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Innovations of Proto-Iranian compared to Proto-Indo-Iranian include (from Witzel, 2001): The multitude of Middle Iranian languages and peoples indicate that great linguistic diversity must have existed among the ancient speakers of Iranian languages.
The Indo-Iranian languages are thought to have originated in Central Asia.The Andronovo culture is the suggested candidate for the common Indo-Iranian culture ca. It was situated precisely in the western part of Central Asia that borders present-day Russia (and present-day Kazakhstan).It was in relative proximity to the other satem ethno-linguistic groups of the Indo-European family, like Thracian, Balto-Slavic and others, and to common Indo-European's original homeland (more precisely, the steppes of southern Russia to the north of the Caucasus), according to the reconstructed linguistic relationships of common Indo-European.Proto-Iranian thus dates to some time after Proto-Indo-Iranian break-up, or the early second millennium BCE, as the Old Iranian languages began to break off and evolve separately as the various Iranian tribes migrated and settled in vast areas of southeastern Europe, the Iranian plateau, and Central Asia.Middle Iranian languages included Middle Persian (a language of Sassanid Iran), Parthian, and Bactrian.As of 2008, there were an estimated 150–200 million native speakers of Iranian languages.
All Iranian languages are descended from a common ancestor, Proto-Iranian.
In turn, and together with Proto-Indo-Aryan and the Nuristani languages, Proto-Iranian descends from a common ancestor Proto-Indo-Iranian.
are a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages, which in turn are a branch of the Indo-European language family.
The speakers of Iranian languages are known as Iranian peoples.
Historical Iranian languages are grouped in three stages: Old Iranian (until 400 BCE), Middle Iranian (400 BCE – 900 CE), and New Iranian (since 900 CE).
Of the Old Iranian languages, the better understood and recorded ones are Old Persian (a language of Achaemenid Iran) and Avestan (the language of the Avesta).