- Middle Persian
Middle Persian Spoken in Iran Extinct evolved into Modern Persian by the 9th century Language family Language codes ISO 639-2 pal (see text left) ISO 639-3 pal Linguasphere 58-AAC-ca
Middle Persian (Persian: پارسی میانه), indigenously known as "Pârsig" sometimes referred to as Pahlavi or Pehlevi, is the Middle Iranian language/ethnolect of Southwestern Iran that during Sassanid times (224-654 CE) became a prestige dialect and so came to be spoken in other regions as well. Middle Persian is classified as a Western Iranian language. It descends from Old Persian and is the linguistic ancestor of Persian.
The native name for Middle Persian (and perhaps for Old Persian also) was Pārsik, "(language) of Pārs", present-day Fārs Province. The word is consequently (the origin of) the native name for the Modern Persian language.
Middle Persian was most frequently written in the Pahlavi writing system, which was also the preferred writing system for other Middle Iranian languages. Other forms of written Middle Persian include Pazend, a system derived from Avestan that, unlike Pahlavi, indicated vowels and did not employ Aramaic logograms. The ISO 639 language code for Middle Persian is 'pal', which reflects the post-Sassanid-era use of the term Pahlavi to refer to the language and not only the script.
Transition from Old Persian
In the classification of the Iranian languages, the Middle Period includes those languages which were common in Iran from the fall of the Achaemenids in the 4th century BCE up to the fall of the Sassanids in the 7th century CE.
The most important and distinct development in the structure of Iranian languages of this period is the transformation from the synthetic form of the Old Period (Old Persian and Avestan) to an analytic form:
- nouns, pronouns, and adjectives lost their case inflections
- prepositions were used to indicate the different roles of words.
- many tenses began to be formed from a composite form
Transition to New Persian
The modern-day descendant of Middle Persian is New Persian. The changes between late Middle and Early New Persian were very gradual, and in the 10th-11th centuries, Middle Persian texts were still intelligible to speakers of Early New Persian. However, there are definite differences that had taken place already by the 10th century:
- Sound changes, such as
- the dropping of unstressed initial vowels
- the epenthesis of vowels in initial consonant clusters
- the loss of -g when word final
- change of initial w- to either b- or (gw- → g-)
- Changes in the verbal system, notably the loss of distinctive subjunctive and optative forms, and the increasing use of verbal prefixes to express verbal moods
- Changes in the vocabulary, especially the substitution of a large number of Arabic loanwords for words of native origin
- The substitution of Arabic script for Pahlavi script.
Pahlavi Middle Persian is the language of quite a large body of Zoroastrian literature which details the traditions and prescriptions of the Zoroastrian religion, which was the state religion of Sassanid Iran (224 to ca. 650) before Iran was invaded by the Arab armies that spread Islam. The earliest texts in Zoroastrian Middle Persian were probably written down in late Sassanid times (6th-7th centuries), although they represent the codification of earlier oral tradition. However, most texts, including the translated versions of the Zoroastrian canon, date from the 9th to the 11th century, when Middle Persian had long ceased to be a spoken language, so they reflect the state of affairs in living Middle Persian only indirectly. The surviving manuscripts are usually 14th-century copies. Other, less abundantly attested varieties are Manichaean Middle Persian, used for a sizable amount of Manichaean religious writings, including many theological texts, homilies and hymns (3rd - 9th, possibly 13th century), and the Middle Persian of Nestorian Christians, evidenced in the Pahlavi Psalter (7th century); these were used until the beginning of the second millennium in many places in Central Asia, including Turfan and even localities in Southern India. All three differ minimally from one another and indeed the less ambiguous and archaizing scripts of the latter two have helped to elucidate some aspects of the Sassanian-era pronunciation of the former.
Below is transliteration and translation of the first page of the facsimile known as Arda Wiraz Namag or The Book of the Righteous Wiraz, originally written in Pahlavi script.
“ Pa Nâm i Yazdân
Edon gowend ku ew-bâr ahlaw Zardusht den padirift, andar gehân ravâ be kard, tâ buwandagih i sesad sâl, den andar abezagih, u mardom andar abe-gumânih bud hend. U pas, gujasta gannâ meno i druwand, gumân kardan i mardomân be in den râ, an gujasta Aleksandar i hromayi i Muzrây-mânishn wiyâbânid u be grân sezd u nabard u bish o Eran-shahr frestâd. Oy Eran-dihbad ozad, u dar u khwadâyih wishuft u awirân kard; u in den chon hama Abastâ u Zand abar gâv postihâ i wirâsta pa âb i zarr nibishta, andar Stakhr i Pabagân pa diz i nibisht nihâd istad, oy patiyâra i wadbakht i ahlomog i druwand i andar-kerdâr, Aleksandar i hromayi, ..."
” “ In the name of God
Thus they have said that once the righteous Zoroaster accepted a religion, he established it in the world. After/Within the period of 300 years (the) religion remained in holiness and the people were in peace and without any doubt. But then, the sinful, corrupt and deceitful spirit, in order to cause people doubt this religion, illusioned/led astray that Alexander the Roman, resident of Egypt, and sent him to Iran with much anger and violence. He murdered the ruler of Iran and ruined court, and the religion, as all the Avesta and Zand (which were) written on the ox-hide and decorated with water-of-gold (gold leaves) and had been placed/kept in Stakhr of Papak in the 'citadel of the writings.' That wretched, ill-fated, heretic, evil/sinful Alexander, The Roman, ..."
A sample Middle Persian poem from manuscript of Jamasp Asana:
Dārom andarz-ē az dānāgān
Az guft-ī pēšēnīgān
Ō šmāh bē wizārom
Pad rāstīh andar gēhān
Agar ēn az man padīrēd
Bavēd sūd-ī dō gēhān
In New Persian:
Dāram andarz-ē az dānāgān
دارم اندرزی از داناگان
Az gufte-ye pēšēnīgān
از گفته ی پیشینیان
Be šumā be gozāram
به شما بگزارم -گزارش دهم
Be rāstī andar jahān
به راستی اندر جهان
agar īn az man pazīrēd
اگر این از من پذیرید
Buvad sūd-ī dō jahān
بُوَد سود دو جهان
“ I have a counsel from the wise,
from the advices of the ancients,
I will pass it upon you
By truth in the world
If you accept this counsel
It will be your benefits for this life and the next
- Avestan language
- Old Persian language
- Parthian Language
- Persian Language
- History of Persian language
- Pahlavi Literature
- Iranian Languages vocabulary comparison table
References and bibliography
- ^ a b "Linguist List - Description of Pehlevi". Detroit: Eastern Michigan University. 2007. http://linguistlist.org/forms/langs/LLDescription.cfm?code=pal.
- ^ See also Omniglot.com's page on Middle Persian scripts
- ^ Sundermann, Werner. 1989. Mittelpersisch. P. 141. In Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum (ed. Rüdiger Schmidt).
- ^ Sundermann, Werner. 1989. Mittelpersisch. P. 138. In Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum (ed. Rüdiger Schmidt).
- ^ Sundermann, Werner. 1989. Mittelpersisch. P. 143. In Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum (ed. Rüdiger Schmidt).
- ^ R. Mehri's Parsik/Pahlavi Web page (archived copy) at the Internet Archive
- Lessons in Pahlavi-Pazend by S.D.Bharuchī and E.S.D.Bharucha (1908) at the Internet Archive - Part 1 and 2
- Middle Persian texts on TITUS
- Scholar Raham Asha's website, including many Middle Persian texts in original and translation
- An organization promoting the revival of Middle Persian as a literary and spoken language (contains a grammar and lessons)
- Edward Thomas (1868). Early Sassanian inscriptions, seals and coins. Trübner. pp. 137. http://books.google.com/books?id=RV8-AAAAcAAJ&printsec=frontcover&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false. Retrieved 2011-07-05.
- Edward Thomas (1868). Early Sassanian inscriptions, seals and coins. Trübner. pp. 137. http://books.google.com/books?id=iQ0YAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false. Retrieved 2011-07-05.
Iranian languages OldEasternWesternMedian · Old Persian MiddleEasternWesternParthian · Middle Persian ModernEasternWestern Italics indicate extinct languages Persian literature Old MiddleAyadgar-i Zariran · Counsels of Adurbad-e Mahrspandan · Dēnkard · Book of Jamasp · Book of Arda Viraf · Karnamak-i Artaxshir-i Papakan · Cube of Zoroaster · Dana-i_Menog_Khrat · Shabuhragan of Mani · Shahrestanha-ye Eranshahr · Bundahishn · Greater Bundahishn · Menog-i Khrad · Jamasp Namag · Pazand · Dadestan-i Denig · Zadspram · Sudgar Nask · Warshtmansr · Zand-i Vohuman Yasht · Drakht-i Asurig · Bahman Yasht · Shikand-gumanic Vichar Classical900s–1000s1000s–1100sBābā Tāher · Nasir Khusraw (1004–1088) · Al-Ghazali (1058–1111) · Khwaja Abdullah Ansari (1006–1088) · Asadi Tusi · Qatran Tabrizi (1009–1072) · Nizam al-Mulk (1018–1092) · Masud Sa'd Salman (1046–1121) · Moezi Neyshapuri · Omar Khayyām (1048–1131) · Fakhruddin As'ad Gurgani · Ahmad Ghazali · Hujwiri · Manuchehri · Ayn-al-Quzat Hamadani (1098–1131) · Uthman Mukhtari · Abu-al-Faraj Runi · Sanai · Banu Goshasp · Borzu-Nama · Afdal al-Din Kashani · Abu'l Hasan Mihyar al-Daylami · Mu'izzi · Mahsati Ganjavi1100s–1200sHakim Iranshah · Suzani Samarqandi · Ashraf Ghaznavi · Faramarz Nama · Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi (1155–1191) · Adib Sabir · Am'aq · Najm-al-Din Razi · Attār (1142–c.1220) · Khaghani (1120–1190) · Anvari (1126–1189) · Faramarz-e Khodadad · Nizami Ganjavi (1141–1209) · Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (1149–1209) · Kamal al-din Esfahani · Shams Tabrizi (d.1248)1200s–1300sAbu Tahir Tarsusi · Najm al-din Razi · Awhadi Maraghai · Shams al-Din Qays Razi · Baha al-din Walad · Nasīr al-Dīn al-Tūsī · Baba Afdal al-Din Kashani · Fakhr al-din Araqi · Mahmud Shabistari (1288–1320s) · Abu'l Majd Tabrizi · Amir Khusro (1253–1325) · Saadi (Bustan / Golestān) · Bahram-e-Pazhdo · Zartosht Bahram e Pazhdo · Rumi · Homam Tabrizi (1238–1314) · Nozhat al-Majales · Khwaju Kermani · Sultan Walad1300s–1400s1400s–1500s1500s–1600s1600s–1700s1700s–1800sNeshat Esfahani · Forughi Bistami (1798–1857) · Mahmud Saba Kashani (1813–1893) Contemporary Persian and Classical Persian are the same language, but writers since 1900 are classified as contemporary. At one time, Persian was a common cultural language of much of the non-Arabic Islamic world. Today it is the official language of Iran, Tajikistan and one of the two official languages of Afghanistan.
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