Iranian Ancient Languages Part I

By | December 16, 2021

The documents that we possess of the most ancient phase of the Iranian languages, except for the little that concerns the language of the Medes (see below), are the Avesta (see), sacred text of the Mazdean religion and the cuneiform inscriptions of the Achaemenids. There are notable differences between the language of the former and that of the latter, which prove that two different Iranian dialects lie at the basis of both. The main one consists in the fact that the Persian of the inscriptions (a. Pers.) Has e ϑ and d where the avestic (av.) Has s, z corresponding to a. ind. ś, j or h (a. pers. ϑ ā tiy, av. sañ haiti, a. ind. ś á ṃ sati ; to. pers. dasta -, av. zasta -, a. ind. hásta -; to. pers. dan -, av. zan -, a. ind. j ā n āй ti). Other differences are: the continuation in a. pers. of the consonant group ϑ r, outcome of Indo-Iranian tr, by means of a single sound (š cerebral?), while in av. is maintained as ϑ r: a. pers. pu ś a -, pers. mod. pus, av. pu θ ra – a. ind. putrá -; furthermore there is in the Avestic the beginning of that change for which d u̯ will be in the northern dialects b, while in the dialect of the inscriptions it is always continued with d u̯ -: av. bitya -, gath. daibitya -, a. pers. duvit ī ya -, a. ind. dvit í ya -. Also in the lexicon there are notable differences: eg. to “say” to. pers. uses a gaub – theme, while av. ha vak – and for the present only mrav -.

The position of the ant. Persian of the inscriptions and that of Avestic in the context of Iranian dialects is not fully defined. With regard to the a. pers. it is certain that it is a southwestern dialect of Iran since the differential characters of it are found for the most part in the medieval southwestern dialects and in the Pers. modern. For Iran 2003, please check

However, there are some facts that lead one to believe the dialect of the inscriptions as a deviation of that undocumented ancient Persian, from which the medieval and modern southwestern dialects are derived. In contrast to ϑ from ir. s of the year pers. of the inscriptions the Pahlavi of the books and the pers. mod. present s, and, since a regression of this type is not probable, we conclude that the latter refer to a dialect in which there was no passage from s to ϑ. Also in the a. pers. of the inscriptions the demonstrative pronoun is ima – as in av. and in the a. ind. (imá -), while the pers. med. and mod. has ē n, ī n from * aina -; there. pers. enrollment ha hauv -, ava -, continued in Northwestern dialects, while dialects mer. they have ā n from ā na -; to “take” the a. pers. enrollment use the theme g ṛ b ā ya – while the m. pers. merid. and the pers. mod. they have g ī r from * g ṛ bya -; there. pers. enrollment ha ka š è iy e è i š è iy, while the dialects m. pers. merid. they have kas and tis. On the basis of these facts it was thought that the to. pers. of the inscriptions is not the pure antecedent of the Persian dialects proper, medieval and modern, but is a transitional dialect between the true a. pers. prior to said dialects and north-western dialects, in the image that one has of them through the north-western dialect of the Turfan texts (German, in Le Monde oriental, XV, 1923, p. 249).

In truth, while it is certain that the fundamental characteristics make the A. pers. of the inscriptions a dialect of southwestern Persia, that of Perside proper, it should be borne in mind that on the one hand it represents the common language of the Achaemenid age, but on the other hand it is in its first manifestations of written language and therefore, alongside not a few uncertainties and sways, it may present, especially in phoneticism, traces of the use of local parlors. The common language character is revealed, for example, in those facts that betray an alloglot influence, most likely Meda. First of all, the continuation in some terms of ir. z, a. ind. j as z and not as d: vazarka – “big”, pers. mod. buzurg ; z ū ra – “deception”, pers. mod. z ū r ; – zana – “lineage”, paruzana -, vispazana -, cf. ‛Αριζάντιοι name of a tribe of Media. Furthermore, the connection s u̯, which in southern dialects is continued as s, often appears to be continued as sp, eg. aspa – “horse”, pers. mod. asp. in contrast to asab ā ra – “knight”, pers. mod. suv ā r, (h) uvaspa – “with beautiful horses”, vi š t ā spa – name pr. “Hystaspes” (cf. the medo σπάκα with respect to pers. Mod. Sag). Likewise, the name of Mithras that begins to appear in the texts of Artaxerxes I is Mi ϑ ra – in Persepolis and Susa (Mitra – in Ecbatana) instead of mi ś a -, as we would expect: cf. hami ś iya – “contiuratus”. It is difficult to establish how much of these loans is due to the language of the Medes and how much to the influence exerted by the language of the sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, also because the limit between these two languages ​​is not clearly marked. However, it should not be overlooked that the passage of xv in f in – farna – (vindafarna -, ‘Ινταϕέρνης) from χ var ə na – is in all probability made medo and is not in the avestic (identical passage occurs in the dialect by Sīvand, see below); and that baga – “god”, which also appears in Slavic, does not appear in G ā th ā and very sparsely appears in the recent Avesta. Also of the appellative magu – (Μάγος), which is frequent in the inscriptions, there is only a negligible trace in the Avesta.

Iranian Ancient Languages Part I