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From Persian to Tajik: Language and Power in the Persianate World


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies, specialisation Persian Studies or the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) with sufficient knowledge of Persian (three year of education at BA-level; level B2 European Common Framework). Please, contact the convenor of the course, Dr. G.R. van den Berg, if you are interested in taking this course, but NOT a student admitted to one of the above-mentioned master programmes or if you are not confident regarding your level of Persian.


In the centuries following its emergence in Central Asia in the 8th/9th century, Persian has been the common language of administration and court life in an area stretching from the Balkans to southern India. From the mid-19th century onwards Persian gradually lost its unitary identity and its standard form, known today as classical Persian. It acquired the modern status of national language in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, and accordingly the language developed in new directions, also outside these three states. In this course we will focus in particular on the position of Persian in Central Asia and the emergence of Tajik within the framework of Central Asian Soviet history. A substantial part of the course will be devoted to reading and analyzing Tajik and Judeo-Tajik source material.

Course objectives

To gain insight into the position of Persian in Central Asia in a historical perspective, with due attention for the background, nature and context of Tajik literary production.



Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total: 280 hrs

  • Seminars 2×2 hrs per week: 26 hours

  • Studying the compulsory literature (ca.600 pages, ca 10 pages per hour): 60 hours

  • Preparation weekly coursework: 5 hrs per week x 12: 60 hours

  • Preparation ACQIs: 48 hours

  • Preparing oral presentation progress research paper: 12 hours

  • Research paper: 74 hours

Assessment method

  • 4 X AQCI (w): 40%

  • Presentation of research topic for term paper (op): 10%

  • Term paper of 4000 words max. related to one of the topics treated in this course (wp, tr): 40%

  • Active participation in class and preparation of weekly course work (part): 10%

The term paper is written in two stages: a first version which will be commented on and a final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the first version will lose the right to get comments and will only be graded based on their final version.

In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.

The course is an integrated whole. The final examination and the assignments must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.



Selected Reading

A full reading lists will be provided during the course.

  • Ingeborg Baldauf, Moshe Gammer and Thomas Loy (eds.), Bukharan Jews in the 20th Century. History, Experience and Narration. Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2008.

  • Bert Fragner, Die “Persophonie” : Regionalität, Identität und Sprachkontakt in der Geschichte Asiens. Berlin: Das Arabische Buch, 1999.

  • John Perry, ‘The Origin and Development of Literary Persian’, in: General Introduction to Persian Literature, ed. J.T.P. de Bruijn. London: I.B. Tauris 2009, pp. 43-70 (chapter 2).

  • John Perry, A Tajik Persian Reference Grammar. Leiden: Brill, 2005.

  • Lutz Rzehak, Vom Persischen zum Tadschikischen. Sprachliches Handeln und Sprachplanung in Transoxanien zwischen Tradition, Moderne und Sowjetmacht (1900-1956). Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2001.

  • Michael G. Smith, Language and Power in the Creation of the USSR, 1917-1953. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 1998.

  • Brian Spooner and William L. Hanaway (eds.), Literacy in the Persianate World. Writing and the Social Order. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, 2012.

  • Deborah G. Tor, ‘The Islamization of Central Asia in the Samanid era and the reshaping of the Muslim world’. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (2009), 72 : pp 279-299.

  • Bo Utas, ‘A multiethnic origin of New Persian?’, in: Turkic-Iranian Contact Areas: Historical and Linguistic Aspects, ed. Lars Johanson & Christiane Bulut. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz 2006, pp. 241-251.


Students are required to register through uSis. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “Act.nbr.”.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

(Studeren à la carte is not possible for this course.)


Dr. G.R. van den Berg


Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accomodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations).