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Discrepancies in Mapping Persian/Farsi in Iran

Submitted by on July 1, 2013 – 1:59 pm 30 Comments |  
GeoCurrents is deeply concerned with language mapping, as we find maps of language distribution to be highly useful and, if done properly, aesthetically appealing. But we also tend to be critical of linguistic cartography, as the spatial patterning of language is often too complex to be easily captured in maps. Dialect continua, zones of pervasive bilingualism, overlapping lingua francas, areas of linguistic interspersion, urban/rural language discrepancies, and mobile language communities all present major challenges for the mapmaker. Differences in population density is another tricky issue. Should one map a virtually unpopulated area in the same manner that one depicts a densely populated zone? And if one decides to leave uninhabited (or mostly uninhabited) areas unmarked, how large and how unpopulated do they have to be before they appear on the map?

As a result of these and other issues, linguistic maps, whether of a particular place, an individual language, or a language family, often vary greatly from one cartographer to another. Such differences were recently brought home as I examined various language maps of Iran, many of which are readily available on the internet. In particular, the area covered Farsi/Persian, the national language, differs significantly. I therefore decided to overlay these different depictions of Persian/Farsi on a uniform base-map of Iranian provinces so that they can be easily compared. Eleven such maps are posted here, both in their original form and with the Persian/Farsi zone extracted and placed on the common base map. The overlays are not particularly precise, owing largely to differences in map projection; a large amount of tedious handwork was necessary to make them accord as closely as they do with the originals. It is also important to note that the original maps themselves vary in regard to the area depicted. Some show merely Iran, but others include neighboring countries as well. The overlay maps, however, show only Iran.

The maps are arranged in rough descending order, with the first map showing the largest expanse of Persian/Farsi, and the last map showing the smallest one.

Farsi Language Map1

Depiction 1.  The first map is by far the simplest, as it shows Iran as uniformly Persian-speaking. Such a depiction is accurate in one sense, as Persian/Farsi is the national language, and hence is used for official purposes throughout Iran. It also serves as the lingua franca of those parts of the country in which it is not the dominant mother tongue. The source map for Depiction 1, however, is problematic, as it purports to show the overall distribution of Persian, yet it does so entirely on the basis of national boundaries. Depicting Afghanistan and especially Uzbekistan as uniformly PMap of Persian Speakersersian-speaking is far from accurate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Depiction 2. The source map for DeFarsi Language Map 2piction 2, found in the Wikipedia Commons, is oddly titled “iranethnics,” implying that it is concerned with ethnic identity rather than language per se. All of the categories mapped, however, are rooted in language, although the term “Fars” (the name of a province and, more generally, a region) is used rather than “Farsi.” In purely linguistic terms, “Fars” refers to a series of Persian dialects that are quite distinctive from standard Farsi. As one Wikipedia article puts it: “Northwestern Fars is one of the Central Iranian varieties of Iran. Its name is purely geographical: It is not particularly close to Farsi (Persian), but rather to Sivandi.” The Wikipedia’s family IranEthnics Maptree of Iranian languages treats Fars a distinct minor language, with some 100,000 speakers. On the source map for Depiction 2, however, all languages in the Iranian family are subsumed under the “Fars” category except Kurdish and Baluchi. Linguistically, this maneuver makes little sense, as the Iranian languages or northern Iran, such as Gilaki and Talysh, are more closely related to Kurdish than they are to Persian/Farsi. But it is also true that that Gilaki- and Talysh-speakers tend to be much less ethnically distinct from Persians than the Kurds. Finally, this map restricts the extent of several minority languages, particularly Arabic, more than many other language maps of Iran.

 

Farsi Language Map 3Depiction 3. The base map used for Depiction 3, also found in the Wikipedia, depicts the various languages of the Iranian family, both in Iran and neighboring countries. As non-Iranian languages such as Arabic and Azeri are not depicted, areas in which they are spoken are generally mapped as Persian speaking (“Persan,” on the French map) or at least as partly Persian speaking* (as in the case of the Azeri-speaking area). The Caspian languages (Gilaki, Mazandarani, etc.) are depicted, but only in the Alborz (Elburz) Iranian Tongues MapMountains; the Caspian coast is instead shown as Persian speaking, a somewhat unusual depiction. The base map is also distinctive in elevating the Mukri dialect to the status of a separate language (even the Ethnologue, which tends to split languages, treats it as a mere dialect), and in depicting a sizable “Sangesar” area in the mountains of northern Iran. Yet according to the Wikipedia, the Sangsari language has only 36,000 speakers and is largely limited to the town of Sang-e Sar** (Mehdishahr), located south of the Alborz Mountains in Semnan Province. Related tongues in the Semnani branch of Iranian languages have similarly restricted distributions.

Farsi Language Map 4 Depiction 4. The base map used for Depiction 4, found on the website of a Farsi translation service, is crude and politically compromised, as it incorrectly depicts the distribution of several languages as coincident with provincial boundaries. It incorrectly labels Azeri as “Turkish” and Balochi as “Pashto.” (In contrast to Turkish and Azeri, which are closely related, Balochi and Pashto are only distantly related, as they are members of distinct branches within the Iranian family.)  It also unconventionally classifies the dialects of Farsi spoken in Khorasan as Dari, a term genIranLanguage:Ethnic Maperally limited to Persian as found in neighboring Afghanistan. But the boundary between Farsi proper and Dari—both forms of Persian—is difficult to draw. As the Wikipedia explains:

 The dialects of Dari spoken in Northern, Central and Eastern Afghanistan, for example in Kabul, Mazar, and Badakhshan, have distinct features compared to Iranian Persian. However, the dialect of Dari spoken in Western Afghanistan stands in between the Afghan and Iranian Persian. For instance, the Herati dialect shares vocabulary and phonology with both Dari and Iranian Persian. Likewise, the dialect of Persian in Eastern Iran, for instance in Mashhad, is quite similar to the Herati dialect of Afghanistan.

Farsi Language Map 5Depiction 5. The base map used for Depiction 5, found on a website devoted to Iranian languages, is similar to that of Depiction 3, although it shows a more limited distribution of Persian.

Iranian Languages Map2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farsi Language Map6

 

 

 

 

 

Depiction 6. The base map used for Depiction 6, found in the Wikipedia, is labeled “Languages of Iran.” This map shows a relatively limited distribution of Persian, barely depicting it as reaching the sea. It also shows much larger than usual Arabic- and “Lorish”-speaking areas. It subsumes Mazanderani and the Semnani languages into the “Tabari” category, although according to most analyses Mazanderani is closer to Gilaki (mapped here as a separate language) than it is to the Semnani tongues. (Significantly, the people Iran Main Languages Mapof Mazandaran call their own tongue “Gileki.”) Oddly, the Qashqai Turkic area in Fars Province is missing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farsi Language Map 7

 

Depiction 7. The base map used for Depiction 7 is found on the “Maps of Net” website and is based on Ethnologue cartography. This map also restricts the distribution of Farsi; again it barely reaches the sea, but it does so in a different place than that indicated on Depiction 6. This map shows much larger than usual areas covered by Azeri (“Azerbaijani” Main Ethnic Languages in Iran Maphere), Arabic, and “Balouchi.” It also incorrectly portrays the northeastern Kurdish area as Turkic, labeling it “Khorasani Turks” and coloring it as if it were “Azerbaijani.” The extent of the Qashqai Turkic area in Fars province seems surprisingly large. Perhaps the oddest feature of this map is its exaggeration of the area covered by the southernmost Luri dialect, a very minor tongue by most accounts, and its elevation of this dialect to the status of a separate language (designated here as “Lari” to distinguish it from the “Lori” language of the north). This map also shows one uninhabited area, the Dasht-e Kavir (salt desert), in north-central Iran.

Farsi Language Map 8Depiction 8. The base map used for Depiction 8 is found in a Wikipedia article on Iranian languages. It shows large areas in central Iran as non-Persian speaking; presumably most of these areas are excluded by virtue of being largely uninhabited rather than by speaking a different language, but the mapping conventions make it impossible to be Iranian Language Map 3certain. This map also shows a much larger than usual distribution of the Balochi language, in several discontinuous patches, in northeastern Iran. As in Depiction 3, the Caspian lowland is depicted as Persian speaking.

 

 

 

 

 

Farsi Language Map 9Depiction 9. The base map used for Depiction 9 is found on yet another Wikipedia page. It leaves large “sparsely populated” areas in eastern and central Iran blank, thus restricting the distribution of Farsi/Persian. It depicts Lur as a separate language, but divides it into two separate areas, mapping the central Luri zone as Persian speaking. It Iran Ethnoreligious Mapdepicts a sizable area along the Afghan border as “other,” which would presumably refer to Pashto.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farsi Language Map 10

 

 

Depiction 10. The base map used for Depiction 10 comes from a Wikipedia map of ethnicity in Iran, although its categories are again are based on largely linguistic criteria. This map shows sizable uninhabited areas in east-central Iran, a not uncommon maneuver, but also does the same in southeastern Iran, an uncommon move (also found in the base map for Depiction 9). Again like Depiction 9, this map portrays the central Luri areas, but not the northern and southern ones, as Persian-speaking. It depicts a highly restricted Iran Ethnicity MapArabic zone in both Khuzestan Province and farther south along the coast.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farsi Language Map 11

 

Depiction 11. The base map used for Depiction 11 comes from an older version of the language map of Iran posted on the Gulf 2000 site, which features the extraordinarily detailed cartography of Mike Izady. This map leaves large areas of sparse population unmarked, and hence restricts the distribution of Persian more than the other maps considered here. It makes several other unusual maneuvers. Luri is mapped as a dialect of Persian, yet the Raji dialect of central Iran is elevated to the status of a separate language. The Minabi dialect of the southeast, described by the Wikipedia as “a dialect which is something between Bandari and Balochi and Persian,” is also mapped as a separate language, and a small Cushitic-speaking zone (labeled “Somali, etc.”) is depicted in the same general area. The extent of Tati, closely related to Talysh, is much greater than in any other language map of Iran that I have investigated.

Iran Languages Izady Map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am not qualified to assess which of these maps is the most accurate, and I hesitate to say whether such an assessment can even be made. I welcome feedback from readers on these and other issues pertaining to these maps.

*Note: for all depictions, areas shown as mixed between Farsi/Persian and some other language are left unmarked.

 

**This small city has an interesting recent history. According to the Wikipedia, “The primary religious belief in the area now is Shi‘ite Islam, but before the Islamic Revolution, there were many Bahá’ís in Sangsar, who had to migrate from the city after the revolution, due to a wide range of persecutions. As for other towns of Iran, the name has thus been changed by the Islamic authorities into Mahdishahr as if to signal its imposed pure Muslim identity. Mahdi is the Shia Muslim hidden Imam and Shahr means town in Persian, so Mahdishahr literally means town of Mahdi.”

 

 

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Peter-Rosa/1593565364 Peter Rosa

    You could add part of Beverly Hills :)

  • Alborz Atashband

    “[The map] also incorrectly portrays the northeastern Kurdish area as Turkic, labeling it “Khorasani Turks” and coloring it as if it were “Azerbaijani””

    Actually that area is not a Kurdish area (exclusively or majority), I’m from that area (Bojnord/North Khorasan) and the area is a mix of Kurmanj Kurds, Khorasani Turks, Tat, Fars, and Turkmen. The biggest groups are the Turks and Kurds, but the Kurds definitely have no majority over any group there, so it would be even more incorrect to label it a Kurdish area (especially considering that the area actually was Turkic before Kurds arrived)…

    Actually my home province in and of itself serves as a golden example of why a lot of these maps can’t work; what happens to areas where 5 languages are spoken and where neither holds a majority over the other? Do we simply label it a mixture of 2 languages and ignore the rest there? Do we make a messy looking map and label all of them in such a relatively small area? These are questions I would love to know the answers too, the author makes a lot of valid points.

    One thing is for sure, the representation of Persian as a language in most maps of Iran (and demographics as a whole) is simplified and exaggerated to the extent that minority languages are underrepresented or not represented at all, and this definitely needs to change.

    • http://geocurrents.info Martin W. Lewis

      Many thanks for your superb comments. I have often wondered about the “Kurdish” area that most maps show in northeastern Iran, as this area does not seem much like the main Kurdish area in the west. Your explanation makes perfect sense. I did not know that Tat is spoken in this areas as well — it sounds like an interesting mixture of peoples and languages. I would like to learn more about it. Khorasan as a whole has played a very important role in the history of the larger region, as I am sure you know.

      Similar zones of linguistic mixture are found in many other parts of the world, and in earlier years they were more common This does present a huge challenge for language mapping.

      • Alborz Atashband

        Thanks for your reply :)

        In North Khorasan province, Tat is a sort of dialect of Persian, I’m not sure if it’s relevant in any way to the Tat spoken in Azerbaijan. However Tat is also somewhat of an ethnic identifier, people will actually call themselves Tat instead of Persian (or they will call themselves Persian/Tat simultaneously since Tat is a subgroup of Persian) and there are a few cultural differences as well. There’s not much English info on it however since it is a small group of us :( We actually have somewhat of a superiority complex over some Persians because we feel certain aspects of our culture are more preserved than theirs, but again since there’s barely any info in English I’ll have to wait until I can find Persian articles before really knowing the truth :P

        North Khorasan province is quite culturally diverse; we have our own local dance which has won national prizes (back in the Shah’s era) which is a mixture of all the ethnic groups, it’s quite a thing to see :) Some Iranians may claim their area is “diverse” because 2 or possibly 3 groups live in the same city, but I really can’t think of anywhere else aside from Tehran and Urmia that is as diverse as North Khorasan/Bojnord! Everyone here can speak at minimum 2 languages, and we (ethnic minorities) don’t have to deal with much racism or ethnic chauvinism from Persians here because they are more educated and, I guess, used to cultural diversity and recognize the importance it plays in maintaining a better society. This diversity and education is one of the reasons our province is known for being one of the most liberal and progressive areas of Iran!

        • http://geocurrents.info Martin W. Lewis

          Fascinating, thanks yet again. It is interesting that you bring up dance; in the Caucasus, dance forms often transcend ethnic/linguistic distinctions. Is that true as well in North Khorasan? Does dance give the region a certain form of cultural commonality?

          It does seem that information in English is lacking for this region, which is quite a shame.

  • ravi

    great work.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thanks, Ravi.

  • Trigoogol

    It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that map number 7 was drawn up by pan-Turkic nationalists, most probably the delusional type who live in either Turkey or the fake police state of Azerbaijan (formerly known as Arran, before the Russians annexed it from Iran and renamed it, while the drunken Qajars were in power). Some of the symptoms of megalomania are wet dreams and obsessive fantasies. These people think that when they repeat a lie enough times, it becomes the truth. I don’t expect anything less from these genocide-preaching, racist-supremacist pan-Turkists (who in reality are nothing but a bunch of Turkified Anatolians/Caucasians who are too depressed to admit the truth). After all, these are the same bunch of idiots who believe in the Sun Language theory, which hypothesizes that all humans descend from a Turkic ancestor, and that the Old Turkic alphabet had some relation to the Germanic Runic script simply because it kinda looks the same. How generous of these pan-Turkists to give the Kurdish-speakers of Iran a small bit of land in the western peripheries. I guess it’s better than the maps of Turkey that they happen to draw, which include no references to the Kurdish populations that overwhelmingly inhabit the eastern Turkish provinces. If aliens ever visit us some day, we’ll probably have to endure new claims that these extraterrestrial beings have also descended from a Turk.

    Map number 6 is no different than map number 7, but slightly more respectable. Nevertheless, it’s also a fallacy. Such a shame that we have editable online encyclopedias at our disposal today. Before the era of open source encyclopedias, Turkish fabricators only had their own forums and internet blogs to spread false propaganda. Today, thanks to the guy who started Wikipedia, we have Turkish users trolling Wiki articles and spreading their lies there.

    I live in an Arabic-speaking country but my parents are originally from Iran. Unfortunately, due to my upbringing in the Arab world, I cannot speak any of the Iranian languages fluently, but I know enough to tell the difference between Persian, Kurdish and Azeri. Although I have an Arab nationality, I still feel emotionally attached to Iran–its land, people and history. My father comes from a Kurdish-speaking village in northwestern Iran, near the Iranian-Iraqi borders. The town is located precisely between Halabja (Iraq) and Kermanshah (Iran). My mother, however, comes from a small Turkmen village in the northern parts of West Azerbaijan province. Her relatives are bilingual in Persian and a variant of Azeri. Her tribe is know as Karapapak, which means black hatted, and her village is named after the Turkmen people. (The village is called Tarakmeh, which is a corruption of Turkmen.)

    Iranians are very mixed. Many families have cousins who belong to two or more different ethnic groups. My own family is Kurdish-Azeri, with some Persian too. That’s how almost all Iranians are, from Tabriz, all the way down to Tehran, Esfahan, Shiraz, Nishapur, Mashhad, Karaj, Qom and just about every major urban center. Nobody is pure anything but everybody is Iranian, and the lingua franca that has served our people for the past 2500 years is Persian, therefore this language belongs to us just as much as it belongs to the so-called ethnic Persians. It is everyone’s language by equal right. Persian should be called Iranian in my opinion because that’s what it is to us. It’s the language of all Iranians and was developed by all of our ancestors.

    None of these maps are accurate depictions, but I still respect the effort that was made by Columbia University’s Gulf 2000 project. At least it wasn’t inspired by political agendas, unlike the other map versions. But sadly, even Columbia’s map is filled with huge inaccuracies. Let me list them:

    1. Kermanshah is not that bilingual. The Persian language is the dominant language of Kermanshah, and the surrounding areas are also Persian leaning. The Kurdish areas in the Kermanshah vicinity are exaggerated. This specific region (of Kermanshah metropolitan and the surroundings) should be mostly Persian. In reality this is the case with most urban centers across the country, except Tabriz and Ardabil, although even those two cities are bilingual in Persian to a strong extent. (As much as French continues to exert itself in some cities in Flanders, notwithstanding Brussels.)

    2. The Kurdish language penetrates very well into the east of Lake Urmia, yet the map shows none of that. I have visited Tarakmeh in West Azerbaijan and I noticed a lot of Kurdish speakers even when traveling many miles eastwards. The infiltration of Kurdish speakers into traditional Azeri lands is undervalued by the Columbia University mapmakers. In reality, the biggest bulk of Kurdish territories should be in the West Azerbaijan and surrounding provinces, and then they should “thin down” as you move southwards to Kermanshah, where it then becomes predominantly Persian-speaking. So Kurdish-inhabited areas should look something like the map of Armenia, where it’s thin in the bottom and gradually becomes larger when you go to the north.

    3. Sparsely populated Persian lands are not colored in the map. Instead they’re left blank. Meanwhile, sparsely populated Azeri and Kurdish lands are drawn so exaggeratedly and profusely.

    4. The Qashqais do not occupy that much land at any given time. The depiction of Qashqais is exaggerated too. It’s bigger than the size of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for crying out loud. The Qashqais are exclusively nomadic. Their tent communities number in the couple of dozen in one specific location, and the nearest settlement could be separated by many miles of barren land. Yet the mapmakers colored the whole thing green, so generously. Why don’t they color the whole UAE yellow in that case? Here’s what I mean: http://gulf2000.columbia.edu/images/maps/GulfLanguageGeneral_sm.png

    5. In the map, a chunk of land to the south of Zanjan continues to be colored green to depict Azeri speakers. But in reality it should be multicolored because many of these places are bilingually Persian, if not predominantly Persian. The penetration of Azeri to the south of Zanjan is another exaggeration.

    6. There seems to be no mention of Baluchi tribes in northern Iran, yet they exist there in good numbers. Some, in fact, have infiltrated far north into Turkmenistan but I really don’t know when that happened. It must’ve been a long time ago.

    Anyway, I don’t really like ethnic maps of Iran because none of them will ever accurately depict this country. Iranians are mixed. Most families have relatives from two or more ethnic groups. Most families speak two or more languages, not including English.

    The Persian language should never be thought of a language that belongs to a specific ethnic group. The Persian language belongs to all of us. Our ancestors have all contributed to Persian in more ways than one. That’s the thing that these Turkified Anatolians and Eurovision Azerbaijani fans fail to understand. They can never break our unity or spread discourse with their propaganda. And if they ever try to become our enemies, we will break them in the same way that Nader Shah Afshar and Shah Abbas Safavi did to them. They should remember these two names before they think of spreading their bad ideas to our people.

    Just an example of how integrated Iranians are, the Safavid dynasty was thought to be Azeri because it spoke Azeri as a native tongue. But the grandfather of the founder of the Safavid state (Shah Ismail) was a native Kurd. So the family of the Safavids was originally Kurdish, which adopted Azeri after the family migrated to Ardabil, and then officially patronized Persian after unifying Iran and reestablishing a post-Islamic Persian empire. Kurdish by origin, Azeri by native tongue and Persian by official endorsement and propagation. That’s Iran. There will never be a map that can accurately depict this.

    Iran is a smaller version of India, made beautiful by its richness and complexity, but compounded by a common denominator (e.g. Farsi or Hindi) that unifies the people’s national vision. If Iran ever goes back to how it was like before 1979, you guys will have the time of your lives visiting the country and seeing all the fine details. Iran is like a Persian carpet. The closer you look into it, the more you’ll appreciate it.

    Thanks for writing up this post!

    • Alborz Atashband

      Oh look, it’s another delusional pan-Persian fascist shoving racist ideology down the readers collective throats, why am I not surprised :)))

      • Trigoogol

        Alborz, did you read the whole post or did you just focus on the first paragraph? Pan-Persian fascist? Hmmm, let’s see:

        1. I’m not even Iranian by nationality. My nationality is Arab. If I was a pan-Persian fascist, as you say, then the last thing an Arabic-speaking country would ever do is keep me or my family here. ;)

        2. My family is half Kurdish, half Azeri, more or less (plus a few Persian relatives, but mostly Kurdish and Azeri). Why on Earth should I be a pan-Persian fascist?

        3. You’re a troll from Richmond Hill, Ontario. Once you come to the middle east and travel across Iran extensively, then start talking.

        By the way, I read your other post and found it mildly amusing. Did you read the Wikipedia page for Bojnord and list the languages spoken there to try and come off as an expert? You should know by now that Wikipedia isn’t always a reliable place. If you knew anything about northern Iran, you would know that there are many Baluchis living there. But you failed to even mention it because you couldn’t have gotten that information from Wikipedia.

        Let me guess, you’re one of those folks who think map 7 is an accurate depiction. And here you are calling me delusional, eh? Rofl, that’s rich.

        And hey, before you start talking about racism, let’s take a look at some things you said on your tumblr page:
        http://alborzka.tumblr.com/post/48293105694/lavendergiraffe-alborzka

        “oh gee, why am I not surprised that some Eastern Euro trash would make such a dumb racist comment”

        And you’re calling me a racist? Rofl.

        So let me get this straight. According to your logic, I’m a racist because I chose to put down racist, genocidal pan-Turkists for spreading false propaganda about Iran, but you’re not a racist even thought you generalized all Eastern Europeans as being automatically dumb racists? At least I specifically attacked the ethnic nationalists who preach hatred. Who did you attack? That’s right, all Eastern Europeans.

        Very, very rich. You shouldn’t have replied, dear oh dear.

        By the way, Kurds have a strong presence in northern Iran, much to your dismay. You see, they wouldn’t be there if it hadn’t been for Turkmen raiders constantly annoying northern Iranians by looting their towns all the time. Finally, one of the Azeri-speaking Safavid Shahs had enough with the raiders and decided to relocate Kurdish tribes to the north to fight them off. They went, they won, they stayed and they mixed with the other populations. You wouldn’t know that, of course, because you only see Iran in divided lines while I see it as an inseparable mixture.

        Sucks for you.

        • Alborz Atashband

          :))))))))) That’s adorable, but I won’t respond to petty insults here. Try not to spam the author’s article and be brave enough to message me in person instead :)

          • Trigoogol

            You know you have nothing else to say because you just got served, admit it. :P

            By the way, make up your mind. First you say you’re one of those few Tats in northern Iran who preserved their pure Persian culture and therefore feel superior over other Persians, as a result. Next thing you know, you say you’re an Iranian Turkmen on youtube.

            I smell a dirty sockpuppet. :D

          • Alborz Atashband

            Cute efforts :)

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Indeed, perhaps you could take the discussion of what was said on another site to that site or to a one-on-one conversation? Or stick to the relevant issues at hand?

          • Alborz Atashband

            I believe I said that already, but thank you for the suggestion :)

        • http://geocurrents.info Martin W. Lewis

          Again, thanks for the comments but please try to avoid the insulting language. GeoCurrents strives to be a forum in which we can learn from each other in a respectful manner. I find much of value in your comments, and in those of Alborz Atashband as well. Perhaps you could learn a bit from each other as well!

          I do want to look into the relocation of Kurds in Khorasan, which does sound like an fascinating issue.

        • bobjerald

          Disrespectful Trigoogol,

          Your Kurdish blood tells and explains why you have written angry and invaluable, full of hatred and lie message.

          This is the nature of poor ,humiliated Kurdish families to be like that.

          Kurd are like cancer in middle east. (I am Arab ethnically and I am talking this on behalf of all Arab suffering from Kurdish virus)

          You mis use the hospitality of other nations, you come to their shelter hopelessly , get their help and job, reproduce like misses and then add the land to your dream land Kurdistan!

          You made a propaganda in Irag ,saying Saddam has killed thousands from you (he killed double of that amount from shia Arabs!) then you made country in than situation.

    • http://geocurrents.info Martin W. Lewis

      Thanks your for your informed comments, which are very useful, although I would appreciate it if you could frame them in a less hostile manner. I do realize that there are some extremist Turkish (or Turkic) nationalists, just as there are extreme nationalists in almost every nation is the world. (GeoCurrents did a post a while back on maps of Greater Turkey, Greater Greece, Greater Albania, Greater Serbia, etc. Rather interesting and disturbing.) But I think that we should be wary of accusing mapmakers of having such extremist views unless we have solid evidence. As my post — and your comments — show, language mapping of this sort is very difficult to do, and it will always result in inaccurate depictions. Many mapmakers try as best as they can, and we should give them some credit.

      I agree, by the way, that Persian/Farsi is the common national language, which is why I started the post where I did.

    • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

      Thank you for sharing your family story, but like Martin, I think a less hostile tone would serve you better. In your comment you managed to disparage Turks, Azeris, Russians, the founder of the Wikipedia, the map creators and the author of the post — but it is yourself that you show little respect for by using such a tone.

      One final point: language doesn’t really “belong” to anyone as much as people “speak” or “know” it, or they don’t. But importantly speaking/knowing a language natively is different from speaking/knowing it non-natively, as a second language. This is a distinction that often gets lost in linguistic mapping efforts and their discussion.

    • Musa Salan

      Dear Trigoogol, as a Turcologist who is ethnically Turkish, I agree the majority of your opinion. As to the making the Turkic spoken map on the world our colleagues prefer to show whole of the land (Central Asia, Siberia and Asia Minor), in whose some parts even is not spoken nor known any Turkic, as the Turkic world that I dont like either. So exaggerated maps cant be defended scientifically. Thus, among those presented above, the most reliable one seems the number 11.

      But what I really dont understand is the claim of Turkification of you and the people describing the history of Azeri people. I disagree with you on this because it sounds like that there are no ethnically Turks in this area. So where did those Turks who turkified Iranians disappear? Surely they intermarried local people but claiming that Anatolian Turks and Azeris were in fact of another origin then they got turkified is nonsense. And if Turks were very influenced people on assimilating the others they would not be Arabicized (or so) in Egypt and Syria. Current population of Turks (i.e. the Oghuz) reflects more or less the historical presence of them that you should know the routes of nomadic Turks.

      Furthermore, Turks (or Turcomans) got Kurdified as resulf of close contact with Kurds in eastern Anatolia, which they are mostly Alawids and in their religious texts, its possible to find so many Turkic words that indicate their ethnical past.

      But I should make it clear that I do not support any emotional attitude in the matters should be examined impartially.

  • http://www.polgeonow.com/ Evan (PolGeoNow)

    I’m convinced that language maps are very nearly useless if they don’t even declare which particular variable they’re attempting to map, which unfortunately is the norm both online and in popular publications. Is it a map of local majority tongue (often not, as effort is made to represent minority languages)? And even if so, how does it represent the inevitable occurrence of areas where no language is spoken by over 50% of the population? If minority languages are shown in areas where they still don’t represent the majority, then how do you decide the extent of the areas depicting them?

    Imagine if we made maps of, say, economic prosperity without specifying any particular variable. You could probably manage to mark poor and rich regions in a way that would ring somewhat true to some people at some time, and there are certain aspects that might correlate to multiple actual variables, but the details are completely subjective. Most language maps are the same way, and that’s why you see so much variation here. The only thing they have in common is the core area where (presumably) they agree ONLY Farsi is spoken. Without even claiming to be attempting to depict a particular variable, it’s not even possible to for any of the maps to be “accurate” or “inaccurate” in representing mixed-language areas. The distinction becomes meaningless.

    Don’t get me wrong – mapping languages is one of my favorite things in the world. But it needs to be done credibly, which it usually isn’t.

    • http://geocurrents.info Martin W. Lewis

      Thanks, Evan, for the comments, which get to the heart of the issue. But to make the kinds of maps that you suggest, we would need much more detailed census or survey data than we generally have, and we would still be challenged by the limitations of two-dimensional cartographic depiction. The main “solution” to this problems seems to me to be always aware of the limitations of one’s mapping, and to try always to convey those limitations to one’s readers.

      • http://www.polgeonow.com/ Evan (PolGeoNow)

        You’re right of course that things such as the population density issue are still very prickly even with rigorously defined criteria. But without even claiming any particular criterion as a conceptual target, what is the map even showing? In multilingual areas (i.e. most areas of the world), how do you even start to choose which language or languages to label there? I suspect that most of the maps you critiqued in this post are correct in the sense that each language is spoken by *someone* in each location where it is coded. It’s just that when there’s no clear guidelines for how to choose which one to show in multilingual areas, the cartographer’s bias or agenda becomes the entire basis of coding each location, and the map is no longer representing facts. Being aware of and conveying limitations is crucial, I agree. But it’s not enough all on its own.

        • http://www.polgeonow.com/ Evan (PolGeoNow)

          Also, note that for many countries there actually is census or survey data of sufficient detail to reasonably determine the approximate proportions of languages spoken within a given area. That may not be the case for Iran. But even in other places, Ethnologue sometimes has enough information to create a rough sketch of proportional language use, since it reports speaker numbers and locations for minority languages.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            You are absolutely right that at least two kinds of language maps can be done, depicting either the majority or the minority language. In different cases, different types of map become more of interest. Obviously, maps of majority languages will not show most of the world’s languages spoken by small groups. And if one sets out to depict minority languages, it is hard to know where to draw the line and how to depict highly multilingual areas, where several small languages compete with each other.

          • http://www.polgeonow.com/ Evan (PolGeoNow)

            Yeah, I understand a lot of these issues, since I’ve been dabbling in data-driven language mapping as a personal hobby for the last couple years. If time and space aren’t a concern, I think the most ideal way to do it is to have a separate map for each language, color-coded by how big a percentage of the people in a given location speak that language.

            Here’s a nice example I came across recently (unfortunately only in Chinese), by a cartographer using new data from a 2010 survey by the Taiwan census:

            http://mapstalk.blogspot.tw/2013/07/2010.html

            The maps depict the percentage of people over six years old who were reported as speaking (from top to bottom) Mandarin, Southern Min (Taiwanese), Hakka, and Formosan languages at home.

          • http://www.pereltsvaig.com Asya Pereltsvaig

            Thank you for the link. Looks very interesting. That’s one way to approach language mapping. I guess it all depends on the purpose of the map, so here I agree with Martin: as long as the purpose and the limitations of a given map are clear…

  • Trigoogol

    To bobjerald, aka the return of the sockpuppet:

    I doubt you’re an Arab. Let’s observe how you wrote your first sentence:

    “Your Kurdish blood tells and explains why you have written angry and invaluable, full of hatred and lie message.”

    Notice how he wrote the sentence. The head of the sentence is “message” and it was placed all the way in the end of the sentence. The modifiers “angry”, “invaluable” and “full of hatred” all came before the head. This is a very typical way of speaking Turkish. Many Turks, when translating their sentences into English, do the same mistake.

    If I was thinking of this sentence in Arabic and wanted to translate it into English, it would begin like this: “A message that is [insert the rest]“.

    So just by decoding the way you wrote your sentence, bobjerald, it is clear you’re not an Arab.

    You’re a sockpuppet, welcome back, bob’s your uncle.

    Now as for Kurds being a cancer, in that case rest in peace.

    Unlike you, I do not conform to racism. My quarrel is with ethnic nationalists no matter their nationality. My comment here was to point out to Mr Lewis that map #7 was made by pan-Turkic nationalists, which I know for a fact because I saw it on their blogs and in fact the original map didn’t have any writings on it.

    Secondly, my post was to detail the linguistic distributions I personally observed in Iran.

    I might have been too harsh against Turkish nationalists, but nationalists deserve harshness because they’re inherently racist, just like you. That was only one paragraph anyway, now get over it. The rest of my comment only had to do with my linguistic observations when traveling across Iran, which I felt was relevant to the subject that’s being discussed.

    Now stop embarrassing yourself. Take care.

    And for the love of almighty god, do not vote your own comments up.