The alphabet change to Roman and then to Cyrillic (1928 and 1940) coupled with vernacularization of Tajik Persian, called for independent lexicography in Tajikistan; this began early in the Soviet period, thrived in the 1950s, and continued at a remarkable pace until the chaotic years of independence. The various reference works compiled collectively or individually during these years are of uneven quality: while many works are of little merit, achievements such as the degree of sophistication, consistency and accuracy one finds in Farhang-e zabān-e tājiki may partly be attributed to the convenience offered by the new orthography and adoption of Western methods. The large circulation of some of these reference books, e.g., the Russian-Tajik dictionary of 1985 (issued in 100,000 copies), among other factors, points to a growing literacy rate and language awareness in the Tajik society. A parallel trend, however, was the ever-increasing marginalization of Tajik Persian in favor of Russian, which had become the language of prestige and higher learning by the end of the Soviet rule.

Monolingual dictionaries. Ṣadr-al-Din ʿAyni (q.v.), known as the father of modern Tajik literary language, pioneered descriptive lexicography by compiling in 1938 Loḡat-e nēm- tafṣili barā-ye zabān-e tājiki, the vocabulary of which, according to his own introduction, was drawn from the two sources: classical Persian lexicons and the varieties of spoken language, roughly equal in quantity, totaling eleven thousand. For political reasons, however, the publication of the work suffered a long delay, only to appear in the author’s posthumous collected works (Kulliyot XII, Dushanbe, 1976). Meanwhile, the Tajik Academy of Sciences published in 1969 Farhang-e zabān-e tājiki (q.v.), with extensive coverage and treatment, and exclusively based on Persian texts of the past. To these, one may add dictionaries on the works of Jāmi (1983-84), Rudaki (1990), and Ferdowsi (1992), as well as Cyrillic editions of the classical Loḡat-e fors (1964), Ḡiāṯ al-loḡāt (1987-89), Čarāḡ-e hedāyat (1992), Toḥfat al-aḥbāb (1992), and Borhān-e qāteʿ (I, 1993), each of which appended with a key-list (meftāḥ), rearranging the headwords in the Perso-Arabic alphabetic order.

Dictionaries of proverbs and idiomatic phrases have been prepared by both the scholar and layman since early decades of Tajikistan. A distinguished lexicographer of this genre was Mollājān Fāżelov (1914-77) who compiled Pandu hikmat (Maxims and wise sayings; 1963), Farhangi iborahoi reḵtai zaboni hozirai tojik (Dictionary of phraseology of contemporary Tajik, 1963-64), Farhangi zarbulmasal, maqol va aforizmhoi tojikiyu forsī (Dictionary of proverbs, expressions and aphorisms of Tajik and Persian, 1975-77), and Gulčini zarbulmasal va maqolhoi tojikiyu forsī (A selection of Tajik and Persian aphorisms and expressions, 1976), among others. Well-known are also Y. Kalāntarov’s Zarbulmasalu maqolhoi tojikī va analogiyai rusii onho (Tajik proverbs and expressions and their Russian equivalents, 1965) and Rażiy-Allāh ʿAbdollāhzāda’s Farhangi iborahoi ḵalqī (Dictionary of popular expressions, 1988).

Other related works include Mardān Moḥammadiev’s Farhangi sinonimhoi zaboni tojikī (2nd ed., 1993), a systematic thesaurus of a thousand headings. Šahbāz Kabir’s Luḡati omonimhoi zaboni tojikī (1992) covers numerous homonyms of Tajik Persian, e.g., arz, corresponding to the forms arz “cost,” arż “earth,” and ʿarż “statement, width, etc.” in Perso-Arabic orthography. The carefully assembled Luḡati muḵtasari kalimasozii zaboni adabii tojik (Š. Bābāmorādov and A. Mo’menov, 1983) arranges possible affixes for more than 5,000 words; under parhēz, for example, we find “bē-; -gār + -āna, -ī.” Another scholarly compilation is Turdikhon Berdĭeva’s Farhangi kalimoti musta’mali arabī (1971), offering a survey of some seven thousand Arabic and hybrid lexemes appeared in the periodical Āvāz-e tājik of 1924-25. To keep the Tajik spelling uniform, orthographic dictionaries have appeared in succession, the last of which, Luḡati imlo (ʿAbd-al-Qāder Manyāzov and ʿAbd-al-Sattār Mirzāev, 1991), lists thirty thousand written units.

It should be noted that no comprehensive monolingual dictionary is available on the contemporary Tajik language. For the current vocabulary one may consult bilingual and specialized dictionaries as well as encyclopedias.

Bilingual dictionaries. As the Russians advanced into Central Asia in the nineteenth century, their language increasingly gained ascendancy not only as the lingua franca but also as the language of science and learning. Prior to the Soviet Union, three notable Russian dictionaries had appeared for the Persian of Transoxiana: a Russian-Persian vocabulary by Šāh-Ḥaydar Ḥātamšāhev (1st ed., Kāgān, 1889; 2nd ed., Tashkent, 1913); another by the Russian orientalist Vladimir Petrovich Nalivkin’, with nearly 12,000 entries selected chiefly from Persian texts (Kazan, 1889); and the latter’s Rukovodstrov k’ prakticheskomu izucheniyu persidskago yazyka (Samarkand, 1900) containing a bi-directional dictionary of Russian and Persian.

Russian-Tajik dictionaries played a major role in the standardization of the target language, as Tajik textbooks were by and large translations from Russian. Such compilations began with Luḡati rusī-tojikī (2 vols., Stalinobod, 1932-34), prepared by the literary circle of Samarkand (headed by Ṣadr-al-Din ʿAyni), who were equally interested in both the literary and spoken forms of the language and yet remained distinct from the vulgarism advocated by the Party zealots of the time. The work was to set a model for the coming generations of lexicographers, though it was out of date already by the end of the decade, when Roman letters gave way to Cyrillic. A new project under the supervision of ʿAbd-al-Salām Dehāti and N. N. Ershov resulted in the 45,000-term Luḡati rusī-tojikī (Moscow and Stalinobod, 1949), which incorporated morphological paradigms which were to become rules in Tajik Persian, e.g., nominal suffixes –šavī, -konī, -barārī, -nāk. Based on the latter, several abridged lexicons were made, the most popular being the pocketsize dictionary issued in three editions (1957, 1981, 1991) with growing coverage and diminishing typeface. The last and most detailed work of the kind, compiled under the supervision of Moḥammad ʿĀṣemi (q.v.), is Luḡati rusī-tojikī (Moscow, 1985); its enormous coverage of 72,000 lexical items promoted a new set of Tajik coinages.

Tajik-Russian dictionaries are few. The first Luḡati tojikī-rusī, prepared in the Tajik branch of Soviet Science Academy, covers words extracted from Tajik books and periodicals of the 1930s; it was abandoned after the first volume (Stalinobod and Tashkent, 1946), which covered A-N in Cyrillic alphabetic sequence. An improved version, compiled by V. Rahimi and L. V. Uspenskaya and edited by Evgeniĭ Eduardovich Bertel’s (Moscow, 1954), records nearly 40,000 headwords. An abridged Luḡati tojikī-rusī (Y. Kalāntarov, Moscow, 1955) appeared in pocketsize.

Dictionaries of languages other than Russian were deemed dispensable for Tajik; the student of foreign languages was expected to have mastered Russian, for which detailed bilingual dictionaries were available. A few short lexicons which appeared, with French, English, or Arabic as target language (see H. Borjian, “Farhangnevisi dar Tājikestān,” Irānšenasi 11/1, 1999, pp. 125-45), are rudimentary and poorly formatted. Worth mentioning is G. B. Barakaeva’s 10,000-word Luḡati tojikī-anglisī (Dushanbe, 1968), which provides some Tajik substandard forms not found in monolingual dictionaries.

Related works include V. Šarifov’s Luḡati tafsirii kalimahoi rusī-internatsionalī (Dushanbe, 1984), with the claim that its 9,000 terms were Tajik borrowings from Russian and Western European languages. Moreover, S. D. Ḵālmatova’s Slovar’ russkikh i tadzhikskikh sokrashchenii (Dushanbe 1979) treats Russian and Tajik abbreviations and acronyms, which played a growing role in the economic and social life of Soviet Tajikistan.

Specialized dictionaries. The driving force behind systematic production of such works was the Terminology Committee (Komitet-e eṣṭelāḥāt), established in 1960 at the Tajik Academy of Sciences (see TAJIKISTAN, ACADEMY OF SCIENCES [pending] at iranica.com). Accordingly, scores of lexicons were scheduled at various departments of the Academy (Akademiya nauk Tadzhikskoĭ SSR, Dushanbe, 1979, pp. 249-55) and appeared at an accelerating pace in the last two decades of the Soviet Union (for a bibliography, see Borjian, op. cit). These dictionaries cover various degrees of range and depth, mostly being brief Russian-Tajik glossaries, with an abundance of newly coined Tajik glosses which perhaps never gained currency in practice. But some are descriptive, monolingual lexicons of sizeable treatment, e.g., Sayyed Jaʿfar Qāderi’s dictionary of physics (1985), N. ʿAbdollāhev’s Luḡati muḵtasari ezohotī doir ba geografiyai Tojikiston (local geography; 1962), Farhangi istilohoti adabiyotšinosī (literary criticism; 2nd ed., 1966), Ḵodādād Ḥosaynov and Kimyā Šokurova’s Luḡati terminhoi zabonšinosī (linguistics; 1983), and ʿOrwat-Allāh Ṭā’er and Sayyed Morād Sayyed ʿAli’s Qomusi qofiya va aruzi še’ri Ajam (prosody; vol. I, 1994). Ḥāmed Zāhedov’s Ḵazinai tibbi qadim (1990) is a voluminous compilation of traditional medicine, partly from fieldwork (for a review, see Irānšenāḵt, nos. 16-17, 2000, pp. 322-26). On onomastics, ʿĀlem Ḡafurov’s Šarhi ismu laqabho (1981) glosses more than four thousand “Tajik” personal names and epithets.

Encyclopaedias. The only general-purpose encyclopaedia in Tajik Persian is Entsiklopediai sovetii tojik (q.v.; 1978-88), with the Russian supplemental volume Tadzhikskaya SSR (2nd ed. 1984) and the specialized offshoots Entsiklopediyai adabiyot va san’ati tojik (Tajik encyclopedia of literature and art; 2 of three scheduled volumes, 1988-89) and Éntsiklopediyai ḵojagii qišloqi Tojikiston (Encyclopedia of rural economy of Tajikistan, 2 vols., 1989-91). A new approach and format was adopted in Entsiklopediyai muḵtasari rūzgordorī (Concise encyclopedia of everyday life; 1988, 625 pp.), a careful translation from Russian arranged by subject, with ample illustrations.

Bibliography : Given in the text.

July 27, 2005

(Habib Borjian)

Originally Published: July 20, 2005

Last Updated: July 20, 2005