Iranic languages

The Iranic languages are a subgrouping of the Indo-European languages with about 150–200 million native speakers. The largest member of the group is Farsi, which accounts for about half the group’s speakers. Iranic is a satem branch of Indo-European. It and the Indic languages together form the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European family, which is one of the eight primary extant branches.

Iranic languages are attested in about three historical phases:

  • Old Iranic (up until 400 BCE), which includes Old Persian (of the Achaemenid Empire) and Old Avestan (the languages that the core texts of Zoroastrianism are written in)
  • Middle Iranic (between 400 BCE–900 CE), of which the best-attested and understood languages are Middle Persian, Parthian and Bactrian
  • New Iranic (since 900 CE), which obviously includes all the modern Iranic languages.

Furthermore the Iranic languages are generally subdivided into two branches, each with two further sub-branches:

  • Western Iranic
    • Southwestern Iranic: the most prominent members being Farsi and Luri
    • Northwestern Iranic: the most prominent members being the Kurdish languages
  • Eastern Iranic
    • Southeastern Iranic: the most prominent member of which is Pashto
    • Northeastern Iranic: the most prominent member being Ossetian

Avestan is not considered either an eastern or western language, because it was spoken at a time before the east/west split really existed.