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The language of the Tajiks is an eastern dialect of Persian, called Dari (derived from Darbārī, "[of/from the] royal courts", in the sense of "courtly language"), or also Parsi-e Darbari.

In Tajikistan, where Cyrillic script is used, it is called the Tajiki language.

This number includes speakers of the Pamiri languages, including Wakhi and Shughni, and the Yaghnobi people who in the past were considered by the government of the Soviet Union nationalities separate from the Tajiks.

The Muslim armies that invaded Transoxiana early in the eighth century, conquering the Sogdian principalities and clashing with the Qarluq Turks (see Bregel, Atlas, Maps 8–10) consisted not only of Arabs, but also of Persian converts from Fārs and the central Zagros region (Bartol’d [Barthold], “Tadžiki,” pp. Hence the Turks of Central Asia adopted a variant of the Iranian word, täžik, to designate their Muslim adversaries in general. According to the Encyclopaedia of Islam, however, the oldest known usage of the word Tajik as a reference to Persians in Persian literature can be found in the writings of the Persian poet Jalal ad-Din Rumi.

For example, the rulers of the south Indian Chalukya dynasty and Rashtrakuta dynasty also referred to the Arabs as "Tajika" in the 8th and 9th century. The Tajiks are the principal ethnic group in most of Tajikistan, as well as in northern and western Afghanistan, though there are more Tajiks in Afghanistan than in Tajikistan.

It has also adopted fewer Arabic loan words than Iranian Persian, while retaining vocabulary that has fallen out of use in the latter language.

In Tajikistan, in ordinary speech, also known as “zaboni kucha” (lit.

The ancestors of the Tajiks constituted the core of the ancient population of Khwārezm (Khorezm) and Bactria, which formed part of Transoxania (Sogdiana).

Over the course of time, the eastern Iranian dialect that was used by the ancient Tajiks eventually gave way to Farsi, a western dialect spoken in Iran and Afghanistan.

Some ethnic Tajiks, particularly those from Tajikistan, show clear Mongoloid admixture possibly originating from their Kyrgyz and Uzbek neighbors.

The dominant haplogroup among modern Tajiks is the Haplogroup R1a Y-DNA.

By the eleventh century (Yusof Ḵāṣṣ-ḥājeb, Qutadḡu bilig, lines 280, 282, 3265), the Qarakhanid Turks applied this term more specifically to the Persian Muslims in the Oxus basin and Khorasan, who were variously the Turks’ rivals, models, overlords (under the Samanid Dynasty), and subjects (from Ghaznavid times on). The distinction between Turk and Tajik became stereotyped to express the symbiosis and rivalry of the (ideally) nomadic military executive and the urban civil bureaucracy (Niẓām al-Molk: tāzik, pp. Tajiks are a substantial minority in Uzbekistan, as well as in overseas communities.

Persian writers of the Ghaznavid, Seljuq and Atābak periods (ca. Iranians soon accepted it as an ethnonym, as is shown by a Persian court official’s referring to mā tāzikān “we Tajiks” (Bayhaqi, ed. Historically, the ancestors of the Tajiks lived in a larger territory in Central Asia than now.

"street language", as opposed to “zaboni adabi”, lit.

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