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Indo-Iranic (Aryan)
South, Central, West Asia and the Caucasus
Linguistic classificationIndo-European
  • Indo-Iranian
ISO 639-5iir
Distribution of the Indo-Iranian languages
Chart classifying Indo-Iranian languages within the Indo-European language family

The Indo-Iranian languages (also known as Indo-Iranic languages[1][2] or collectively the Aryan languages[3]) constitute the largest and southeasternmost extant branch of the Indo-European language family. They include over 300 languages, spoken by around 1.5 billion speakers, predominantly in South Asia, West Asia and parts of Central Asia.

The common reconstructed ancestor of all of the languages in this family is called Proto-Indo-Iranian, also known as Common Aryan, which is hypothesized to have been spoken in approximately the late 3rd millennium BC in an area of the Eurasian steppe that borders the Ural River on the west, the Tian Shan on the east (where the Indo-Iranians took over the area occupied by the earlier Afanasevo culture), and Transoxiana and the Hindu Kush on the south.[4] The three branches of the Indo-Iranian languages are Indo-Aryan, Iranian, and Nuristani. A fourth independent branch, Dardic, was previously posited, but recent scholarship in general places Dardic languages as archaic members of the Indo-Aryan branch.[5]

The areas with Indo-Iranian languages stretch from Europe (Romani) and the Caucasus (Ossetian, Tat and Talysh), down to Mesopotamia (Kurdish languages, Gorani, Kurmanji Dialect continuum[6]), eastern Anatolia (Zaza[7][8]) and Iran (Persian), eastward to Xinjiang (Sarikoli) and Assam (Assamese), and south to Sri Lanka (Sinhala) and the Maldives (Maldivian), with branches stretching as far out as Oceania and the Caribbean for Fiji Hindi and Caribbean Hindustani respectively. Furthermore, there are large diaspora communities of Indo-Iranian speakers in northwestern Europe (the United Kingdom), North America (United States, Canada), Australia, South Africa, and the Persian Gulf Region (United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia).

The number of distinct languages listed in Ethnologue are 312,[9] while those recognised in Glottolog are 320.[10] The Indo-Iranian language with the largest number of native speakers is Hindustani language (Hindi-Urdu).[11]


The term Indo-Iranian languages refers to the spectrum of Indo-European languages spoken in the Southern Asian region of Eurasia, spanning from the Indian subcontinent (where the Indic branch is spoken, also called Indo-Aryan) up to the Iranian Plateau (where the Iranic branch is spoken).

This branch is also known as Aryan languages, referring to the languages spoken by Aryan peoples, where the term Aryan is the ethnocultural self-designation of ancient Indo-Iranians. But in modern-day, Western scholars avoid the term Aryan since World War II, owing to the perceived negative connotation associated with Aryanism.


  1. ^ Mahulkar, D. D. (1990). Pre-Pāṇinian Linguistic Studies. Northern Book Centre. ISBN 978-81-85119-88-5.
  2. ^ Puglielli, Annarita; Frascarelli, Mara (2011). Linguistic Analysis: From Data to Theory. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-022250-0.
  3. ^ Gvozdanović, Jadranka (1999). Numeral Types and Changes Worldwide. Walter de Gruyter. p. 221. ISBN 978-3-11-016113-7. The usage of 'Aryan languages' is not to be equated with Indo-Aryan languages, rather Indo-Iranic languages of which Indo-Aryan is a subgrouping.
  4. ^ Anthony, David W. (2007). The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World. Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-05887-0.
  5. ^ Bashir, Elena (2007). "Dardic". In Jain, Danesh; Cardona, George (eds.). The Indo-Aryan languages. Routledge. p. 905. ISBN 978-0-415-77294-5. 'Dardic' is a geographic cover term for those Northwest Indo-Aryan languages which [...] developed new characteristics different from the IA languages of the Indo-Gangetic plain. Although the Dardic and Nuristani (previously 'Kafiri') languages were formerly grouped together, Morgenstierne (1965) has established that the Dardic languages are Indo-Aryan, and that the Nuristani languages constitute a separate subgroup of Indo-Iranian.
  6. ^ Chatoev, Vladimir; Kʻosyan, Aram (1999). Nationalities of Armenia. YEGEA Publishing House. p. 61. ISBN 978-99930-808-0-0.
  7. ^ Asatrian, Garnik (1995). "DIMLĪ". Encyclopedia Iranica. VI. Archived from the original on 29 April 2011. Retrieved 11 June 2021.
  8. ^ Paul, Ludwig (1998). "The Pozition of Zazaki the West Iranian Languages" (PDF). Iran Chamber. Open Publishing. Retrieved 4 December 2023.
  9. ^ "Indo-Iranian". Ethnologue. 2023.
  10. ^ "Glottolog 4.7 – Indo-Iranian". Glottolog. Retrieved 1 February 2023.
  11. ^ "Hindi" L1: 322 million (2011 Indian census), including perhaps 150 million speakers of other languages that reported their language as "Hindi" on the census. L2: 274 million (2016, source unknown). Urdu L1: 67 million (2011 & 2017 censuses), L2: 102 million (1999 Pakistan, source unknown, and 2001 Indian census): Ethnologue 21. Hindi at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018) Closed access icon. Urdu at Ethnologue (21st ed., 2018) Closed access icon.

Further reading