Iran Medieval Dialects Part I

By | December 16, 2021

In addition to the clues that we have from the a. pers. insc., the precocious decline of the Iranian towards the analytic type is revealed in the elements that from the Iranian have penetrated into other languages ​​already a few centuries before the vulgar era. Apart from the proper Iranian names that appear in the Pontic inscriptions, which already have the same dialectal characters as Ossetian, both the numerous Iranian elements that appear in the Aramaic texts of the Old Testament and in the Elephantine papyri, and the numerous Iranian loans of the Armenian (for most of the Arsacid period) already present the same phase of development that is widely attested for the Western Middle Iranian dialects (m. pers. O.), even more advanced than that of the Middle Eastern Iranian dialects (m. pers. E.). For Iran 1998, please check

Sources of our knowledge for the medieval phase of Iranian are, for Western dominion, the inscriptions on monuments, gems, coins of the Arsacidic and Sassanidic age (m. Pers. Insc.), The religious and profane texts of the tradition Zoroastrian cultural (m. pers. l., ie Middle-Persian of books) and the Manichaean texts recently found in Turfan in Chinese Turkestan (m. pers. T.); Almost the only sources for the Eastern dominion are some texts of Manichean Christian and Buddhist subjects in Sogdian (Sogd.), also found in Turkestan, and other texts of Buddhist subject in Brahmī script, also recently found, written in a language recognized today for the dialect of the Saci (sac.).

Despite the much more conservative character of the Eastern dominion, the Middle Iranian presents a common development trend throughout the dominion. First of all, there was a strengthening of the intensity of the accent, most likely joined with an acceleration of the tempo of the speech, as a result of which there was the weakening or disappearance of the postonic elements; these effects are however conditioned in the oriental dialects (Sogdiano) by the quantity. To the same factors are to be reported: the monophthongation of the diphthongs; the vocalization of y, v intervocalic with disappearance of the second vowel, aya in ai, ē, ava in au, ō, numerous facts of epentesis and metaphonesis of – i, modifications of sounds conditioned by contiguous sounds, such as the continuation of r preceded by labial sounds by ur, the destruction of consonant groups, particularly ϑ r, ϑ w, rt, rz, sr. The reduction of the morphological elements expressing the relationship must be combined with the weakening of the final word elements. Thus in the name the syncretism of the cases already announced in the a. pers., while it does not progress in Eastern dialects, in Western dialects it leads to only two cases and therefore to a single case. In relation to this, prepositions acquire value for the expression of the relationship. The distinction of the genus persists only in Eastern Iranian. Particularly diminished in the Western domain is the ability to create new compounds and on the other hand many elements of ancient compounds assume the function and mobility of suffixes. In the verb the analogical tendency makes a single type of inflection prevail – a – o – aya – and the prevalence of the temporal notion leads to the formation of a preterite theme, derived from part. perf. passive. In the syntax there is an elementary simplicity in the sentence structure and a strong tendency to eliminate dependent clauses. However, a considerable diversity remains in the pursuit of these common development trends: in the Western domain, culturally more advanced and much more exposed to contacts, they appear to be pushed to the extreme, while in the Eastern one, more secluded, they have stopped leaving those dialects an imprint of archaism that has been preserved even in the modern phase.

The western Middle Iranian dialects have some very important characteristics in common, namely: the reduction of the nominal flexion to two cases, the nom. and the oblique case: of the oblique case of sing. in – e traces remained, particularly in the m. pers. insc., while of the nom. pl. without ending there are major traces in m. pers. L. At the end the obl. sing. and the nom. pl. disappear and flexion is normally reduced in m. Iran. Western to a single case which in the singular is that of the nom. and it is instead the case obl. in the plural. As regards the inflection of the present, it is in the indicative exclusively that of the type – aya -; in the cong. instead the flexion of type – a extends ; in the imper. prevails in the 2nd pers. the flexion in – a, but there is no lack of traces of the inflection – aya -. Oct instead, since its characteristic vowel ē had come to be confused with that of the ind. in m. Iran. occ., has disappeared leaving very few traces. In Western dialects for the expression of the past the use of the participle in -t is stated generally without the copula, and, being a transitive verb, accompanied by the agent in general without a preposition.

Iran Medieval Dialects Part I