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Western Iranian languages

Old Persian
Old Persian
(c. 525 – 300 BCE) Old Persian
Old Persian
cuneiform

Middle Persian
Middle Persian
(c. 300 BCE – 800 CE) Pahlavi scripts
Pahlavi scripts
Manichaean alphabet
Manichaean alphabet
Avestan
Avestan
alphabet

Modern Persian
Modern Persian
(from 800) Persian alphabet
Persian alphabet
• Tajiki Cyrillic alphabet

Old Persian
Old Persian
is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages (the other being Avestan). Old Persian
Old Persian
appears primarily in the inscriptions, clay tablets and seals of the Achaemenid era (c. 600 BCE to 300 BCE). Examples of Old Persian
Old Persian
have been found in what is now Iran, Romania
Romania
(Gherla),[2][3][4] Armenia, Bahrain, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt,[5][6] with the most important attestation by far being the contents of the Behistun Inscription
Behistun Inscription
(dated to 525 BCE). Recent research (2007) into the vast Persepolis Fortification Archive
Persepolis Fortification Archive
at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago
University of Chicago
have unearthed Old Persian tablets[7] which suggest Old Persian
Old Persian
was a written language in use for practical recording and not only for royal display.[7]

Contents

1 Origin and overview 2 Classification 3 Language evolution 4 Substrates 5 Script 6 Phonology 7 Grammar

7.1 Nouns 7.2 Verbs

8 Lexicon 9 See also 10 Notes 11 Bibliography 12 Further reading

Origin and overview[edit] As a written language, Old Persian
Old Persian
is attested in royal Achaemenid inscriptions. It is an Iranian language
Iranian language
and as such a member of the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. The oldest known text written in Old Persian
Old Persian
is from the Behistun Inscriptions.[8] Old Persian
Old Persian
is one of the oldest Indo-European languages which is attested in original texts.[9] The oldest date of use of Old Persian
Old Persian
as a spoken language is not precisely known. According to certain historical assumptions about the early history and origin of ancient Persians in south-western Iran (where Achaemenids hailed from), Old Persian
Old Persian
was originally spoken by a tribe called Parsuwash, who arrived in the Iranian Plateau early in the 1st millennium BCE and finally migrated down into the area of present-day Fārs province. Their language, Old Persian, became the official language of the Achaemenid kings.[9] Assyrian records, which in fact appear to provide the earliest evidence for ancient Iranian (Persian and Median) presence on the Iranian Plateau, give a good chronology but only an approximate geographical indication of what seem to be ancient Persians. In these records of the 9th century BCE, Parsuwash (along with Matai, presumably Medians) are first mentioned in the area of Lake Urmia
Lake Urmia
in the records of Shalmaneser III.[10] The exact identity of the Parsuwash is not known for certain, but from a linguistic viewpoint the word matches Old Persian
Old Persian
pārsa itself coming directly from the older word *pārćwa.[10] Also, as Old Persian contains many words from another extinct Iranian language, Median, according to P. O. Skjærvø it is probable that Old Persian
Old Persian
had already been spoken before formation of the Achaemenid Empire
Achaemenid Empire
and was spoken during most of the first half of the first millennium BCE.[9] Xenophon, a Greek general serving in some of the Persian expeditions, describes many aspects of Armenian village life and hospitality in around 401 BC, which is when Old Persian
Old Persian
was still spoken and extensively used. He relates that the Armenian people
Armenian people
spoke a language that to his ear sounded like the language of the Persians.[11] Classification[edit] Main article: Old Iranian languages Old Persian
Old Persian
belongs to the Iranian language
Iranian language
family which is a branch of the Indo- Iranian language
Iranian language
family, itself within the large family of Indo-European languages. The common ancestors of Indo-Iranians came from Central Asia sometime in the first half of the 2nd millennium BCE. The extinct and unattested Median language is another Old Iranian language related to Old Persian
Old Persian
(e.g. both are classified as Western Iranian languages
Iranian languages
and many Median names appeared in Old Persian texts)[12] The group of Old Iranian languages
Iranian languages
was presumably a large group; however knowledge of it is restricted mainly to Old Persian, Avestan
Avestan
and Median. The former are the only languages in that group which have left written original texts while Median is known mostly from loanwords in Old Persian.[13] Language evolution[edit] By the 4th century BCE, the late Achaemenid period, the inscriptions of Artaxerxes II
Artaxerxes II
and Artaxerxes III
Artaxerxes III
differ enough from the language of Darius' inscriptions to be called a "pre-Middle Persian," or "post-Old Persian."[14] Old Persian
Old Persian
subsequently evolved into Middle Persian, which is in turn the genetic ancestor of New Persian. Professor Gilbert Lazard, a famous Iranologist and the author of the book Persian Grammar states:[15]

The language known as New Persian, which usually is called at this period (early Islamic times) by the name of Parsi-Dari, can be classified linguistically as a continuation of Middle Persian, the official religious and literary language of Sassanian Iran, itself a continuation of Old Persian, the language of the Achaemenids. Unlike the other languages and dialects, ancient and modern, of the Iranian group such as Avestan, Parthian, Soghdian, Kurdish, Pashto, etc., Old, Middle and New Persian
New Persian
represent one and the same language at three states of its history. It had its origin in Fars and is differentiated by dialectical features, still easily recognizable from the dialect prevailing in north-western and eastern Iran.

Middle Persian, also sometimes called Pahlavi, is a direct continuation of old Persian and was used as the written official language of the country.[16][17] Comparison of the evolution at each stage of the language shows great simplification in grammar and syntax. However, New Persian
New Persian
is a direct descendent of Middle and Old Persian.[18] Substrates[edit] Old Persian
Old Persian
"presumably"[14] has a Median language substrate. The Median element is readily identifiable because it did not share in the developments that were peculiar 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 Median and Old Persian
Old Persian
forms are found, which gave Old Persian
Old Persian
a somewhat confusing and inconsistent look: 'horse,' for instance, is [attested in Old Persian as] both asa (OPers.) and aspa (Med.)."[14] Script[edit] Main article: Old Persian
Old Persian
cuneiform

An Old Persian
Old Persian
inscription in Persepolis

Old Persian
Old Persian
texts were written from left to right in the syllabic Old Persian cuneiform script and had 36 phonetic characters and 8 logograms. The usage of such characters are not obligatory.[19] The script was surprisingly[20] not a result of evolution of the script used in the nearby civilisation of Mesopotamia.[21] Despite the fact that Old Persian
Old Persian
was written in cuneiform script, the script was not a direct continuation of Mesopotamian tradition and in fact, according to Schmitt, was a "deliberate creation of the sixth century BCE".[21] The origin of the Old Persian cuneiform
Old Persian cuneiform
script and the identification of the date and process of introduction are a matter of discussion among Iranian scholars with no general agreement having been reached. The factors making the consensus difficult are, among others, the difficult passage DB (IV lines 88–92) from Darius the Great
Darius the Great
who speaks of a new "form of writing" being made by himself which is said to be "in Aryan" and analysis of certain Old Persian
Old Persian
inscriptions that are "supposed or claimed" to predate Darius the Great. Although it is true that the oldest attested OP inscriptions are from Behistun monument from Darius, the creation of this "new type of writing" seems, according to Schmitt, "to have begun already under Cyrus the Great".[8] The script shows a few changes in the shape of characters during the period it was used. This can be seen as a standardization of the heights of wedges, which in the beginning (i.e. in DB) took only half the height of a line.[22] Phonology[edit] The following phonemes are expressed in the Old Persian
Old Persian
script: Vowels

Long: /aː/ /iː/ /uː/ Short: /a/ /i/ /u/

Consonants

Labial Dental/ Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal

Nasal

m

n

Plosive p b t d

k ɡ

Fricative f

θ

x

h

Affricate

t͡s

t͡ʃ d͡ʒ

Sibilant

s z ʃ

Rhotic

r

Approximant

l

j

w

Notes: Lycian Kizzaprñna ~ Zisaprñna for (genuine) Old Persian *Ciçafarnā (besides the Median form *Ciθrafarnah) = Tissaphernes suggests /t͡s/ as the pronunciation of ç (compare [2] and Kloekhorst 2008, p. 125 in [3] for this example, who, however, mistakenly writes Çiçafarnā, which contradicts the etymology [PIIr. *Čitra-swarnas-] and the Middle Persian
Middle Persian
form Čehrfar [ç gives Middle Persian
Middle Persian
s]). The phoneme /l/ does not occur in native Iranian vocabulary, only in borrowings from Akkadian
Akkadian
(a new /l/ develops in Middle Persian
Middle Persian
from Old Persian
Old Persian
/rd/ and the change of /rθ/ to /hl/). The phoneme /r/ can also form a syllable peak; both the way Persian names with syllabic /r/ (such as Brdiya) are rendered in Elamite and its further development in Middle Persian
Middle Persian
suggest that before the syllabic /r/, an epenthetic vowel [i] had developed already in the Old Persian
Old Persian
period, which later became [u] after labials. For example, OP Vᵃ-rᵃ-kᵃ-a-nᵃ /vrkaːna/ is rendered in Elamite as Mirkānu-,[23] rendering transcriptions such as V(a)rakāna, Varkāna or even Vurkāna questionable and making Vrkāna or Virkāna much more realistic (and equally for vrka- "wolf", Brdiya and other Old Persian words and names with syllabic /r/). While v usually became /v/ in Middle Persian, it became /b/ word-initially, except before [u] (including the epenthetic vowel mentioned above), where it became /g/. This suggests that it was really pronounced as [w]. Grammar[edit] Nouns[edit] Old Persian
Old Persian
stems:

a-stems (-a, -am, -ā) i-stems (-iš, iy) u- (and au-) stems (-uš, -uv) consonantal stems (n, r, h)

-a -am -ā

Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural

Nominative -a -ā -ā, -āha -am -ā -ā -ā -ā -ā

Vocative -ā -ā

Accusative -am -ām

Instrumental/ Ablative -ā -aibiyā -aibiš -ā -aibiyā -aibiš -āyā -ābiyā -ābiš

Dative -ahyā, -ahya -ahyā, -ahya

Genitive -āyā -ānām -āyā -ānām -āyā -ānām

Locative -aiy -aišuvā -aiy -aišuvā -āšuvā

-iš -iy -uš -uv

Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural Singular Dual Plural

Nominative -iš -īy -iya -iy -in -īn -uš -ūv -uva -uv -un -ūn

Vocative -i -u

Accusative -im -iš -um -ūn

Instrumental/ Ablative -auš -ībiyā -ībiš -auš -ībiyā -ībiš -auv -ūbiyā -ūbiš -auv -ūbiyā -ūbiš

Dative -aiš -aiš -auš -auš

Genitive -īyā -īnām -īyā -īnām -ūvā -ūnām -ūvā -ūnām

Locative -auv -išuvā -auv -išuvā -āvā -ušuvā -āvā -ušuvā

Adjectives are declinable in similar way. Verbs[edit] Voices Active, Middle (them. pres. -aiy-, -ataiy-), Passive (-ya-). Mostly the forms of first and third persons are attested. The only preserved Dual form is ajīvatam 'both lived'.

Present, Active

Athematic Thematic

'be' 'bring'

Sg. 1.pers. aʰmiy barāmiy

3.pers. astiy baratiy

Pl. 1.pers. aʰmahiy barāmahiy

3.pers. hatiy baratiy

Imperfect, Active

Athematic Thematic

'do, make' 'be, become'

Sg. 1.pers. akunavam abavam

3.pers. akunauš abava

Pl. 1.pers. akumā abavāmā

3.pers. akunava abava

Present participle

Active Middle

-nt- -amna-

Past participle

-ta-

Infinitive

-tanaiy

Lexicon[edit]

Proto-Indo-Iranian Old Persian Middle Persian Modern Persian meaning

*asuras mazdhās Ahura mazda Ohrmazd Ormazd اورمزد Ahura Mazda

*aśwas aspa asp asb اسب/asp اسپ horse

*kāma kāma kām kām کام desire

*daiwas daiva dēw div دیو devil

drayah drayā daryā دریا sea

*źhasta- dasta dast dast دست hand

*bhāgī bāji bāj bāj باج/باژ toll

*bhrātr- brātar brâdar barādar برادر brother

*bhūmiš būmi būm būm بوم region, land

*martya martya mard mard مرد man

*māsa māha māh māh ماه moon, month

*vāsara vāhara wahār bahār بهار spring

stūnā stūn sotūn ستون stand (column)

šiyāta šād šād شاد happy

*ṛtam arta ard ord اُرد order, truth

*drauźh- druj drugh dorugh دروغ lie

See also[edit]

Ancient Near East portal

Category: Old Persian
Old Persian
language

Notes[edit]

^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Old Persian". Glottolog
Glottolog
3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.  ^ Kuhrt 2013, p. 197. ^ Frye 1984, p. 103. ^ Schmitt 2000, p. 53. ^ " Old Persian
Old Persian
Texts".  ^ Kent, R. G.: "Old Persian: Grammar Texts Lexicon", page 6. American Oriental Society, 1950. ^ a b "Everyday text shows that Old Persian
Old Persian
was probably more commonly used than previously thought " accessed September 2010 from [1] ^ a b (Schmitt 2008, pp. 80–1) ^ a b c (Skjærvø 2006, vi(2). Documentation. Old Persian.) ^ a b (Skjærvø 2006, vi(1). Earliest Evidence) ^ Xenophon. Anabasis. pp. IV.v.2–9.  ^ (Schmitt 2008, p. 76) ^ ((Skjærvø 2006) ^ a b c Skjærvø, Prods Oktor (2005), An Introduction to Old Persian (PDF) (2nd ed.), Cambridge: Harvard  ^ (Lazard, Gilbert 1975, “The Rise of the New Persian
New Persian
Language” in Frye, R. N., The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 4, pp. 595-632, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ^ Ulrich Ammon, Norbert Dittmar, Klaus J. Mattheier, Peter Trudgill, "Sociolinguistics Hsk 3/3 Series Volume 3 of Sociolinguistics: An International Handbook of the Science of Language and Society", Walter de Gruyter, 2006. 2nd edition. pg 1912: "Middle Persian, also called Pahlavi is a direct continuation of old Persian, and was used as the written official language of the country." "However, after the Moslem conquest and the collapse of the Sassanids, Arabic became the dominant language of the country and Pahlavi lost its importance, and was gradually replaced by Dari, a variety of Middle Persian, with considerable loan elements from Arabic and Parthian." ^ Bo Utas, "Semitic on Iranian", in "Linguistic convergence and areal diffusion: case studies from Iranian, Semitic and Turkic" editors (Éva Ágnes Csató, Bo Isaksson, Carina Jahani),Routledge, 2005. pg 71: "As already mentioned, it is not likely that the scribes of Sassanian chanceries had any idea about the Old Persian
Old Persian
cuneiform writing and the language couched in it. Still, the Middle Persian language that appeared in the third century AD may be seen as a continuation of Old Persian ^ Skjærvø, Prods Oktor (2006), "Iran, vi. Iranian languages
Iranian languages
and scripts", Encyclopaedia Iranica, 13.  ^ (Schmitt 2008, p. 78) ^ (Schmitt 2008, p. 78) Excerpt: "It remains unclear why the Persians did not take over the Mesopotamian system in earlier times, as the Elamites and other peoples of the Near East had, and, for that matter, why the Persians did not adopt the Aramaic consonantal script.." ^ a b (Schmitt 2008, p. 77) ^ (Schmitt 2008, p. 79) ^ Stolper, M. W. (1997), "Mirkānu", in Ebeling, Erich; Meissner, Bruno; Edzard, Dietz Otto, Reallexikon der Assyriologie und vorderasiatischen Archäologie: Meek – Mythologie, 8, Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, p. 221, ISBN 3-11-014809-9, retrieved 15 August 2013 

Bibliography[edit]

Brandenstein, Wilhelm (1964), Handbuch des Altpersischen, Wiesbaden: O. Harrassowitz  Hinz, Walther (1966), Altpersischer Wortschatz, Nendeln, Liechtenstein: Kraus  Frye, Richard Nelson (1984). Handbuch der Altertumswissenschaft: Alter Orient-Griechische Geschichte-Römische Geschichte. Band III,7: The History of Ancient Iran. C.H.Beck. ISBN 978-3406093975.  Kent, Roland G. (1953), Old Persian: Grammar, Texts, Lexicon, New Haven: American Oriental Society  Kuhrt, A. (2013). The Persian Empire: A Corpus of Sources from the Achaemenid Period. Routledge. ISBN 978-1136016943.  Sims-Williams, Nicholas (1996), "Iranian languages", Encyclopedia Iranica, 7, Costa Mesa: Mazda : 238-245 Schmitt, Rüdiger (1989), "Altpersisch", in R. Schmitt, Compendium linguarum Iranicarum, Wiesbaden: Reichert : 56–85 Schmitt, Rüdiger (2000). The Old Persian
Old Persian
Inscriptions of Naqsh-i Rustam and Persepolis. Corpus Inscriptionum Iranicarum by School of Oriental and African Studies. ISBN 978-0728603141.  Schmitt, R. (2008), "Old Persian", in Roger D. Woodard, The Ancient Languages of Asia and the Americas (illustrated ed.), Cambridge University Press, pp. 76–100, ISBN 0521684943  Skjærvø, Prods Oktor (2006), "Iran, vi. Iranian languages
Iranian languages
and scripts", Encyclopaedia Iranica, 13  Tolman, Herbert Cushing (1908), Ancient Persian Lexicon and the Texts of the Achaemenidan Inscriptions Transliterated and Translated with Special
Special
Reference to Their Recent Re-examination, New York/Cincinnati: American Book Company 

Further reading[edit]

Edwin Lee Johnson (1917), Historical grammar of the ancient Persian language, Volume 8 of Vanderbilt oriental series, American book company, p. 251, retrieved 2011-07-06  Edwin Lee Johnson (1917), Historical grammar of the ancient Persian language, Volume 8 of Vanderbilt oriental series, American book company, p. 251, retrieved 2011-07-06  Herbert Cushing Tolman (1892), Grammar of the Old Persian
Old Persian
language: with the inscriptions of the Achaemenian kings and vocabulary, Ginn, p. 55, retrieved 2011-07-06  Herbert Cushing Tolman (1893), A guide to the Old Persian inscriptions, American book company, p. 186, retrieved 2011-07-06  Edwin Lee Johnson (1910), Herbert Cushing Tolman, ed., Cuneiform supplement (autographed) to the author's Ancient Persian lexicon and texts: with brief historical synopsis of the language, Volume 7 of Vanderbilt oriental series, American Book Co., p. 122, retrieved 2011-07-06  translated by Herbert Cushing Tolman (1908), Ancient Persian lexicon and the texts of the Achaemenidan inscriptions transliterated and translated with special reference to their recent re-examination, by Herbert Cushing Tolman .., Volume 6 of Vanderbilt oriental series, American Book Company, p. 134, retrieved 2011-07-06  Herbert Cushing Tolman (1908), Ancient Persian lexicon and the texts of the Achaemenidan inscriptions transliterated and translated with special reference to their recent re-examination, by Herbert Cushing Tolman .., Volume 6 of Vanderbilt oriental series, American Book Company, p. 134, retrieved 2011-07-06  Darius I (King of Persia) (1908), Translated by Herbert Cushing Tolman, ed., The Behistan inscription of King Darius: translation and critical notes to the Persian text with special reference to recent re-examinations of the rock, Volume 1, Issue 1 of Vanderbilt University studies ATLA monograph preservation program Volume 3384 of Harvard College Library preservation microfilm program (reprint ed.), Vanderbilt University, p. 39, retrieved 2011-07-06  Darius I (King of Persia) (1908), Herbert Cushing Tolman, ed., The Behistan inscription of King Darius: translation and critical notes to the Persian text with special reference to recent re-examinations of the rock, Volume 1, Issue 1 of Vanderbilt University studies, Vanderbilt university, p. 39, retrieved 2011-07-06  Skjærvø, Prods Oktor (2005), An Introduction to Old Persian
Old Persian
(PDF) (2nd ed.), Cambridge: Harvard  Peterson, Joseph H. (2006), Old Persian
Old Persian
Texts, Herndon, VA: avesta.org  Harvey, Scott L., Old Iranian Online  Windfuhr, Gernot L. (1995), "Cases in Iranian languages
Iranian languages
and dialects", Encyclopedia Iranica, 5, Costa Mesa: Mazda, pp. 25–37, archived from the original on 2007-11-04  Stolper, Matthew W. & Jan Tavernier (1995), "From the Persepolis Fortification Archive Project, 1: An Old Persian
Old Persian
Administrative Tablet from the Persepolis
Persepolis
Fortification", Arta, 2007:1, Paris: Achemenet.com  Schmitt, R. (2008), "Old Persian", in Roger D. Woodard, The Ancient Languages of Asia and the Americas (illustrated ed.), Cambridge University Press, pp. 76–100, ISBN 0521684943  Asatrian, Garnik (2010), Etymological Dictionary of Persian, Leiden Indo-European Etymological Dictionary Series, 12, Brill Academic Publishers, ISBN 978-90-04-18341-4 

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