Median language (also Medean or Medic) was the language of the
Medes. It is an Old
Iranian language and classified as belonging to
the Northwestern Iranian subfamily, which includes many other
languages such as Azari, Gilaki, Mazandarani, Kurdish (Zazaki, Gorani,
Sorani, Kurmanji), and Baluchi.
3 Predecessor of modern Iranian languages
Median is attested only by numerous loanwords in Old Persian. Nothing
is known of its grammar, "but it shares important phonological
isoglosses with Avestan, rather than Old Persian. Under the Median
Median must to some extent have been the official Iranian
language in western Iran".
No documents dating to
Median times have been preserved, and it is not
known what script these texts might have been in. "So far only one
inscription of pre-
Achaemenid times (a bronze plaque) has been found
on the territory of Media. This is a cuneiform inscription composed in
Akkadian, perhaps in the 8th century BCE, but no
Median names are
mentioned in it."
Some modern research suggests that the so-called Linear Elamite, which
still has not been deciphered, may have been written in the language
of Medes, by assuming
Kutik-Inshushinak was the original Iranian name
Cyaxares the Great
Cyaxares the Great and not a much earlier Elamite king.
A distinction from other ethnolinguistic groups (in Herodotus, ethnos
means 'people') such as the Persians is evident primarily in foreign
sources, such as from mid-9th century BCE Assyrian cuneiform
sources and from Herodotus' mid-5th century BCE secondhand account
of the Perso-
Median conflict. It is not known what the native name of
Median language was (just like for all other Old Iranian
languages) or whether the
Medes themselves nominally distinguished it
from the languages of other Iranian peoples.
Median is "presumably" a substrate of Old Persian. The Median
element is readily identifiable because it did not share in the
developments that were particular to Old Persian.
Median forms "are
found only in personal or geographical names... and some are typically
from religious vocabulary and so could in principle also be influenced
by Avestan.... Sometimes, both
Old Persian forms are found,
Old Persian a somewhat confusing and inconsistent look:
'horse,' for instance, is [attested in
Old Persian as] both asa
(OPers.) and aspa (Med.)." 
Using comparative phonology of proper names attested in Old Persian,
Roland Kent notes several other
Old Persian words that appear to be
borrowings from Median: for example, taxma, 'brave', as in the proper
name Taxmaspada. Diakonoff includes paridaiza, 'paradise'; vazraka,
'great' and xshayathiya, 'royal'. In the mid-5th century BCE,
Herodotus (Histories 1.110) noted that spaka is the
for a female dog. This term and meaning are preserved in living
Iranian languages such as Talyshi.
In the 1st century BC,
Strabo (c. 64BC–24AD) would note a
relationship between the various
Iranian peoples and their languages:
"[From] beyond the Indus... Ariana is extended so as to include some
part of Persia, Media, and the north of
Bactria and Sogdiana; for
these nations speak nearly the same language." (Geography,
Traces of the (later) dialects of Media (not to be confused with the
Median language) are preserved in the compositions of the fahlaviyat
genre, verse composed in the old dialects of the Pahla/Fahla regions
of Iran's northwest. Consequently, these compositions have
"certain linguistic affinities" with Parthian, but the surviving
specimens (which are from the 9th to 18th centuries AD) are much
influenced by Persian. For an enumeration of linguistic
characteristics and vocabulary "deserving mention," see Tafazzoli
1999. The use of fahla (from
Middle Persian pahlaw) to denote Media is
attested from late Arsacid times so it reflects the pre-Sassanid use
of the word to denote "Parthia", which, during Arsacid times, included
most of Media.
Predecessor of modern Iranian languages
A number of modern
Iranian languages spoken today have had medieval
stages with evidences found from citations in Classical and Early
Modern Persian sources. G. Windfuhr believes, "The modern
[Iranian] languages of Azarbaijan and Central Iran, located in ancient
Media Atropatene and Media proper, are 'Median' dialects" and those
languages "continue lost local and regional language" of Old Median,
which is mainly known as "Medisms in Old Persian." The term comes
from the regional name Pahlav/Fahlav (see fahlaviyat) in traditional
medieval Persian sources and is used to call "dialect poetry and other
samples of locales in western
Iran reflects the Parthian period" of
those regions and their languages "being survivals of the Median
dialects have certain linguistic affinities with Parthian".
Ancient Near East portal
MultiTree on the Linguist List
^ "Ancient Iran::Language". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2007.
^ Schmitt, Rüdiger (1989). Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum.
^ a b c Skjærvø, Prods Oktor (2005). An Introduction to Old Persian
(PDF) (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Harvard.
^ Dandamayev, Muhammad & I. Medvedskaya (2006). "Media".
Encyclopaedia Iranica (OT 10 ed.). Costa Mesa: Mazda.
^ Cyaxares: Media's Great King in Egypt, Assyria & Iran, by:
Professor Gunnar Heinsohn, University of Bremen, May 2006
^ "Ancient Iran::The coming of the Iranians". Encyclopædia Britannica
Online. 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-28.
^ Kent, Roland G. (1953). Old Persian. Grammar, Texts, Lexicon (2nd
ed.). New Haven: American Oriental Society. pp. 8-9.
^ Diakonoff, Igor M. (1985). "Media". In Ilya Gershevitch. Cambridge
History of Iran, Vol 2. London: Cambridge UP. pp. 36–148.
^ Godley, A. D. (ed.) (1920). Herodotus, with an English translation.
Cambridge: Harvard UP. CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
^ Hamilton, H. C. & W. Falconer (1903). The Geography of Strabo.
Literally translated, with notes. 3. London: George Bell &
Sons. p. 125. (Geography 15.2)
^ Tafazzoli, Ahmad (1999). "Fahlavīyāt". Encyclopaedia Iranica. 9.2.
New York: iranicaonline.org.
^ a b Page 15 from Windfuhr, Gernot (2009), "Dialectology and Topics",
in Windfuhr, Gernot, The Iranian Languages, London and Newyork:
Routledge, pp. 5–42, ISBN 978-0-7007-1131-4
^ Tafazzoli 1999
Italics indicate extinct languages.
Median language, Iranian language
Rhagae (Shahre Rey, Tehran)
Battles involving Lydia
Eclipse of Thales
Battles involving Persia
Battle of Hyrba
Battle of the Persian Border
Battle of Pasargadae
Fall of Ecbatana
Amytis of Media