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Avestan , also known historically as Zend, comprises two languages: Old Avestan (spoken in the 2nd millennium BCE) and Younger Avestan (spoken in the 1st millennium BCE). The languages are known only from their use as the language of
Zoroastrian Zoroastrianism or Mazdayasna is an Iranian religion and one of the world's oldest continuously-practiced organized faiths, based on the teachings of the Iranian-speaking prophet Zoroaster Zoroaster (, ; el, Ζωροάστρης, ''Zōro ...
scripture (the
Avesta The Avesta () is the primary collection of religious text Religious texts, also known as scripture, scriptures, holy writ, or holy books, are the texts which various religious traditions consider to be sacred, or of central importance to ...

Avesta
), from which they derive their name. Both are early
Iranian languages The Iranian languages or Iranic languages are a branch of the in the that are spoken natively by the . The Iranian languages are grouped in three stages: Old Iranian (until 400 BCE), Middle Iranian (400 BCE–900 CE) and New Iranian (since 9 ...
, a branch of the
Indo-Iranian languages The Indo-Iranian languages (also Indo-Iranic languages or Aryan languages) constitute the largest and southeasternmost extant branch of the Indo-European languages, Indo-European language family. They have more than 1.5 billion speakers, stretch ...

Indo-Iranian languages
within the
Indo-European family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages have a writing ...
. Its immediate ancestor was the
Proto-Iranian language Proto-Iranian or Proto-Iranic is the reconstructed Reconstruction may refer to: Politics, history, and sociology *Reconstruction (law), the transfer of a company's (or several companies') business to a new company *''Perestroika'' (Russian f ...
, a sister language to the
Proto-Indo-Aryan language Proto-Indo-Aryan (sometimes Proto-Indic) is the Linguistic reconstruction, reconstructed proto-language of the Indo-Aryan languages. It is intended to reconstruct the language of the Proto-Indo-Aryans. Being descended from Proto-Indo-Iranian lang ...
, with both having developed from the earlier
Proto-Indo-Iranian Proto-Indo-Iranian or Proto-Indo-Iranic is the reconstructed proto-language of the Indo-Iranian/Indo-Iranic branch of Indo-European. Its speakers, the hypothetical Proto-Indo-Iranians, are assumed to have lived in the late 3rd millennium BC, a ...
. As such, Old Avestan is quite close in grammar and lexicon to
Vedic Sanskrit Vedic Sanskrit was an ancient language of the Indo-AryanIndo-Aryan refers to: * Indo-Aryan languages ** Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni or Mitanni-Aryan * Indo-Aryan peoples, the various peoples speaking these languages See also *Aryan invasi ...
, the oldest preserved
Indo-Aryan language The Indo-Aryan or Indic languages form a major language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most languages h ...
. The Avestan text corpus was composed in ancient
Arachosia Arachosia is the Hellenized name of an ancient satrapy in the eastern part of the Achaemenid, Seleucid The Seleucid Empire (; grc, Βασιλεία τῶν Σελευκιδῶν, ''Basileía tōn Seleukidōn'') was a Hellenistic state in W ...
,
Aria In music, an aria (; it, Air (music), air, links=no; plural: ''arie'' , or ''arias'' in common usage, diminutive form arietta , plural ariette, or in English simply air) is a self-contained piece for one voice, with or without instrument (music ...
,
Bactria Bactria (BactrianBactrian may refer to *Bactria Bactria ( Bactrian: , ), or Bactriana, was an ancient region in Central Asia Central Asia is a region in Asia which stretches from the Caspian Sea in the west to China and Mongolia in the ...
, and
Margiana Margiana ( el, ''Margianḗ'', Old Persian: ''Marguš'', Middle Persian: ''Marv'') is a historical region centred on the oasis of Merv and was a minor satrapy within the Achaemenid Empire, Achaemenid satrapy of Bactria (satrapy), Bactria, and a ...
, corresponding to the entirety of present-day
Afghanistan Afghanistan (; Pashto/Dari language, Dari: , Pashto: , Dari: ), officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country at the crossroads of Central Asia, Central and South Asia. Afghanistan is bordered by Pakistan to the ea ...

Afghanistan
, and parts of
Tajikistan ) , image_map = Tajikistan (orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = , capital = , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , official_languages = (state) (interethn ...

Tajikistan
,
Turkmenistan Turkmenistan ( or ; tk, Türkmenistan, ), also known as Turkmenia, is a landlocked A landlocked country is a country that does not have territory connected to an ocean or whose coastlines lie on endorheic basin, endorheic basins. There ar ...

Turkmenistan
, and
Uzbekistan Uzbekistan (, ; uz, Ozbekiston, ), officially the Republic of Uzbekistan ( uz, Ozbekiston Respublikasi), is a landlocked country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the land ...

Uzbekistan
. The
Yaz culture 300px, Archaeological cultures associated with EIEC). The Andronovo culture">Andronovo The Andronovo culture is a collection of similar local Bronze Age The Bronze Age is a prehistoric Periodization, period that was characterized by th ...
of Bactria-Margiana has been regarded as a likely archaeological reflection of the early "
Eastern Iranian The Eastern Iranian languages are a subgroup of the Iranian languages The Iranian or Iranic languages are a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages in the Indo-European languages, Indo-European language family that are spoken natively by the Ira ...
" culture described in the Avesta.


Genealogy

"Avestan, which is associated with northeastern
Iran Iran ( fa, ایران ), also called Persia, and officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is a country in Western Asia Western Asia, West Asia, or Southwest Asia, is the westernmost subregion A subregion is a part of a larger regio ...

Iran
, and
Old Persian Old Persian is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages The Iranian or Iranic languages are a branch of the Indo-Iranian languagesIndo-Iranian may refer to: * Indo-Iranian languages * Indo-Iranians, the various peoples speaking ...
, which belongs to the southwest, together constitute what is called
Old Iranian The Iranian languages or Iranic languages are a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages The Indo-Iranian languages (also Indo-Iranic languages or Aryan languages) constitute the largest and southeasternmost extant branch of the Indo-European l ...
.". Scholars traditionally classify Iranian languages as "old", "middle" and "new" according to their age, and as "eastern" or "western" according to geography, and within this framework Avestan is classified as
Eastern Eastern may refer to: Transportation *China Eastern Airlines, a current Chinese airline based in Shanghai *Eastern Air, former name of Zambia Skyways *Eastern Air Lines, a defunct American airline that operated from 1926 to 1991 *Eastern Air Lin ...
Old Iranian. But the east–west distinction is of limited meaning for Avestan, as the linguistic developments that later distinguish Eastern from Western Iranian had not yet occurred. Avestan does not display some typical (South-)Western Iranian innovations already visible in Old Persian, and so in this sense, "eastern" only means "non-western". Old Avestan is closely related to
Old Persian Old Persian is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages The Iranian or Iranic languages are a branch of the Indo-Iranian languagesIndo-Iranian may refer to: * Indo-Iranian languages * Indo-Iranians, the various peoples speaking ...
and largely agrees morphologically with
Vedic Sanskrit Vedic Sanskrit was an ancient language of the Indo-AryanIndo-Aryan refers to: * Indo-Aryan languages ** Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni or Mitanni-Aryan * Indo-Aryan peoples, the various peoples speaking these languages See also *Aryan invasi ...
. The old ancestor dialect of
Pashto Pashto (,; / , ), sometimes spelled Pukhto or Pakhto, is an Eastern Iranian language The Eastern Iranian languages are a subgroup of the Iranian languages The Iranian or Iranic languages are a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages in ...

Pashto
was close to the language of the
Gathas The Gathas ()"Gatha"
''
Karl Hoffmann traced the following stages for Avestan as found in the extant texts. In roughly chronological order: * The natural language of the composers of the ''
Gathas The Gathas ()"Gatha"
''
Yasna HaptanghaitiThe ''Yasna Haptanghaiti'' (), Avestan Avestan , also known historically as Zend, comprises two languages: Old Avestan (spoken in the 2nd millennium BCE) and Younger Avestan (spoken in the 1st millennium BCE). The languages are known only from thei ...
'', the four sacred prayers (''Y.'' 27 and 54). * Changes precipitated by slow chanting * Changes to Old Avestan due to transmission by native speakers of Younger Avestan * The natural language of the scribes who wrote grammatically correct Younger Avestan texts * Deliberate changes introduced through "standardization" * Changes introduced by transfer to regions where Avestan was not spoken * Adaptions/translations of portions of texts from other regions * Composition of ungrammatical late Avestan texts * Phonetic notation of the Avestan texts in the * Post-Sasanian deterioration of the written transmission due to incorrect pronunciation * Errors and corruptions introduced during copying Many phonetic features cannot be ascribed with certainty to a particular stage since there may be more than one possibility. Every phonetic form that can be ascribed to the Sasanian archetype on the basis of critical assessment of the manuscript evidence must have gone through the stages mentioned above so that "Old Avestan" and "Young Avestan" really mean no more than "Old Avestan and Young Avestan of the Sasanian period".


Alphabet

The script used for writing Avestan developed during the 3rd or 4th century AD. By then the language had been extinct for many centuries, and remained in use only as a liturgical language of the Avesta canon. As is still the case today, the liturgies were memorized by the priesthood and recited by rote. The script devised to render Avestan was natively known as '' Din dabireh'' "religion writing". It has 53 distinct characters and is written right-to-left. Among the 53 characters are about 30 letters that are – through the addition of various loops and flourishes – variations of the 13 graphemes of the cursive Pahlavi script (i.e. "Book" Pahlavi) that is known from the post-Sassanian texts of Zoroastrian tradition. These symbols, like those of all the Pahlavi scripts, are in turn based on
Aramaic script Aramaic ( Classical Syriac: ''Arāmāyā''; Old Aramaic Old Aramaic refers to the earliest stage of the Aramaic language Aramaic ( Classical Syriac: ''Arāmāyā''; Old Aramaic: ; Aramaic alphabet, Imperial Aramaic: ; Hebrew alphab ...

Aramaic script
symbols. Avestan also incorporates several letters from other writing systems, most notably the vowels, which are mostly derived from Greek minuscules. A few letters were free inventions, as were also the symbols used for punctuation. Also, the Avestan alphabet has one letter that has no corresponding sound in the Avestan language; the character for (a sound that Avestan does not have) was added to write
Pazend Pazend () or Pazand ( pal, 𐭯𐭠𐭰𐭭𐭣; ae, 𐬞𐬀𐬌𐬙𐬌 𐬰𐬀𐬌𐬥𐬙𐬌) is one of the writing system A writing system is a method of visually representing verbal communication Communication (from Latin ''commu ...
texts. The Avestan script is
alphabet An alphabet is a standardized set of basic written symbols A symbol is a mark, sign, or word In linguistics, a word of a spoken language can be defined as the smallest sequence of phonemes that can be uttered in isolation with semanti ...

alphabet
ic, and the large number of letters suggests that its design was due to the need to render the orally recited texts with high phonetic precision. The correct enunciation of the liturgies was (and still is) considered necessary for the prayers to be effective. The Zoroastrians of India, who represent one of the largest surviving Zoroastrian communities worldwide, also transcribe Avestan in
Brahmi Brahmi (; ISO 15919 ISO 15919 "Transliteration of Devanagari and related Indic scripts into Latin characters" is one of a series of international standards for romanization Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics, is the conversion of ...
-based scripts. This is a relatively recent development first seen in the ca. 12th century texts of Neryosang Dhaval and other Parsi Sanskritist theologians of that era, which are roughly contemporary with the oldest surviving manuscripts in Avestan script. Today, Avestan is most commonly typeset in the
Gujarati script The Gujarati script (ગુજરાતી લિપિ ''Gujǎrātī Lipi'') is an abugida . ''May Śiva protect those who take delight in the language of the gods.'' ( Kalidasa) An abugida (, from Ge'ez language, Ge'ez: አቡጊዳ), som ...
( Gujarati being the traditional language of the Indian Zoroastrians). Some Avestan letters with no corresponding symbol are synthesized with additional diacritical marks, for example, the in ''zaraϑuštra'' is written with ''j'' with a dot below.


Phonology

Avestan has retained voiced sibilants, and has fricative rather than aspirate series. There are various conventions for transliteration of Dīn Dabireh, the one adopted for this article being: Vowels: :a ā ə ə̄ e ē o ō å ą i ī u ū Consonants: :k g γ x xʷ č ǰ t d δ ϑ t̰ p b β f :ŋ ŋʷ ṇ ń n m y w r s z š ṣ̌ ž h The glides ''y'' and ''w'' are often transcribed as ''ii'' and ''uu'', imitating Dīn Dabireh orthography. The letter transcribed ''t̰'' indicates an allophone of with
no audible release A stop with no audible release, also known as an unreleased stop or an applosive, is a stop consonant In phonetics Phonetics is a branch of linguistics that studies how humans produce and perceive sounds, or in the case of sign languages, t ...
at the end of a word and before certain
obstruentAn obstruent () is a speech sound such as , , or that is formed by ''obstructing'' airflow. Obstruents contrast with sonorant In phonetics and phonology, a sonorant or resonant is a speech sound that is manner of articulation, produced with continuo ...
s.


Consonants

According to Beekes, and are allophones of and respectively (in Old Avestan).


Vowels


Grammar


Nouns


Verbs


Sample text


Example phrases

The following phrases were phonetically transcribed from Avestan:


Avestan and Sanskrit

Avestan is extremely similar to Vedic Sanskrit, as demonstrated by this sample text:


See also

*
Vedic Sanskrit Vedic Sanskrit was an ancient language of the Indo-AryanIndo-Aryan refers to: * Indo-Aryan languages ** Indo-Aryan superstrate in Mitanni or Mitanni-Aryan * Indo-Aryan peoples, the various peoples speaking these languages See also *Aryan invasi ...
*
Proto-Indo-Iranian language Proto-Indo-Iranian or Proto-Indo-Iranic is the Linguistic reconstruction, reconstructed proto-language of the Indo-Iranian languages, Indo-Iranian/Indo-Iranic branch of Indo-European languages, Indo-European. Its speakers, the hypothetical Proto- ...
*
Proto-Indo-European language Proto-Indo-European (PIE) is the theorized common ancestor of the Indo-European language family The Indo-European languages are a language family A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech ( ...


Notes


References


Sources

* . * . * * . * . * .


External links


Encyclopedia Avestica
an online etymological glossary covering most of the corpus of the language
Information on Avestan language
at avesta.org
Old Iranian Online
(including Old and Young Avestan) by Scott L. Harvey and Jonathan Slocum, free online lessons at th
Linguistics Research Center
at the
University of Texas at Austin The University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin, UT, or Texas) is a public university, public research university in Austin, Texas, founded in 1883. The University of Texas was included in the Association of American Universities in 1929. The i ...

Old Avestan
an

at Harvard University

an

at TITUS. * *

an online collection of introductory videos to Ancient Indo-European languages produced by the University of Göttingen {{DEFAULTSORT:Avestan Language Eastern Iranian languages Avesta Extinct languages of Asia Language articles with unknown extinction date Sacred languages Ancient languages