By Brian Spooner, William L. Hanaway

Persian has been a written language because the 6th century B.C. merely chinese language, Greek, and Latin have similar histories of literacy. even supposing Persian script changed—first from cuneiform to a changed Aramaic, then to Arabic—from the 9th to the 19th centuries it served a broader geographical sector than any language in international background. It was once the first language of management and belles lettres from the Balkans lower than the sooner Ottoman Empire to principal China less than the Mongols, and from the northern branches of the Silk street in valuable Asia to southern India less than the Mughal Empire. Its heritage is for this reason the most important for knowing the functionality of writing in international history.

Each of the chapters of Literacy within the Persianate World opens a window onto a specific level of this heritage, ranging from the reemergence of Persian within the Arabic script after the Arab-Islamic conquest within the 7th century A.D., in the course of the institution of its administrative vocabulary, its literary culture, its enlargement because the language of alternate within the 13th century, and its adoption via the British imperial management in India, sooner than being decreased to the fashionable function of nationwide language in 3 international locations (Afghanistan, Iran, and Tajikistan) within the 20th century. concluding chapters evaluate the historical past of written Persian with the parallel histories of chinese language and Latin, with precise consciousness to the way in which its use was once limited and channeled by means of social practice.

This is the 1st comparative examine of the old function of writing in 3 languages, together with in non-Roman scripts, over a interval of 2 and a part millennia, supplying a chance for reassessment of the paintings on literacy in English that has gathered over the last part century. The editors take complete good thing about this chance of their introductory essay.

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Persian hegemony had already begun to give way to the Eastern Roman Empire, and Aramaic was more deeply rooted. The general populations of greater Syria and Egypt did not become mainly Arabic-speaking until centuries later, well after the emergence of Persian in the east. From Baghdad to Morocco and the Sahel, Arabic functioned comparably to the way Persian functioned from Hamadan to Kashghar and beyond in the east, and eventually Hyderābād in the south and the Ottoman Balkans in the northwest.

But just as domestication did not spread quickly and evenly to every population throughout the world, and did not finish spreading until the 20th century, so writing did not come to provide the basis for the organization of every society until roughly the same time. The convergence of these two processes was due to the approaching culmination of a larger process—resulting from increasing population size and densities and expanding social awareness—that we have recently come to refer to as globalization.

The study of language began as philology, which was the study of language as it was preserved in texts, and paid little attention to the social function of writing or the possible effects of writing on language. In the 19th century philology prepared the way for historical linguistics, which continued to focus on textual data. In the early 20th century the publications of Saussure launched modern linguistics and shifted the focus to speech and languages in general rather than languages with textual traditions.

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