A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Showing posts with label Farsi/Persian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Farsi/Persian. Show all posts

Monday, April 14, 2014

Hardliners Step Up Protests Against Frye Burial in Iran

Even former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had welcomed Richard N. Frye's request to be buried in his beloved Isfahan, and had given Frye a home there. But the hardliners in Iran, whose opposition I noted a few days ago, have stepped up their attacks on the idea of burying Frye on Iranian soil. (Also see here.)

Probably no Westerner (and certainly no American) has done more to promote knowledge and understanding of Iranian culture and society in the West, yet now the mortal remains of the great Harvard expert who died recently at the age of 94,  have become a political football in Iran, a surrogate I suspect for the nuclear talks with the US and those who seek to scuttle them. (To their credit, serious scholars in Iran are supporting the burial).

I wish I knew more Persian. Surely Hafiz or Rumi must have a few appropriate lines for this travesty.

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Language Note: From the Midan to the Maidan

Some reporters who covered both events noted similarities between the protests in 2011 and after in Cairo's Tahrir Square, and the recent ones in Kiev's (or to be more Ukrainian nationalist about it, Kyiv's) Independence Square.

But there's a linguistic resemblance as well. Tahrir Square is, of course, Midan al-Tahrir (ميدان التحرير‎). (See my "Brief Biography of Tahrir Square," posted when Mubarak resigned). And Kiev's Independence Square is Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Майдан Незалежності), popularly called just "the Maidan." And the word has become shorthand for the protesters in the Maidan. (And "Euromaidan" has also been coined.)

Maydan is a word found from North Africa to India and on up into Central Asia. The origin, I think, is Persian, though some think it has an Arabic root, myd; at least it entered Arabic early and also Ottoman Turkish; the Ottomans spread it into the later Russian Empire and the Iranians into India and Central Asia.

My sense is that the original meaning was a large open space such as a military parade ground; it certainly meant that in Mamluk Egypt, but it came to mean any large outdoor open space, often replacing older words for square, for example. So the Midan and the Maidan are linked by more than contemporary protests.

Monday, March 11, 2013

"A Language Hunter, a Legend Hunter"

My most loyal readers know by now that just when you figure out what the subject of this blog may be, I skid off the main road and launch off into God Knows Where. You know I'm interested in minority peoples and languages, and those who have studied them. But sometimes you stumble onto a passage like this:
Aleksandr Gruenberg-Cvetinovic turned out to be a fascinating figure, an Iranologist and obsessive field researcher who documented countless small languages in the remote mountain valleys of the Caucasus and Central Asia, and saved and translated great many legends and folk poems.

At 22, he graduated from Leningrad University with a degree in Iranian Linguistics. In 1953, Gruenberg started graduate studies in the Institute of Linguistics. His Ph.D. project studied the languages of the Tats of Northern Azerbaijan who lived in an array of semi-isolated foothill villages (unlike the then more numerous Mountain Jew Tats of Dagestan, some of the Azerbaijani Tats were Shia Muslims, and some Armenian Christians; one group, the famed Lahiji copper-smiths, still considered themselves to be Persian transplants, albeit from the legendary times of a Shahnameh king Kai Khosrow).
And how can you NOT read on? It describes an indefatigable student of languages and folklore in the then-Soviet Caucasus and Central Asia, who publisned a collection of Sistani tales from the Shahnameh. Oh, and there's an expedition to look for the yeti in the account as well.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Yale-SOAS Digital Islamic Manuscripts

Yale and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London have joined to create the Yale-SOAS Islamic Manuscript Gallery, which has digitized several Arabic and Persian manuscripts from the two collections, with more envisioned, and several key classical Arabic dictionaries for reference. One more step among increasingly many online to increase access to unpublished source material.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Jeans, Jinn, and Iran's Morality Police

I'm paying too little attention to Iran lately and need, sometime soon, to address the growing conflicts between the Supreme Leader and the President. But for right now something a little lighter, which, however, may be a reflex of that struggle: "Jeans 'are named for jinns and can make you infertile', Iranians told."  Now a couple of caveats first: a UAE newspaper like The National has its own agenda on Iran, of course. And it does bother me to see any newspaper in the Arab world, even one in English, use "Jinns" in a headline, since jinn is already a plural. It's like saying "geeses" or "feets" or something. (The singular, of course, is jinni, as in the "genie" of the Lamp.)

But on to the story itself. Arguments over dress code, it claims, are part of the Khamene'i/Ahmadinejad power struggle, and Iran has a developing morality police that seem akin to Saudi Arabia's mutawa‘in, if more selective.

Two further thoughts on the jeans/jinn question: first, do young men really find infertility (as opposed to impotence of course) a bad thing? Until they're ready for kids, at least?

And secondly, please don't tell them jeans were popularized by Levi Strauss. Imagine what they might do with that.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Web Addresses in Non-Latin Scripts

ICANN, the international body overseeing Internet web domains, has approved web addresses in non-Latin alphabets for the first time. An Arab News editorial here; Haaretz on the subject here.

Good. Most of the world writes in non-Latin scripts; it shows that the Internet Revolution really is spreading to everyone.

Happy Halloween.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Revolution Will Be Translated

Note to Farsi speakers: There's a translation wiki trying to promote volunteered translations of Farsi blogs and postings. Web 2.0 gets still more inventive. Thanks to the language blog Language Log for the link.