Old Persian

Last updated
Old Persian
Region Ancient Iran
Eraevolved into Middle Persian by c. 300 BCE
Old Persian cuneiform
Language codes
ISO 639-2 peo
ISO 639-3 peo
peo
Glottolog oldp1254 [1]
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History of the
Persian language
Proto-Indo-European (c. 3000 BCE)

Indo-Iranian languages


Proto-Indo-Iranian (c. 2000 BCE)

Iranian languages


Proto-Iranian (c. 1500 BCE)

Western Iranian languages


Old Persian (c. 525 – 300 BCE)

Old Persian cuneiform


Middle Persian (c. 300 BCE – 800 CE)

Pahlavi scripts Manichaean alphabet Avestan alphabet

Pahlavi or Pahlevi is a particular, exclusively written form of various Middle Iranian languages. The essential characteristics of Pahlavi are

Manichaean alphabet abjad-based writing system associated with the spread of Manichaean religion

Manichaean script is an abjad-based writing system rooted in the Semitic family of alphabets and associated with the spread of Manichaean religion from southwest to central Asia and beyond, beginning in the 3rd century CE. It bears a sibling relationship to early forms of the Pahlavi script, both systems having developed from the Imperial Aramaic alphabet, in which the Achaemenid court rendered its particular, official dialect of the Aramaic language. Unlike Pahlavi, Manichaean script reveals influences from Sogdian script, which in turn descends from the Syriac branch of Aramaic. Manichaean script is so named because Manichaean texts attribute its design to Mani himself. Middle Persian is written with this alphabet.

Avestan alphabet alphabet used mainly to write Avestan, the language of the Zoroastrian scripture Avesta

The Avestan alphabet is a writing system developed during Iran's Sassanid era (226–651 CE) to render the Avestan language.

Contents


Modern Persian (from 800)

Persian alphabet Tajiki Cyrillic alphabet

Old Persian is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages (the other being Avestan). Like other Old Iranian languages, this language was known to its native speakers as Iranian language. [2] 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 have been found in what is now Iran, Romania (Gherla), [3] [4] [5] Armenia, Bahrain, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt, [6] [7] with the most important attestation by far being the contents of the Behistun Inscription (dated to 525 BCE). Recent research (2007) into the vast Persepolis Fortification Archive at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago have unearthed Old Persian tablets, which suggest Old Persian was a written language in use for practical recording and not only for royal display. [8]

Iranian languages language family

The Iranian or Iranic languages are a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages in the Indo-European language family that are spoken natively by the Iranian peoples.

Clay tablet Writing implement

In the Ancient Near East, clay tablets were used as a writing medium, especially for writing in cuneiform, throughout the Bronze Age and well into the Iron Age.

Romania Sovereign state in Europe

Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. It borders the Black Sea to the southeast, Bulgaria to the south, Ukraine to the north, Hungary to the west, Serbia to the southwest, and Moldova to the east. It has a predominantly temperate-continental climate. With a total area of 238,397 square kilometres (92,046 sq mi), Romania is the 12th largest country and also the 7th most populous member state of the European Union, having almost 20 million inhabitants. Its capital and largest city is Bucharest, and other major urban areas include Cluj-Napoca, Timișoara, Iași, Constanța, Craiova, and Brașov.

Origin and overview

As a written language, Old Persian is attested in royal Achaemenid inscriptions. It is an 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 is from the Behistun Inscriptions. [9] Old Persian is one of the oldest Indo-European languages which is attested in original texts. [10]

Written language representation of a language through writing

A written language is the representation of a spoken or gestural language by means of a writing system. Written language is an invention in that it must be taught to children, who will pick up spoken language or sign language by exposure even if they are not formally instructed.

Achaemenid Empire first Persian Empire founded by Cyrus the Great

The Achaemenid Empire, also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient Iranian empire based in Western Asia founded by Cyrus the Great. Ranging at its greatest extent from the Balkans and Eastern Europe proper in the west to the Indus Valley in the east, it was larger than any previous empire in history, spanning 5.5 million square kilometers. Incorporating various peoples of different origins and faiths, it is notable for its successful model of a centralised, bureaucratic administration, for building infrastructure such as road systems and a postal system, the use of an official language across its territories, and the development of civil services and a large professional army. The empire's successes inspired similar systems in later empires.

Indo-Iranian languages language family

The Indo-Iranian languages, or Aryan languages constitute the largest and southeasternmost extant branch of the Indo-European language family. It has more than 1.5 billion speakers, stretching from Europe (Romani), Turkey and the Caucasus (Ossetian) eastward to Xinjiang (Sarikoli) and Assam (Assamese), and south to Sri Lanka (Sinhala) and the Maldives (Maldivian). Furthermore, there are large communities of Indo-Iranian speakers in northwestern Europe, North America, and Australia.

The oldest date of use of 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 southwestern Iran (where Achaemenids hailed from), 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. [10] 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 in the records of Shalmaneser III. [11] The exact identity of the Parsuwash is not known for certain, but from a linguistic viewpoint the word matches Old Persian pārsa itself coming directly from the older word *pārćwa. [11] Also, as Old Persian contains many words from another extinct Iranian language, Median, according to P. O. Skjærvø it is probable that Old Persian had already been spoken before formation of the Achaemenid Empire and was spoken during most of the first half of the first millennium BCE. [10] Xenophon, a Greek general serving in some of the Persian expeditions, describes many aspects of Armenian village life and hospitality in around 401 BCE, which is when Old Persian was still spoken and extensively used. He relates that the Armenian people spoke a language that to his ear sounded like the language of the Persians. [12]

Lake Urmia salt lake

Lake Urmia is an endorheic salt lake in Iran. The lake is located between the provinces of East Azerbaijan and West Azerbaijan in Iran, and west of the southern portion of the Caspian Sea. At its greatest extent, it was the largest lake in the Middle East and the sixth-largest saltwater lake on Earth, with a surface area of approximately 5,200 km2 (2,000 sq mi), a length of 140 km (87 mi), a width of 55 km (34 mi), and a maximum depth of 16 m (52 ft). The lake has shrunk to 10% of its former size due to damming of the rivers that flow into it, and the pumping of groundwater from the surrounding area.

Shalmaneser III Assyrian king

Shalmaneser III was king of Assyria, and son of the previous ruler, Ashurnasirpal II.

The Median language 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, Zaza–Gorani, Kurdish, and Baluchi.

Classification

Old Persian belongs to the Iranian language family which is a branch of the Indo-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 (for example, both are classified as Western Iranian languages and many Median names appeared in Old Persian texts) [13] The group of Old Iranian languages was presumably a large group; however knowledge of it is restricted mainly to Old Persian, 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. [14]

Indo-European languages language family

The Indo-European languages are a language family of several hundred related languages and dialects.

The Western Iranian languages are a branch of the Iranian languages, attested from the time of Old Persian and Median.

A loanword is a word adopted from one language and incorporated into another language without translation. This is in contrast to cognates, which are words in two or more languages that are similar because they share an etymological origin, and calques, which involve translation.

Language evolution

By the 4th century BCE, the late Achaemenid period, the inscriptions of Artaxerxes II and Artaxerxes III differ enough from the language of Darius' inscriptions to be called a "pre-Middle Persian," or "post-Old Persian." [15] Old Persian subsequently evolved into Middle Persian, which is in turn the ancestor of New Persian. Professor Gilbert Lazard, a famous Iranologist and the author of the book Persian Grammar states: [16]

Artaxerxes III Archaemenid king

Artaxerxes III Ochus of Persia was the eleventh emperor of the Achaemenid Empire, as well as the first Pharaoh of the 31st dynasty of Egypt. He was the son and successor of Artaxerxes II and was succeeded by his son, Arses of Persia. His reign coincided with the reign of Philip II in Macedon and Nectanebo II in Egypt.

Middle Persian or Pahlavi, also known as by its endonym Parsig or Parsik, is the Middle Iranian language or ethnolect of southwestern Iran that during the Sasanian Empire (224–654) became a prestige dialect and so came to be spoken in other regions of the empire as well. Middle Persian is classified as a Western Iranian language. It descended from Old Persian, the language of Achaemenid Empire and it is the linguistic ancestor of Modern Persian.

Gilbert Lazard French linguist

Gilbert Lazard was a French linguist and iranologist.

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 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. [17] [18] Comparison of the evolution at each stage of the language shows great simplification in grammar and syntax. However, New Persian is a direct descendant of Middle and Old Persian. [19]

Substrates

Old Persian "presumably" [15] 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 forms are found, which gave Old Persian a somewhat confusing and inconsistent look: 'horse,' for instance, is [attested in Old Persian as] both asa (OPers.) and aspa (Med.)." [15]

Script

Close-up of the Behistun inscription BehistunInscriptiondetail.jpg
Close-up of the Behistun inscription
An Old Persian inscription in Persepolis Persepolis. Inscription.jpg
An Old Persian inscription in Persepolis

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. [20] The script was surprisingly [21] not a result of evolution of the script used in the nearby civilisation of Mesopotamia. [22] Despite the fact that 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". [22]

The origin of the 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 who speaks of a new "form of writing" being made by himself which is said to be "in Aryan":

King Darius says: By the grace of Ahuramazda this is the inscription which I have made. Besides, it was in Aryan ("ariyâ") script, and it was composed on clay tablets and on parchment. Besides, a sculptured figure of myself I made.

Behistun Inscription (IV lines 88–92) [23]

Also, the analysis of certain Old Persian inscriptions 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". [9]

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. [24]

Phonology

The following phonemes are expressed in the Old Persian script:

Vowels

Consonants

Labial Dental/
Alveolar
Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal mn
Plosive pbtdkɡ
Fricative fθxh
Affricate t͡st͡ʃd͡ʒ
Sibilant szʃ
Rhotic r
Approximant ljw

Notes: Lycian 𐊋𐊆𐊈𐊈𐊀𐊓𐊕𐊑𐊏𐊀 Kizzaprñna ~ 𐊈𐊆𐊖𐊀𐊓𐊕𐊑𐊏𐊀 Zisaprñna for (genuine) Old Persian *Ciçafarnā (besides the Median form *Ciθrafarnah) = Tissaphernes suggests /t͡s/ as the pronunciation of ç (compare and Kloekhorst 2008, p. 125 in for this example, who, however, mistakenly writes Çiçafarnā, which contradicts the etymology [ PIIr. *Čitra-swarnas-] and the Middle Persian form Čehrfar [ç gives Middle Persian s]).

The phoneme /l/ does not occur in native Iranian vocabulary, only in borrowings from Akkadian (a new /l/ develops in Middle Persian from 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 suggest that before the syllabic /r/, an epenthetic vowel [i] had developed already in the Old Persian period, which later became [u] after labials. For example, OP Vᵃ-rᵃ-kᵃ-a-nᵃ /vrkaːna/ is rendered in Elamite as Mirkānu-, [25] 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

Nouns

Old Persian stems:

-a-am
Singular Dual Plural SingularDualPluralSingularDualPlural
Nominative -a-ā, -āha-am
Vocative
Accusative -am-ām
Instrumental /
Ablative
-aibiyā-aibiš-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
SingularDualPluralSingularDualPluralSingularDualPluralSingularDualPlural
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

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.miybarāmiy
3.pers.astiybaratiy
Pl.1.pers.mahiybarāmahiy
3.pers.hatiybaratiy
Imperfect, Active
AthematicThematic
'do, make''be, become'
Sg.1.pers.akunavamabavam
3.pers.akunaušabava
Pl.1.pers.akuabavāmā
3.pers.akunavaabava
Present participle
ActiveMiddle
-nt--amna-
Past participle
-ta-
Infinitive
-tanaiy

Lexicon

Proto-Indo-Iranian Old PersianMiddle PersianModern Persianmeaning
*Hasura MazdʰaHAhura MazdaOhrmazdOrmazd اورمزد Ahura Mazda
*Haĉwas aspaaspasb اسب/asp اسپhorse
*kaHmaskāmakāmkām کامdesire
*daywas daiva dēwdiv دیوdevil
*ĵrayasdrayahdrayādaryā دریاsea
*ĵʰastasdastadastdast دستhand
*bʰagas bājibājbāj باج/باژtoll
*bʰraHtābrātarbrâdarbarādar برادرbrother
*bʰuHmišbūmibūmbūm بومregion, land
*martyasmartyamardmard مردman
*māHasmāhamāhmāh ماهmoon, month
*wasr̥vāharawahārbahār بهارspring
*stʰuHnaHstūnāstūnsotūn ستونstand (column)
*ĉyaHtasšiyātašādšād شادhappy
*Hr̥tas arta ardord ارد‎order, truth
*dʰrawgʰas druj drughdorugh دروغlie
*ĉwáHdʰaHspadaspahsepah سپاهarmy

See also

Notes

  1. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Old Persian (ca. 600-400 B.C.)". Glottolog 3.0 . Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  2. cf.Gershevitch, Ilya (1968). "Old Iranian Literature". Handbuch der Orientalistik, Literatur I. Leiden: Brill. pp. 1–31., p. 2.
  3. Kuhrt 2013, p. 197.
  4. Frye 1984, p. 103.
  5. Schmitt 2000, p. 53.
  6. "Old Persian Texts".
  7. Kent, R. G.: "Old Persian: Grammar Texts Lexicon", page 6. American Oriental Society, 1950.
  8. "Everyday text shows that Old Persian was probably more commonly used than previously thought". Accessed September 2010 from
  9. 1 2 ( Schmitt 2008 , pp. 80–1)
  10. 1 2 3 ( Skjærvø 2006 , vi(2). Documentation. Old Persian.)
  11. 1 2 ( Skjærvø 2006 , vi(1). Earliest Evidence)
  12. Xenophon. Anabasis. pp. IV.v.2–9.
  13. ( Schmitt 2008 , p. 76)
  14. ( (Skjærvø 2006 )
  15. 1 2 3 Skjærvø, Prods Oktor (2005), An Introduction to Old Persian (PDF) (2nd ed.), Cambridge: Harvard
  16. (Lazard, Gilbert 1975, “The Rise of the New Persian Language” in Frye, R. N., The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 4, pp. 595-632, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  17. 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."
  18. 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 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
  19. Skjærvø, Prods Oktor (2006), "Iran, vi. Iranian languages and scripts", Encyclopaedia Iranica , 13.
  20. ( Schmitt 2008 , p. 78)
  21. ( 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.."
  22. 1 2 ( Schmitt 2008 , p. 77)
  23. Behistun T 42 - Livius.
  24. ( Schmitt 2008 , p. 79)
  25. Stolper, M. W. (1997), "Mirkānu", in Ebeling, Erich; Meissner, Bruno; Edzard, Dietz Otto (eds.), Reallexikon der Assyriologie und vorderasiatischen Archäologie: Meek – Mythologie, 8, Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, p. 221, ISBN   978-3-11-014809-1 , retrieved 15 August 2013

Bibliography

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Teispids were an Iron Age dynasty originally ruling southern Zagros, in ancient Anshan. The dynasty’s realm was later expanded under Cyrus II who conquered a vast area in southwestern Asia, later happened to be known as Achaemenid Empire under Darius I. The titulary of Teispids is recorded in Cyrus Cylinder, in which Cyrus II identifies himself and his ancestors with the title King of Anshan, as an Elamite tradition. Teispes being the eponymous ancestor and founder, the dynasty furthermore included Cyrus I, Cambyses I, Cyrus II, Cambyses II and Bardiya.

Achaemenid conquest of the Indus Valley Military conquest

The Achaemenid conquest of the Indus Valley refers to the Achaemenid military conquest and occupation of the territories of the North-western regions of the Indian subcontinent, from the 6th to 4th centuries BC. The conquest of the areas as far as the Indus river is often dated to the time of Cyrus the Great, in the period between 550-539 BCE. The first secure epigraphic evidence, given by the Behistun Inscription inscription, gives a date before or about 518 BCE. Achaemenid penetration into the area of the Indian subcontinent occurred in stages, starting from northern parts of the River Indus and moving southward. These areas of the Indus valley became formal Achaemenid satrapies as mentioned in several Achaemenid inscriptions. The Achaemenid occupation of the Indus Valley ended with the Indian campaign of Alexander the Great circa 323 BCE. The Achaemenid occupation, although less successful than that of the later Greeks, Sakas or Kushans, had the effect of acquainting India to the outer world.

DNa inscription Ancient inscription on Darius the Greats tomb

The DNa inscription of Achaemenid Emperor Darius I is a famous inscription from c.490 BCE which appears in the top left corner of the facade of the tomb of Darius I in Naqsh-e Rustam.

Gandāra Achaemenid province

Gandāra, or Gadāra in Achaemenid inscriptions was one of the easternmost provinces of the Achaemenid Empire in South Asia, following the Achaemenid invasion of the Indus Valley. It appears in various Achaemenid inscriptions such as the Behistun Inscription, or the DNa inscription of Darius the Great.