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The Avestan alphabet
Avestan alphabet
is a writing system developed during Iran's Sassanid era (226–651 CE) to render the Avestan language. As a side effect of its development, the script was also used for Pazend, a method of writing Middle Persian
Middle Persian
that was used primarily for the Zend commentaries on the texts of the Avesta. In the texts of Zoroastrian tradition, the alphabet is referred to as din dabireh or din dabiri, Middle Persian
Middle Persian
for "the religion's script".

Contents

1 History 2 Genealogy and script 3 Graphemes 4 Ligatures 5 Punctuation 6 Unicode 7 References 8 Bibliography

History[edit]

History of the alphabet

Egyptian hieroglyphs
Egyptian hieroglyphs
32 c. BCE

Hieratic
Hieratic
32 c. BCE

Demotic 7 c. BCE

Meroitic 3 c. BCE

Proto-Sinaitic 19 c. BCE

Ugaritic 15 c. BCE Epigraphic South Arabian 9 c. BCE

Ge’ez 5–6 c. BCE

Phoenician 12 c. BCE

Paleo-Hebrew 10 c. BCE

Samaritan 6 c. BCE

Libyco-Berber
Libyco-Berber
3 c. BCE

Tifinagh

Paleohispanic (semi-syllabic) 7 c. BCE Aramaic 8 c. BCE

Kharoṣṭhī
Kharoṣṭhī
4 c. BCE Brāhmī 4 c. BCE

Brahmic family
Brahmic family
(see)

E.g. Tibetan 7 c. CE Devanagari
Devanagari
13 c. CE

Canadian syllabics 1840

Hebrew 3 c. BCE Pahlavi 3 c. BCE

Avestan 4 c. CE

Palmyrene 2 c. BCE Syriac 2 c. BCE

Nabataean 2 c. BCE

Arabic 4 c. CE

N'Ko 1949 CE

Sogdian 2 c. BCE

Orkhon (old Turkic) 6 c. CE

Old Hungarian c. 650 CE

Old Uyghur

Mongolian 1204 CE

Mandaic 2 c. CE

Greek 8 c. BCE

Etruscan 8 c. BCE

Latin 7 c. BCE

Cherokee (syllabary; letter forms only) c. 1820 CE

Runic 2 c. CE Ogham
Ogham
(origin uncertain) 4 c. CE

Coptic 3 c. CE Gothic 3 c. CE Armenian 405 CE Georgian (origin uncertain) c. 430 CE Glagolitic 862 CE Cyrillic c. 940 CE

Old Permic 1372 CE

Hangul
Hangul
1443 (probably influenced by Tibetan) Thaana
Thaana
18 c. CE (derived from Brahmi numerals)

v t e

The development of the Avestan alphabet
Avestan alphabet
was initiated by the need to represent recited Avestan language
Avestan language
texts correctly. The various text collections that today constitute the canon of Zoroastrian scripture are the result of a collation that occurred in the 4th century, probably during the reign of Shapur II
Shapur II
(309–379). It is likely that the Avestan alphabet
Avestan alphabet
was an ad hoc[1] innovation related to this – "Sassanid archetype" – collation. The enterprise, "which is indicative of a Mazdean revival and of the establishment of a strict orthodoxy closely connected with the political power, was probably caused by the desire to compete more effectively with Buddhists, Christians, and Manicheans, whose faith was based on a revealed book".[1] In contrast, the Zoroastrian priesthood had for centuries been accustomed to memorizing scripture — following by rote the words of a teacher-priest until they had memorized the words, cadence, inflection and intonation of the prayers. This they passed on to their pupils in turn, so preserving for many generations the correct way to recite scripture. This was necessary because the priesthood considered (and continue to consider) precise and correct enunciation and cadence a prerequisite of effective prayer. Further, the recitation of the liturgy was (and is) accompanied by ritual activity that leaves no room to attend to a written text. The ability to correctly render Avestan did, however, have a direct benefit: By the common era the Avestan language
Avestan language
words had almost ceased to be understood, which led to the preparation of the Zend texts (from Avestan zainti "understanding"), that is commentaries on and translations of the canon. The development of the Avestan alphabet allowed these commentaries to interleave quotation of scripture with explanation thereof. The direct effect of these texts was a "standardized" interpretation of scripture that survives to the present day. For scholarship these texts are enormously interesting since they occasionally preserve passages that have otherwise been lost. The 9th–12th century texts of Zoroastrian tradition suggest that there was once a much larger collection of written Zoroastrian literature, but these texts — if they ever existed — have since been lost, and it is hence not known what script was used to render them. The question of the existence of a pre-Sassanid "Arsacid archetype" occupied Avestan scholars for much of the 19th century, and, "[w]hatever may be the truth about the Arsacid Avesta, the linguistic evidence shows that even if it did exist, it can not have had any practical influence, since no linguistic form in the Vulgate can be explained with certainty as resulting from wrong transcription and the number of doubtful cases is minimal; in fact it is being steadily reduced. Though the existence of an Arsacid archetype is not impossible, it has proved to contribute nothing to Avestan philology."[1] Genealogy and script[edit] The Pahlavi script, upon which the Avestan alphabet
Avestan alphabet
is based, was in common use for representing various Middle Iranian languages, but was not adequate for representing a religious language that demanded precision since Pahlavi was a simplified abjad syllabary with at most 22 symbols, most of which were ambiguous (i.e. could represent more than one sound). In contrast, Avestan was a full alphabet, with explicit characters for vowels, and allowed for phonetic disambiguation of allophones. The alphabet included many characters (a, i, k, t, p, b, m, n, r, s, z, š, xv) from cursive Pahlavi, while some (ā, γ) are characters that only exist in the Psalter Pahlavi variant (in cursive Pahlavi γ and k have the same symbol).[2] Some of the vowels, such as ə appear to derive from Greek minuscules.[2] Avestan o is a special form of Pahlavi l that exists only in Aramaic signs. Some letters (e.g. ŋ́, ṇ, ẏ, v), are free inventions.[3] Avestan script, like Pahlavi script
Pahlavi script
and Aramaic script also, is written from right to left. In Avestan script, letters are not connected, and ligatures are "rare and clearly of secondary origin".[2] Graphemes[edit]

Avestan chart by Carl Faulmann

Avestan chart on p138 in l'Encyclopédie

Avestan chart on p134 in l'Encyclopédie

In total, the Avestan alphabet
Avestan alphabet
has 37 consonants and 16 vowels. There are two main transcription schemes for Avestan, the newer style used by Karl Hoffmann and the older style used by Christian Bartholomae.

Avestan alphabet

Letter Transcription[4] IPA Unicode

Hoff. Bar.

𐬀 a a /a/ U+10B00: AVESTAN LETTER A

𐬁 ā ā /aː/ U+10B01: AVESTAN LETTER AA

𐬂 å — /ɒ/ U+10B02: AVESTAN LETTER AO

𐬃 ā̊ å /ɒː/ U+10B03: AVESTAN LETTER AAO

𐬄 ą ą /ã/ U+10B04: AVESTAN LETTER AN

𐬅 ą̇ — /ã/ U+10B05: AVESTAN LETTER AAN

𐬆 ə ə /ə/ U+10B06: AVESTAN LETTER AE

𐬇 ə̄ ə̄ /əː/ U+10B07: AVESTAN LETTER AEE

𐬈 e e /e/ U+10B08: AVESTAN LETTER E

𐬉 ē ē /eː/ U+10B09: AVESTAN LETTER EE

𐬊 o o /ɔ/ U+10B0A: AVESTAN LETTER O

𐬋 ō ō /oː/ U+10B0B: AVESTAN LETTER OO

𐬌 i i /ɪ/ U+10B0C: AVESTAN LETTER I

𐬍 ī ī /iː/ U+10B0D: AVESTAN LETTER II

𐬎 u u /ʊ/ U+10B0E: AVESTAN LETTER U

𐬏 ū ū /uː/ U+10B0F: AVESTAN LETTER UU

𐬐 k k /k/ U+10B10: AVESTAN LETTER KE

𐬑 x x /x/ U+10B11: AVESTAN LETTER XE

𐬒 x́ ḣ /xʲ/, /ç/ U+10B12: AVESTAN LETTER XYE

𐬓 xᵛ xᵛ /xʷ/ U+10B13: AVESTAN LETTER XVE

𐬔 g g /ɡ/ U+10B14: AVESTAN LETTER GE

𐬕 ġ — /ɡʲ/, /ɟ/ U+10B15: AVESTAN LETTER GGE

𐬖 γ γ /j/ U+10B16: AVESTAN LETTER GHE

𐬗 c č /t͡ʃ/ U+10B17: AVESTAN LETTER CE

𐬘 j ǰ /d͡ʒ/ U+10B18: AVESTAN LETTER JE

𐬙 t t /t/ U+10B19: AVESTAN LETTER TE

𐬚 ϑ ϑ /θ/ U+10B1A: AVESTAN LETTER THE

𐬛 d d /d/ U+10B1B: AVESTAN LETTER DE

𐬜 δ δ /ð/ U+10B1C: AVESTAN LETTER DHE

𐬝 t̰ t̰ /t̚/[5] U+10B1D: AVESTAN LETTER TTE

𐬞 p p /p/ U+10B1E: AVESTAN LETTER PE

𐬟 f f /f/ U+10B1F: AVESTAN LETTER FE

𐬠 b b /b/ U+10B20: AVESTAN LETTER BE

𐬡 β w /β/ U+10B21: AVESTAN LETTER BHE

𐬢 ŋ ŋ /ŋ/ U+10B22: AVESTAN LETTER NGE

𐬣 ŋ́ ŋ́ /ŋʲ/ U+10B23: AVESTAN LETTER NGYE

𐬤 ŋᵛ — /ŋʷ/ U+10B24: AVESTAN LETTER NGVE

𐬥 n n /n/ U+10B25: AVESTAN LETTER NE

𐬦 ń — /ɲ/ U+10B26: AVESTAN LETTER NYE

𐬧 ṇ n, m /ŋ/ [verification needed] U+10B27: AVESTAN LETTER NNE

𐬨 m m /m/ U+10B28: AVESTAN LETTER ME

𐬩 m̨ — /m̥/, /mʰ/ [verification needed] U+10B29: AVESTAN LETTER HME

𐬪 ẏ y /j/ U+10B2A: AVESTAN LETTER YYE

𐬫 y /j/ U+10B2B: AVESTAN LETTER YE

𐬌𐬌 ii /ii̯/[5] U+10B0C: AVESTAN LETTER I (doubled)

𐬬 v v /v/ [verification needed] U+10B2C: AVESTAN LETTER VE

𐬎𐬎 uu /uu̯/[5] U+10B0E: AVESTAN LETTER U (doubled)

𐬭 r r /r/ U+10B2D: AVESTAN LETTER RE

𐬯 s s /s/ U+10B2F: AVESTAN LETTER SE

𐬰 z z /z/ U+10B30: AVESTAN LETTER ZE

𐬱 š š /ʃ/ U+10B31: AVESTAN LETTER SHE

𐬲 ž ž /ʒ/ U+10B32: AVESTAN LETTER ZHE

𐬳 š́ š /ɕ/ U+10B33: AVESTAN LETTER SHYE

𐬴 ṣ̌ /ʂ/ [verification needed] U+10B34: AVESTAN LETTER SSHE

𐬵 h h /h/ U+10B35: AVESTAN LETTER HE

Letter Hoff. Bar. IPA Unicode

Transcription

Later, when writing Middle Persian
Middle Persian
in the script (i.e. Pazend), another consonant 𐬮 was added to represent the /l/ phoneme that didn't exist in the Avestan language. Ligatures[edit]

List of Avestan ligatures according to Skjærvø (2003)

Four ligatures are commonly used in Avestan manuscripts:[6]

𐬱 (š) + 𐬀 (a) = 𐬱𐬀 (ša) 𐬱 (š) + 𐬗 (c) = 𐬱𐬗 (šc) 𐬱 (š) + 𐬙 (t) = 𐬱𐬙 (št) 𐬀 (a) + 𐬵 (h) = 𐬀𐬵 (ah)

U+200C ZERO WIDTH NON-JOINER can be used to prevent ligatures if desired. For example, compare 𐬱𐬀 (U+10B31 10B00) with 𐬱‌𐬀 (U+10B31 200C 10B00). Fossey[7] lists 16 ligatures, but most are formed by the interaction of swash tails. Punctuation[edit] Words and the end of the first part of a compound are separated by a dot (in a variety of vertical positions). Beyond that, punctuation is weak or non-existent in the manuscripts, and in the 1880s Karl Friedrich Geldner had to devise one for standardized transcription. In his system, which he developed based on what he could find, a triangle of three dots serves as a colon, a semicolon, an end of sentence or end of section; which is determined by the size of the dots and whether there is one dot above and two below, or two above and one below. Two above and one below signify — in ascending order of "dot" size — colon, semicolon, end of sentence or end of section.

Avestan punctuation[6]

Mark Function Unicode

⸱ word separator U+2E31: WORD SEPARATOR MIDDLE DOT

· U+00B7: MIDDLE DOT

. U+002E: FULL STOP

𐬹 abbreviation or repetition U+10B39: AVESTAN ABBREVIATION MARK

𐬺 colon U+10B3A: TINY TWO DOTS OVER ONE DOT PUNCTUATION

𐬻 semicolon U+10B3B: SMALL TWO DOTS OVER ONE DOT PUNCTUATION

𐬼 end of sentence U+10B3C: LARGE TWO DOTS OVER ONE DOT PUNCTUATION

𐬽 alternative mark for end of sentence (found in Avestan texts but not used by Geldner) U+10B3D: LARGE ONE DOT OVER TWO DOTS PUNCTUATION

𐬾 end of section (may be doubled for extra finality) U+10B3E: LARGE TWO RINGS OVER ONE RING PUNCTUATION

𐬿 alternative mark for end of section (found in Avestan texts but not used by Geldner) U+10B3F: LARGE ONE RING OVER TWO RINGS PUNCTUATION

Unicode[edit] Main article: Avestan ( Unicode
Unicode
block) The Avestan alphabet
Avestan alphabet
was added to the Unicode
Unicode
Standard in October, 2009 with the release of version 5.2. The characters are encoded at U+10B00—10B35 for letters (ii and uu are not represented as single characters, but as sequences of characters[8]) and U+10B38—10B3F for punctuation.

Avestan[1][2] Official Unicode
Unicode
Consortium code chart (PDF)

  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F

U+10B0x 𐬀 𐬁 𐬂 𐬃 𐬄 𐬅 𐬆 𐬇 𐬈 𐬉 𐬊 𐬋 𐬌 𐬍 𐬎 𐬏

U+10B1x 𐬐 𐬑 𐬒 𐬓 𐬔 𐬕 𐬖 𐬗 𐬘 𐬙 𐬚 𐬛 𐬜 𐬝 𐬞 𐬟

U+10B2x 𐬠 𐬡 𐬢 𐬣 𐬤 𐬥 𐬦 𐬧 𐬨 𐬩 𐬪 𐬫 𐬬 𐬭 𐬮 𐬯

U+10B3x 𐬰 𐬱 𐬲 𐬳 𐬴 𐬵

𐬹 𐬺 𐬻 𐬼 𐬽 𐬾 𐬿

Notes

1.^ As of Unicode
Unicode
version 10.0 2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

References[edit]

^ a b c Kellens 1989, p. 36. ^ a b c Hoffmann 1989, p. 49. ^ Hoffmann 1989, p. 50. ^ Gippert, Jost (2012). "The Encoding of Avestan – Problems and Solutions" (PDF). JLCL: Journal for Language Technology and Computational Linguistics. 27 (2). Retrieved 2017-08-25.  ^ a b c Daniels, Peter T.; Bright, William, eds. (1996). The World's Writing Systems. Oxford University Press, Inc. pp. 527–528. ISBN 978-0195079937.  ^ a b "Chapter 10.7: Avestan". The Unicode
Unicode
Standard, Version 10.0 (PDF). Mountain View, CA: Unicode, Inc. June 2017. ISBN 978-1-936213-16-0.  ^ Fossey 1948, p. 49. ^ Everson & Pournader 2007, p. 4

Bibliography[edit]

Dhalla, Maneckji Nusservanji (1938), History of Zoroastrianism, New York: OUP . Everson, Michael; Pournader, Roozbeh (2007), Revised proposal to encode the Avestan script in the SMP of the UCS (PDF), retrieved 2007-06-10 . Fossey, Charles (1948), "Notices sur les caractères étrangers anciens et modernes rédigées par une groupe de savants", Nouvelle édition mise à jour à l’occasion du 21e Congrès des Orientalistes, Paris: Imprimerie Nationale de France . Hoffmann, Karl (1989), "Avestan language", Encyclopaedia Iranica, 3, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, pp. 47–52 . Hoffmann, Karl; Forssman, Bernhard (1996), Avestische Laut- und Flexionslehre (in German), Innsbruck: Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Sprachwissenschaft, ISBN 3-85124-652-7 . Kellens, Jean (1989), "Avesta", Encyclopaedia Iranica, 3, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, pp. 35–44 .

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Avestan script.

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