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Middle Persian
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{{Contains Perso-Arabic text}}Middle Persian or Pahlavi, also known as by its endonym Parsig (𐭯𐭠𐭫𐭮𐭩𐭪 pārsīg) 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.Traces of Middle Persian are found in remnants of Sasanian inscriptions and Egyptian papyri, coins and seals, fragments of Manichaean writings, and treatises and Zoroastrian books from the Sasanian era, as well as in the post-Sasanian Zoroastrian variant of the language sometimes known as Pahlavi, which originally referred to the Pahlavi scripts,See also Omniglot.com's page on Middle Persian scripts and that was also the preferred writing system for several other Middle Iranian languages. Aside from the Aramaic alphabet-derived Pahlavi script,BOOK, harv, Spooner, Brian, Brian Spooner, Hanaway, William L., Literacy in the Persianate World: Writing and the Social Order,weblink 2012, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1-934536-56-3, , p. 14. Zoroastrian Middle Persian was occasionally also written in Pazend, a system derived from the Avestan alphabet that, unlike Pahlavi, indicated vowels and did not employ logograms. Manichaean Middle Persian texts were written in the Manichaean alphabet, which also derives from Aramaic but in an Eastern Iranian form via the Sogdian alphabet.

Name

"Middle Iranian" is the name given to middle stage of development of the numerous Iranian languages and dialects.{{citation|last=Henning|first=Walter Bruno|year=1958|title=Mitteliranisch|series=Handbuch der Orientalistik I, IV, I|location=Leiden|publisher=Brill}}.{{rp|1}} The middle stage of Iranian languages begins around 450 BCE and ends around 650 CE. One of those Middle Iranian languages is Middle Persian, i.e. the middle stage of the language of the Persians, an Iranian peoples of Persia proper, which lies in the south-western highlands on the border with Babylonia. The Persians called their language Parsik, meaning "Persian".Another Middle Iranian language was Parthian, i.e. the language of the northwestern Iranian peoples of Parthia proper, which lies along the southern/south-eastern edge of the Caspian sea and is adjacent to the boundary between western and eastern Iranian languages. The Parthians called their language Parthawik, meaning "Parthian". Via regular sound changes Parthawik became Pahlawik, from which the word 'Pahlavi' eventually evolved. The -ik in parsik and parthawik was a regular Middle Iranian (wikt:appurtenance|appurtenant) suffix for "pertaining to". The New Persian equivalent of -ik is -i.When the Arsacids (who were Parthians) came to power in the 3rd-century BCE, they inherited the use of written Greek (from the successors of Alexander the Great) as the language of government. Under the cultural influence of the Greeks (Hellenization), some Middle Iranian languages, such as Bactrian, also had begun to be written in Greek script. But yet other Middle Iranian languages began to be written in a script derived from Aramaic. This occurred primarily because written Aramaic had previously been the written language of government of the former Achaemenids, and the government scribes had carried that practice all over the empire. This practice had led to others adopting Imperial Aramaic as the language of communications, both between Iranians and non-Iranians, as well as between Iranians.{{citation|last=Gershevitch|first=Ilya|chapter=Bactrian Literature|pages=1250-1260|title=The Seleucid, Parthian and Sassanian Periods|series=Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 3(2)|editor-last=Yarshatar|editor-first=Ehsan|year=1983|publisher=Cambridge University Press|isbn=0-521-24693-8}}.{{rp|1251-1253}} The transition from Imperial Aramaic to Middle Iranian took place very slowly, with a slow increase of more and more Iranian words so that Aramaic with Iranian elements gradually changed into Iranian with Aramaic elements.{{citation|last=Boyce|first=Mary|chapter=Parthian Writings and Literature|pages=1151-1165|title=The Seleucid, Parthian and Sassanian Periods|series=Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 3(2)|editor-last=Yarshatar|editor-first=Ehsan|year=1983|publisher=Cambridge University Press|isbn=0-521-24693-8}}.{{rp|1151}} Under Arsacid hegemony, this Aramaic-derived writing system for Iranian languages came to be associated with the Parthians in particular (it may have originated in the Parthian chancellories{{rp|1151}}), and thus the writing system came to be called pahlavi "Parthian" too.{{rp|33}}Aside from Parthian, Aramaic-derived writing was adopted for at least four other Middle Iranian languages, one of which was Middle Persian. In the 3rd-century CE, the Parthian Arsacids were overthrown by the Sassanids, who were natives of the south-west and thus spoke Middle Persian as their native language. Under Sassanid hegemony, the Middle Persian language became a prestige dialect and thus also came to be used by non-Persian Iranians. In the 7th-century, the Sassanids were overthrown by the Arabs. Under Arab influence, Iranian languages began be written in Arabic script (adapted to Iranian phonology), while Middle Persian began to rapidly evolve into New Persian and the name parsik became Arabicized farsi. Not all Iranians were comfortable with these Arabic-influenced developments, in particular, members of the literate elite, which in Sassanid times consisted primarily of Zoroastrian priests. Those former elites vigorously rejected what they perceived as 'Un-Iranian', and continued to use the "old" language (i.e. Middle Persian) and Aramaic-derived writing system.{{rp|33}} In time, the name of the writing system, pahlavi "Parthian", began to be applied to the "old" Middle Persian language as well, thus distinguishing it from the "new" language, farsi.{{citation|last=Boyce|first=Mary|year=1968|title=Middle Persian Literature|series=Handbuch der Orientalistik 1, IV, 2|location=Leiden|publisher=Brill|pages=31-66}}.{{rp|32-33}} Consequently, 'pahlavi' came to denote the particularly Zoroastrian, exclusively written, late form of Middle Persian.{{citation|last=Cereti|first=Carlo|year=2009|chapter=Pahlavi Literature|title=Encyclopedia Iranica|publisher=(online edition)}}. Since almost all surviving Middle Persian literature is in this particular late form of exclusively written Zoroastrian Middle Persian, in popular imagination the term 'Pahlavi' became synonymous with Middle Persian itself. The ISO 639 language code for Middle Persian is pal, which reflects the post-Sasanian era use of the term Pahlavi to refer to the language and not only the script.

Transition from Old Persian

{{History of the Persian language}}In the classification of the Iranian languages, the Middle Period includes those languages which were common in Iran from the fall of the Achaemenid Empire in the fourth century BCE up to the fall of the Sasanian Empire in the seventh 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:

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, particularly the establishment of a superstratum or adstratum of Arabic loanwords replacing many Aramaic loans and native terms.
  • The substitution of Arabic script for Pahlavi script.

Surviving literature

Pahlavi Middle Persian is the language of quite a large body of literature which details the traditions and prescriptions of Zoroastrianism, which was the state religion of Sasanian Iran (224 to c. 650) before the Muslim conquest of Persia. The earliest texts in Zoroastrian Middle Persian were probably written down in late Sasanian times (6th–7th centuries), although they represent the codification of earlier oral tradition.Sundermann, Werner. 1989. Mittelpersisch. P. 141. In Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum (ed. Rüdiger Schmitt). However, most texts, including the translated versions of the Zoroastrian canon, date from the ninth 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.WEB,weblink Linguist List - Description of Pehlevi, 2007, Eastern Michigan University, Detroit, 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 the Church of the East, evidenced in the Pahlavi Psalter (7th century); these were used until the beginning of the second millennium in many places in Central Asia, including Turpan and even localities in South India.Sundermann, Werner. 1989. Mittelpersisch. P. 138. In Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum (ed. Rüdiger Schmitt). 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 Sasanian-era pronunciation of the former.Sundermann, Werner. 1989. Mittelpersisch. P. 143. In Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum (ed. Rüdiger Schmitt).

Samples

Below is transcription and translation of the first page of the facsimile known as Book of Arda Viraf, originally written in a Pahlavi script.''weblink" title="web.archive.org/web/20080312211533weblink">R. Mehri's Parsik/Pahlavi Web page (archived copy) at the Internet Archive

Poetry

A sample Middle Persian poem from manuscript of Jamasp Asana:{|valign="top"|
Original in Middle Persian:
Dārom andarz-Ä“ az dānāgān   Az guft-Ä« pÄ“Å¡Ä“nÄ«gān   ÅŒ Å¡māh bÄ“ wizārom   Pad rāstÄ«h andar gÄ“hān   Agar Ä“n az man padÄ«rÄ“d   BavÄ“d sÅ«d-Ä« dō gÄ“hān  | Near literal translation into Modern Persian:
Dāram andarz-i az dānāyān دارم اندرزی از دانایان Az gofte-ye pišiniyān از گفتهٔ پیشینیان Be šomā be-gozāram به شما بگزارم Be rāstī andar jahān به راستی اندر جهان agar īn az man pazīrid اگر این از من پذیرد Bovad sūd-e dō jahān بوَد سود دو جهان| Translation into English:
I have a counsel from the wise,   from the advises 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  

Other sample texts

Vocabulary

Affixes

There are a number of affixes in Middle Persian that did not survive into Modern Persian:Joneidi, F. (1966). Pahlavi Script and Language (Arsacid and Sassanid) (p. 54). Balkh ().BOOK, David Neil MacKenzie, A Concise Pahlavi Dictionary, 1971, London: Oxford University Press, Joneidi, F. (1972). The Story of Iran. First Book: Beginning of Time to Dormancy of Mount Damavand ().{| class="wikitable"! Middle Persian || English || Other Indo-European || Example(s)A- >Privative a>a- (e.g. atom)a-spās 'ungrateful', a-bim 'fearless', a-čār 'inevitable', a-dād 'unjust'An->-un, German ant->|an-ērān 'non-Iranian', an-ast 'non-existent'-ik (-ig in Late Middle Persian)>-ic, Latin -icus, Greek –ikos, Slavic -isku>|Pārsīk 'Persian', Āsōrik 'Assyrian', Pahlavik 'Parthian', Hrōmāyīk/Hrōmīk 'Byzantine, Roman', Tāzīk 'Arab'

Location suffixes

{| class="wikitable"! Middle Persian || Other Indo-European || Example(s)-gerd>Nisa, Turkmenistan>Mithradatgerd "Mithridates City", Susangerd (City of Susan), Darabgerd "Darius City", Bahramjerd "Bahram City", Dastgerd, Virugerd, Borujerd-vīl>|Ardabil "Holy City", Kabul and Zabol-āpāt (later -ābād)>|Ashkābād > Ashgabat "Land of Arsaces"-stan>-stān English stead 'town', Russian stan 'settlement', common root with Germanic standTapurstan, Sakastan

Comparison of Middle Persian and Modern Persian vocabulary

There are a number of phonological differences between Middle Persian and New Persian. The long vowels of Middle Persian did not survive in many present-day dialects. Also, initial consonant clusters were very common in Middle Persian (e.g. spās "thanks"). However, New Persian does not allow initial consonant clusters, whereas final consonant clusters are common (e.g. asb "horse").{| class="wikitable"! Early Middle Persian || English || Early New Persian || Notes || Other Indo-EuropeanDrōd 𐭣𐭫𐭥𐭣>Dōrūd (درود) >| Pad-drōt 𐭯𐭥𐭭 𐭣𐭫𐭥𐭣>Bē dōrūd (به درود), later bedrūd (بدرود) >| Spās 𐭮𐭯𐭠𐭮>Sipās (سپاس) >| Spās in kurdishine-pro|*speḱ-}}Pad 𐭯𐭥𐭭>Bē (به) >| Az 𐭬𐭭>Az (از) >| Šagr𐭱𐭢𐭫, Šēr1>Šēr (شیر) >šagra-. Preserved as Tajiki šer and Kurdish (شێر) šēr Šīr𐭱𐭩𐭫 1 >Šīr (شیر) >*xšīra-. Tajiki šir and Kurdish (šīr, )>| from PIE *swēyd-Asēm 𐭠𐭮𐭩𐭬>Āhan (آهن) >Āsin (آسِن) in Kurdish>Arjat>seem (سیم) >| Latin argentum (French argent), Armenian arsat, Old Irish airget, PIE h₂erǵn̥t-, an n-stemArž>Arj (ارج) 'value/worth' >Arg (АргЪ) 'price' in Ossetian language>Ossetian Ēvārak>Luri language>Lurish Tābestān 𐭲𐭠𐭯𐭮𐭲𐭠𐭭‎> Hāmīn 𐭧𐭠𐭬𐭩𐭭>Balochi language>Balochi, and Central Kurdish. Survived as Hāvīn in Northern Kurdish. | Stārag 𐭮𐭲𐭠𐭫𐭪, Star 𐭮𐭲𐭫>Setāre (ستاره) >| Stār, Stērk in Northern Kurdish|Latin stella, Old English steorra, Gothic stairno, Old Norse stjarnaFradom>pronin in Sangsari language >| First, primary, Latin primus, Greek πρίν, Sanskrit prathamaFradāk >Fardā (فردا) >Fra- 'towards' >| Greek pro-, Lithuanian pra, etc.Murd 𐭬𐭥𐭫𐭣>Mōrd (مرد)>|Latin morta, English murd-er, Old Russian mirtvu, Lithuanian mirtisRōz 𐭩𐭥𐭬>Rūz (روز) >rōšn 'light'. Kurdish rōž (رۆژ), also preserved as rōč (رُوچ) in Balochi >| Armenian lois 'light', Latin lux 'light'Sāl 𐭱𐭭𐭲 >Sāl (سال) >| Armenian sārd 'sun', German Sonne, Russian солнцеMātar 𐭬𐭠𐭲𐭥‎ >Mādar (مادر) >|Latin māter, Old Church Slavonic mater, Lithuanian motinaPidar 𐭯𐭣𐭫 >Pēdar (پدر)>|Latin pater (Italian padre), Old High German faterBrād,Brādar 𐭡𐭥𐭠𐭣𐭥‎ >Barādar (برادر) >|Old Ch. Slavonic brat(r)u, Lithuanian brolis, Latin frāter, Old Irish brathair, O. H. German bruoderXwāh(ar) 𐭧𐭥𐭠𐭧 >Xāhar (خواهر) >|Armenian khoyrDuxtar 𐭣𐭥𐭧𐭲𐭫 >Dōxtar (دختر) >|Gothic dauhtar, O. H. German tohter, Old Prussian duckti, Armenian dowstr, Lithuanian dukteŌhāy 𐭠𐭧𐭠𐭩>ārī (آری)>| Nē 𐭫𐭠>Na (نه)>|1 Since many long vowels of Middle Persian did not survive, a number of homophones were created in New Persian. For example, šir and šer, meaning "milk" and "lion", respectively, are now both pronounced šir. In this case, the correct pronunciation has been preserved in Kurdish and Tajiki.Strazny, P. (2005). Encyclopedia of linguistics (p. 325). New York: Fitzroy Dearborn.

Middle Persian loanwords in other languages

There is a number of Persian loanwords in English, many of which can be traced to Middle Persian. The lexicon of Classical Arabic also contains many borrowings from Middle Persian. In such borrowings Iranian consonants that sound foreign to Arabic, g, č, p, and ž, have been replaced by q/k, j, š, f/b, and s/z. Here is a parallel word list of such terms:BOOK, harv, Mackenzie, D. N., A Concise Pahlavi Dictionary,weblink 2014, Routledge, 978-1-136-61396-8, WEB,weblink ARABIC LANGUAGE ii. Iranian loanwords in Arabic, 15 December 1986, Encyclopædia Iranica, 31 December 2015, Joneidi, F. (1965). Dictionary of Pahlavi Ideograms (فرهنگ هزوارش هاي دبيره پهلوي) (p. 8). Balkh (نشر بلخ).{| class="wikitable"! Middle Persian || English || Indo-European Cognates || Possible Arabic Borrowing || EnglishSrat 𐭮𐭫𐭲>Latin strata 'street', Welsh language>Welsh srat 'plain'; from PIE root stere- 'to spread, extend, stretch out' (Avestan star-, Latin sternere, Old Church Slavonic stira)Sirāt (صراط)PathBurg 𐭡𐭥𐭫𐭢>burg 'castle' or 'fort'>Burj (برج)>|TowerA-sar; A- (negation prefix) + sar (end, beginning)>A- prefix in Greek; Sanskrit siras, Hittite harsar 'head' >Azal (أزل) >| InfiniteA-pad; a- (prefix of negation) + pad (end)>Abad (أبد)>|Infinity, foreverDēn 𐭣𐭩𐭭 (from Avestan daena) >Dīn (دين)>|ReligionBōstān (bō 'aroma, scent' + -stan place-name element) >Bustān (بستان'')>|GardenČirāg>Sirāj (سراج)>|LampTāg>Tāj (تاج)>|CrownPargār>Compass (drawing tool)>Compass Firjār (فرجار)Compass (drawing tool)Ravāg>Rawāj (رواج)>|PopularityRavāk (older form of ravāg; from the root rav (v. raftan) 'to go')>Riwāq (رواق)>|Place of passage, corridorGund>Jund (جند)>|ArmyŠalwār>Sirwāl (سروال)>|TrousersRōstāk>Ruzdāq (رزداق)>|VillageZar-parān>zaʿfarān ()Saffron

Comparison of Middle Persian and Modern Persian names{| class"wikitable"

! Middle Persian || New Persian || Old Persian || English|AnahitaArtaxerxes (disambiguation)>Artaxerxes|Mithra|Roxana||Alexander the Great||Mithridates|Borān|Chosroes|Zoroaster|Ahura Mazda, astr. Jupiter{{Incubator|code=pal|language=Middle Persian}}

See also

References

{{reflist}}

Sources

{{Persian language}}{{Persian literature}}{{Iranian languages}}{{Ancient Mesopotamia}}

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