John R. Perry

Professor of Persian

Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Pick Hall 221

Ph.D. Cambridge University, 1970.
Teaching at Chicago since 1972.

Special Interests

Persian Linguistics and Language History, Cultural History of Iran and the Middle East

John Perry was born in Britain and educated at Cambridge University (Pembroke College), where in 1970 he was awarded a Ph.D in Oriental Studies (Arabic and Persian). During summer vacations he hitchhiked to Egypt and to Iran, and in 1964-65 spent a year studying Persian at Tehran University. He has conducted research in Iran, Iraq (including Kurdistan), Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Tajikistan, and traveled the Karakoram Highway to Kashgar. He taught in the Arabic Studies Department at St. Andrews University, Scotland (1968 - 1972) before coming to Chicago. His teaching at Chicago has included courses on Middle Eastern literature in translation and Islamic Civilization as well as Persian (and Tajik) language and literature.

His earlier research focused on the history of eighteenth-century Iran and adjacent regions. He concentrates currently on the history of the Persian language, and in particular the mechanisms of the incorporation of Arabic vocabulary into Persian and its dissemination into other languages of the region. Other interests include Iranian folklore and vernacular culture, and the language and cultural history of Tajikistan.

Selected Publications


  • Karim Khan Zand, A History of Iran 1747-1779. University of Chicago Press, 1979.
    This work was translated into Persian ( Tehran, 1986) and into Kurdish (Sulaymani, 2005); a shorter, popular version has been published in Oneworld’s “Makers of the Muslim World” Series (Karim Khan Zand, Oxford, 2006).
  • Form and Meaning in Persian Vocabulary: The Arabic Feminine Ending . Bibliotheca Persica Persian Studies Series No. 12. Mazda Publishers: Costa Mesa, CA, 1991.
  • A Tajik Persian Reference Grammar. Leiden: Brill, 2005..

Edition and Translation

  • Mikhail Naimy [Nu‘ayma], A New Year: Stories, Autobiography and Poems, selected and translated by J. R. Perry (Arabic Translation Series of the Journal of Arabic Literature, No. 3). Leiden: Brill, 1974.
  • “Tajik Literature: Seventy Years is Longer Than the Millennium.” Introductory essay, translations of a critical essay by Askar Hakim, and two poems by Gulrukhsor; editing of translations of stories and poems by Perry’s students, in World Literature Today: Literatures of Central Asia 70/3 (Summer 1996), pp. 571-88.  PDF
  • “Ashura at Skardu.” Field videotape of Muharram procession in northern Pakistan, edited for distribution with 4-page study guide (26 minutes), 1996.
  • The Sands of Oxus: Boyhood Reminiscences of Sadriddin Aini . Annotated translation from Tajik, jointly with R. Lehr. Costa Mesa: Mazda Publishers, 1998.
  • Asian Folklore Studies: Folklore of the Iranian Region . Vol. 60/2 (2001). Guest editor, John R. Perry. Nanzan University, Nagoya, Japan,


  • “The Last Safavids, 1722-1773.” Iran (JBIPS) XI (1971), pp. 59-69. PDF
  • “Forced Migration in Iran during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.” Iranian Studies 8/4 (1975), pp. 199-215.
  • “Justice for the Underprivileged: The Ombudsman Tradition of Iran.” JNES 37/3 (1978), pp. 203-15. PDF
  • “Differential Assimilation of some Arabic Loanwords in Tajik and Uzbek.” Folia Slavica Vol. 7/1-2 (1984), pp. 268-82. PDF
  • “Language Reform in Turkey and Iran.” International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 17 (1985), pp. 295-311.  Reprinted 2003, in Men of Order: Authoritarian Modernization in Turkey and Iran, ed. Touraj Atabaki and Erik Jan Zurcher (I.B. Tauris), pp. 238-59.  PDF
  • “Blackmailing Amazons and Dutch Pigs: A Consideration of Epic and Folktale Motifs in Persian Historiography.” Iranian Studies 19/2 (1986), pp. 155-65.
  • Mirza, Mashti and Juja Kabab: Some Cases of Anomalous Noun Phrase Word Order in Persian.” Pembroke Persian Papers, 1: Persian and Islamic Studies in honour of P.W. Avery. Ed. Charles Melville (Cambridge, 1990), pp. 213-28.
  • “Persian-Arabic Bilingualism In the Evolution of New Persian. ” Proceedings of the International Symposium on Bilingualism in the Iranian World (Bamberg, July 1992). PDF
  • “Early Arabic-Persian Lexicography: The asâmî and masâdir Genres.” Proceedings of the Colloquium on Arabic Lexicology and Lexicography (C.A.L.L.), Part I, ed. K. Dévenyi, T. Iványi, A. Shivtiel (Budapest, 1993), pp. 247-60. PDF
  • “Lexical doublets as a derivational device in Persian: The Arabic feminine ending.” Acta Orient. Hung. XLVIII (1995), pp. 127-53. PDF
  • “Persian during the Safavid Period: Sketch for an Etat de Langue .” Safavid Persia: The History and Politics of an Islamic Society, ed. Charles Melville (London & New York: I. B. Tauris, 1996), pp. 269-83.  PDF
  • “From Persian to Tajik to Persian: Culture, politics and law reshape a Central Asian language.” NSL.8. Linguistic Studies in the Non-Slavic Languages of the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Baltic Republics, Ed. Howard I. Aronson (University of Chicago, 1996), pp. 279-305. PDF
  • “Script and Scripture: The Three Alphabets of Tajik Persian, 1927-1997.” Journal of Central Asian Studies II/1 (1997), pp. 2-18.  PDF
  • “Foreign Terms and Place Names.” The Oriental Rug Lexicon, ed. Peter F. Stone (Seattle, 1997). pp. viii-xi. PDF
  • “Comparative Perspectives on Language Planning in Iran and Tajikistan,” Language and Society in the Middle East and North Africa: Studies in Variation and Identity, ed. Yasir Suleiman (London: Curzon, 1999). pp. 154-74. PDF
  • “Toward a Theory of Urban Moieties: The Haydariyya and Ni‘matiyya Revisited.” Iranian Studies 32/1 (1999), pp. 51-70.  PDF
  • “‘Epistemic’ verb forms in Persian of Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan.” Evidentials: Turkic, Iranian and Neighboring Languages, ed. Lars Johanson and Bo Utas (Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 2000), pp. 229-57.  PDF
  • “Ayni, Sadriddin” Supplement to the Modern Encyclopedia of Russian, Soviet & Eurasian History (SMERSH). Academic International Press, Vol. 3 (2001). PDF
  • “The Historical Role of Turkish in Relation to Persian of Iran” Iran & the Caucasus, ed. Garnik Asatrian, International Publications of Iranian Studies , Vol. 5 (Tehran, 2001), pp. 193-200. PDF
  • “Introduction” Asian Folklore Studies, Guest Ed. John R. Perry, Special Issue: Folklore of the Iranian Region, Vol. 60 (2001), pp. 191-202. PDF
  • “Grammaticalization in Process: The Evolution of the Afghan Persian Adverb xāt¹ The Linguist's Linguist: A Collection of Papers in Honour of Alexis Manaster Ramer, ed. Fabrice Cavoto, Vol. II (Lincom Europa, 2002), pp. 317-327. PDF
  • “Arabic Elements in Persian” EIr, Vol. II (2002), pp. 229-236. PDF
  • “Ethno-Linguistic Markers of the Turco-Mongol Military and Persian Bureaucratic Castes in Pre-Modern Iran and India” Mitteilungen des SFB “Differenz und Integration” 5: Militar und Staatlichkeit, (Orientwissenschaftliche Hefte, 2003), pp. 111-125. PDF
  • “Persian as a Homoglossic Language” Iran Questions Et Connaissances in Cultures Et Sociétés Contemporaines, Vol. III (Paris, 2003), pp. 11-28. PDF
  • “Monty Python and the Mathnavi: The Parrot in Persian, Indian and English humor,” Iranian Studies 36/1 (2003), 63-73.  PDF
  • “Lexical Areas and Semantic Fields of Arabic Loanwords in Persian and Beyond” Linguistic Convergence and Areal Diffusion: Case studies from Iranian, Semitic and Turkic, Ed. É. Á. Csató, B. Isaksson and C. Jahani, (London and New York, 2005), pp. 97-109. PDF
  • “Morphology of Persian.”  In Morphologies of Asia and Africa, ed. Allan Kaye, 2 vols.  (Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2007): Chapter 35, "Persian," Vol. 2, 975-1019. PDF
  • “Exaptation from Arabic syntax to Persian lexical Morphology.”  In Angela Ralli, Geert Booij, Sergio Scalise, and Athanasios Karasimos, ed., On-Line Proceedings of the Sixth Mediterranean Meeting of Morphology (MMM 6; Ithaka, 27-30 September, 2007), University of Patras, Greece, pp. 115-121.  PDF
  • “New Persian: Expansion, Standardization, and Inclusivity,” in Brian Spooner and William Hanaway, eds., Literacy in the Persianate World: Writing and the Social Order,  Museum Publications, Philadelphia, 2012, 70-94.  PDF

Numerous entries contributed to reference works, inc. The Encyclopedia of Islam, Encyclopaedia Iranica, Encyclopaedia of Asian History, Handbuch der Lexicographie, The Cambridge History of Iran, The UNESCO History of the Scientific & Cultural Development of Mankind, Facts about the World’s Languages, The Supplement to the Modern Encyclopedia of Russian, Soviet, and Eurasian History (SMERSH); and over 50 book and media reviews.