What Shall We Talk about in Farsi?

Content of Everyday Conversations in Iran


Previous empirical studies have suggested that language is primarily used to exchange social information, but our evidence on this derives mainly from English speakers. We present data from a study of natural conversations among Farsi (Persian) speakers in Iran and show that not only are conversation groups the same size as those observed in Europe and North America, but people also talk predominantly about social topics. We argue that these results reinforce the suggestion that language most likely evolved for the transmission of information about the social world. We also explore sex differences in conversational behavior: while the pattern is broadly similar between the sexes, men may be more sensitive than women are to discussing some topics in the presence of many other people.

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RD’s research is funded by a European Research Council Advanced Investigator grant (#295663). This research also received financial support from the University of Tehran under grant number 27320/1/4.

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Correspondence to Mahdi Dahmardeh.

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Dahmardeh, M., Dunbar, R.I.M. What Shall We Talk about in Farsi?. Hum Nat 28, 423–433 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12110-017-9300-4

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  • Conversation group size
  • Sex differences
  • Function of language
  • Intimate conversations