldn’t language be?
Many things may happen. Human being is a complicated creature as even a Global Village may not change its culture and thought.