Middle Persian



Middle Persian or Pahlavi, also known by its
endonym An endonym (from Greek: , 'inner' + , 'name'; also known as autonym) is a common, ''native'' name for a geographical place, group of people, individual person, language or dialect, meaning that it is used inside that particular place, grou ...
Pārsīk or Pārsīg () in its later form, is a Western Middle Iranian language which became the literary language of the
Sasanian Empire The Sasanian () or Sassanid Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians (, ) and also referred to by historians as the Neo-Persian Empire, was the History of Iran, last Iranian empire before the early Muslim conquests of the 7th-8th cen ...
. For some time after the Sasanian collapse, Middle Persian continued to function as a
prestige language Prestige refers to a good reputation or high esteem; in earlier usage, ''prestige'' meant "showiness". (19th c.) Prestige may also refer to: Arts, entertainment and media Films * ''Prestige'' (film), a 1932 American film directed by Tay Garnet ...
. It descended from
Old Persian Old Persian is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages (the other being Avestan language, Avestan) and is the ancestor of Middle Persian (the language of Sasanian Empire). Like other Old Iranian languages, it was known to its native ...
, the language of the
Achaemenid Empire The Achaemenid Empire or Achaemenian Empire (; peo, wikt:𐎧𐏁𐏂𐎶, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, , ), also called the First Persian Empire, was an History of Iran#Classical antiquity, ancient Iranian empire founded by Cyrus the Great in 550 BC. Bas ...
and is the linguistic ancestor of
Modern Persian New Persian ( fa, فارسی نو), also known as Modern Persian () and Dari (), is the current stage of the Persian language spoken since the 8th to 9th centuries until now in Greater Iran and surroundings. It is conventionally divided into thre ...
, an official language of
Iran Iran, officially the Islamic Republic of Iran, and also called Persia, is a country located in Western Asia. It is bordered by Iraq and Turkey to the west, by Azerbaijan and Armenia to the northwest, by the Caspian Sea and Turkmeni ...
Afghanistan Afghanistan, officially the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,; prs, امارت اسلامی افغانستان is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central Asia and South Asia. Referred to as the Heart of Asia, it is bordere ...
Dari Dari (, , ), also known as Dari Persian (, ), is the Variety (linguistics), variety of the Persian language spoken in Afghanistan. Dari is the term officially recognised and promoted since 1964 by the Politics of Afghanistan, Afghan government ...
) and
Tajikistan Tajikistan (, ; tg, Тоҷикистон, Tojikiston; russian: Таджикистан, Tadzhikistan), officially the Republic of Tajikistan ( tg, Ҷумҳурии Тоҷикистон, Jumhurii Tojikiston), is a landlocked country in Centra ...
( Tajik).


"Middle Iranian" is the name given to the middle stage of development of the numerous Iranian languages and dialects. The middle stage of the 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 people 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 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 Alexander III of Macedon ( grc, wikt:Ἀλέξανδρος, Ἀλέξανδρος, Alexandros; 20/21 July 356 BC – 10/11 June 323 BC), commonly known as Alexander the Great, was a king of the Ancient Greece, ancient Greek kingdom of Maced ...
) as the language of government. Under the cultural influence of the Greeks (
Hellenization Hellenization (other British spelling Hellenisation) or Hellenism is the adoption of Greek Greek culture, culture, Religion in Greece, religion, Greek language, language and Ethnic identity, identity by non-Greeks. In the Ancient Greece, ancient ...
), 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 Aramaic ( syc, ܐܪܡܝܐ, Arāmāyā; oar, 𐤀𐤓𐤌𐤉𐤀; arc, 𐡀𐡓𐡌𐡉𐡀; tmr, אֲרָמִית) is a Northwest Semitic languages, Northwest Semitic languages, Semitic language that originated in the ancient Syria (regio ...
. This occurred primarily because ''written'' Aramaic had previously been the written language of government of the former
Achaemenids The Achaemenid Empire or Achaemenian Empire (; peo, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, , ), also called the First Persian Empire, was an ancient Iranian empire founded by Cyrus the Great Cyrus II of Persia (; peo, wikt:𐎤𐎢𐎽𐎢𐏁, 𐎤𐎢𐎽 ...
, 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.. 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.. Under Arsacid
hegemony Hegemony (, , ) is the political, economic, and military predominance of one state over other states. In Ancient Greece Ancient Greece ( el, Ἑλλάς, Hellás) was a northeastern Mediterranean Sea, Mediterranean civilization, existing ...
, 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), and thus the writing system came to be called ''pahlavi'' "Parthian" too. 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 Prestige refers to a good reputation or high esteem; in earlier usage, ''prestige'' meant "showiness". (19th c.) Prestige may also refer to: Arts, entertainment and media Films * ''Prestige'' (film), a 1932 American film directed by Tay Garnet ...
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 to be written in
Arabic script The Arabic script is the writing system used for Arabic and several other languages of Asia and Africa. It is the second-most widely used List of writing systems by adoption, writing system in the world by number of countries using it or a scri ...
(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. 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''.. Consequently, 'pahlavi' came to denote the particularly Zoroastrian, exclusively written, late form of Middle Persian. Since almost all surviving
Middle Persian literature Middle Persian literature is the corpus of written works composed in Middle Persian, that is, the Middle Iranian dialect of Persis, Persia proper, the region in the south-western corner of the Iranian plateau. Middle Persian was the prestige diale ...
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 ISO 639 is a set of standards by the International Organization for Standardization that is concerned with representation of names for languages and language groups. It was also the name of the original standard, approved in 1967 (as ''ISO 63 ...
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

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 The Achaemenid Empire or Achaemenian Empire (; peo, wikt:𐎧𐏁𐏂𐎶, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, , ), also called the First Persian Empire, was an History of Iran#Classical antiquity, ancient Iranian empire founded by Cyrus the Great in 550 BC. Bas ...
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 Old Persian is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages (the other being Avestan language, Avestan) and is the ancestor of Middle Persian (the language of Sasanian Empire). Like other Old Iranian languages, it was known to its native ...
Avestan Avestan (), or historically Zend, or by the speakers as Upastavakaena ( pas.taˈvakˈaeːna is an umbrella term for two Old Iranian languages: Old Avestan (spoken in the 2nd millennium BCE) and Younger Avestan (spoken in the 1st millennium B ...
) to an analytic form: *
noun A noun () is a word that generally functions as the name of a specific object or set of objects, such as living creatures, places, actions, qualities, states of existence, or ideas.Example nouns for: * Organism, Living creatures (including people ...
pronoun In linguistics and grammar, a pronoun (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) is a word or a group of words that one may substitute for a noun or noun phrase. Pronouns have traditionally been regarded as one of the part of speech, parts o ...
s, and
adjective An adjective (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) is a word that describes a noun or noun phrase. Its semantic role is to change information given by the noun. Traditionally, adjectives were considered one of the main part of speech, par ...
s lost almost all of their case
inflection In linguistic morphology, inflection (or inflexion) is a process of word formation in which a word is modified to express different grammatical categories such as tense, case, voice, aspect, person, number A number is a mathemat ...
s *
preposition Prepositions and postpositions, together called adpositions (or broadly, in traditional grammar, simply prepositions), are a part of speech, class of words used to express spatial or temporal relations (''in'', ''under'', ''towards'', ''before'') ...
s were used to indicate the different roles of words. * many tenses began to be formed from a composite form * the language developed a split ergative
morphosyntactic alignment In linguistics, morphosyntactic alignment is the grammatical relationship between Argument (linguistics), arguments—specifically, between the two arguments (in English, subject and object) of transitive verbs like ''the dog chased the cat'', an ...

Transition to New Persian

The modern-day descendants of Middle Persian are
New Persian New Persian ( fa, فارسی نو), also known as Modern Persian () and Dari (), is the current stage of the Persian language spoken since the 8th to 9th centuries until now in Greater Iran and surroundings. It is conventionally divided into thre ...
and Luri. 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 In phonology Phonology is the branch of linguistics that studies how languages or dialects systematically organize their sounds or, for sign languages, their constituent parts of signs. The term can also refer specifically to the sound or ...
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 * a transition from split ergative back to consistent nominative-accusative
morphosyntactic alignment In linguistics, morphosyntactic alignment is the grammatical relationship between Argument (linguistics), arguments—specifically, between the two arguments (in English, subject and object) of transitive verbs like ''the dog chased the cat'', an ...
* 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 the Pahlavi script for the Arabic script

Surviving literature

Texts in Middle Persian are found in remnants of Sasanian inscriptions and Egyptian
papyri Papyrus ( ) is a material similar to thick paper that was used in ancient times as a writing surface. It was made from the pith of the papyrus plant, ''Cyperus papyrus'', a wetland sedge. ''Papyrus'' (plural: ''papyri'') can also refer to a do ...
, coins and seals, fragments of Manichaean writings, and Zoroastrian literature, most of which was written down after the Sasanian era. The language of Zoroastrian literature (and of the Sasanian inscriptions) is sometimes referred to as Pahlavi - a name that originally referred to the
Pahlavi scripts Pahlavi is a particular, exclusively written form of various Iranian languages, Middle Iranian languages. The essential characteristics of Pahlavi are: *the use of a specific Aramaic script, Aramaic-derived script; *the incidence of Aramaic lang ...
, which were also the preferred writing system for several other Middle Iranian languages. ''Pahlavi Middle Persian'' is the language of quite a large body of literature which details the traditions and prescriptions of
Zoroastrianism Zoroastrianism is an Iranian religions, Iranian religion and one of the world's History of religion, oldest organized faiths, based on the teachings of the Iranian peoples, Iranian-speaking prophet Zoroaster. It has a Dualism in cosmology, du ...
, which was the state religion of Sasanian Iran (224 to c. 650) before the
Muslim conquest of Persia The Muslim conquest of Persia, also known as the Arab conquest of Iran, was carried out by the Rashidun Caliphate from 633 to 654 AD and led to the fall of the Sasanian Empire as well as the eventual decline of the Zoroastrianism, Zoroastrian ...
. 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. However, most texts 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. Other, less abundantly attested varieties are ''Manichaean Middle Persian'', used for a sizable amount of
Manichaean Manichaeism (; in New Persian ; ) is a former major religionR. van den Broek, Wouter J. Hanegraaff ''Gnosis and Hermeticism from Antiquity to Modern Times''SUNY Press, 1998 p. 37 founded in the 3rd century AD by the Parthian Empire, Parthian ...
religious writings, including many theological texts,
homilies A homily (from Greek ὁμιλία, ''homilía'') is a commentary that follows a reading of scripture, giving the "public explanation of a sacred doctrine" or text. The works of Origen Origen of Alexandria, ''Ōrigénēs''; Origen's Greek name ...
and hymns (3rd–9th, possibly 13th century), and the Middle Persian of the
Church of the East The Church of the East ( syc, ܥܕܬܐ ܕܡܕܢܚܐ, ''ʿĒḏtā d-Maḏenḥā'') or the East Syriac Church, also called the Church of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, the Persian Church, the Assyrian Church, the Babylonian Church or the Nestorian C ...
, 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 Turpan (also known as Turfan or Tulufan, , ug, تۇرپان) is a prefecture-level city located in the east of the Autonomous regions of China, autonomous region of Xinjiang, People's Republic of China, China. It has an area of and a population ...
and even localities in
South India South India, also known as Dakshina Bharata or Peninsular India, consists of the peninsular southern part of India. It encompasses the States and union territories of India, Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and T ...
. 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.



The vowels of Middle Persian were the following: It has been doubted whether the Middle Persian short mid vowels /e/ and /o/ were phonemic, since they do not appear to have a unique continuation in later forms of Persian and no minimal pairs have been found.Sundermann 1989: 144 The evidence for them is variation between spelling with and without the matres lectionis ''y'' and ''w'', as well as etymological considerations.Skjærvø 2009: 200 They are thought to have arisen from earlier /a/ in certain conditions, including, for /e/, the presence of a following /n/, sibilant or front vowel in the next syllable, and for /o/, the presence of a following labial consonant or the vowel /u/ in the next syllable. Long /eː/ and /oː/ had appeared first in Middle Persian, since they had developed from the Old Persian diphthongs /ai/ and /aw/.


The consonant phonemes were the following: A major distinction between the pronunciation of the early Middle Persian of the
Arsacid The Parthian Empire (), also known as the Arsacid Empire (), was a major Iranian political and cultural power in ancient Iran from 247 BC to 224 AD. Its latter name comes from its founder, Arsaces I, who led the Parni tribe in conq ...
period (until the 3rd century CE) and the Middle Persian of the
Sassanid The Sasanian () or Sassanid Empire, officially known as the Empire of Iranians (, ) and also referred to by historians as the Neo-Persian Empire, was the History of Iran, last Iranian empire before the early Muslim conquests of the 7th-8th cen ...
period (3rd – 7th century CE) is due to a process of consonant
lenition In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. It is called a scientific study because it entails a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise analysis of all aspects of language, particularly its nature and ...
after voiced sounds that took place during the transition between the two. Its effects were as follows:Maggi & Orsatti 2018: 19 1. Voiced stops, when occurring after vowels, became semivowels: :/b/ > /w/, /d/ > /j/, /g/ > /w/ or /j/ (the latter after /i/Расторгуева & Молчанова 1981: 45) This process may have taken place very early, but it is nevertheless often the old pronunciation or a transitional one that is reflected in the Pahlavi spelling. :Old Persian ''naiba-'' > Middle Persian ''nēw'' (Pahlavi ''TB'' or ''nyw'''), but: :Old Persian ''asabāra-'' > Middle Persian ''asvār'' 'horseman' (Pahlavi ''PLŠYA'', ''ʾswblʾ''). :Proto-Iranian *''pād-'' > Middle Persian ''pāy'' 'foot' (Pahlavi ''LGLE'', ''pʾd'', Manichaean ''pʾy''). :Old Persian ''magu-'' > Middle Persian ''mow-'' '
Magian Magi (; singular magus ; from Latin ''wikt:magus#Noun 2, magus'', cf. fa, مغ ) were priests in Zoroastrianism and the earlier religions of the Western Iranian languages, western Iranians. The earliest known use of the word ''magi'' is in the ...
' (Pahlavi ''mgw''-). :Proto-Iranian *''ni-gauš-'' > Middle Persian ''niyōš-'' 'listen' (Pahlavi ''nydwhš-'', also ''nydwk(h)š-''), Manichaean ''nywš''). 2. Voiceless stops and affricates, when occurring after vowels as well as other voiced sounds, became voiced: :/p/ > /b/, /t/ > /d/, /k/ > /g/, /t͡ʃ/ > /d͡ʒ/ This process is thought not to have been taken place before Sassanid Pahlavi, and it generally isn't reflected in Pahlavi spelling. A further stage in this lenition process is expressed in a synchronic alternation: at least at some stage in late Middle Persian (later than the 3rd century), the consonants /b/, /d/, /g/ appear to have had, after vowels, the
fricative A fricative is a consonant manner of articulation, produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two Place of articulation, articulators close together. These may be the lower lip against the upper teeth, in the case of ; the ba ...
allophone In phonology, an allophone (; from the Ancient Greek, Greek , , 'other' and , , 'voice, sound') is a set of multiple possible spoken soundsor ''phone (phonetics), phones''or signs used to pronounce a single phoneme in a particular language. Fo ...
s MacKenzie 1986: xv This is slightly more controversial for /g/, since there appears to have been a separate phoneme /ɣ/ as well. A parallel development seems to have affected /d͡ʒ/ in the same position, possibly earlier; not only was it weakened to a fricative but it was also depalatalised to In fact, old Persian ʒand in any position also produced Unlike the case with the spirantisation of stops, this change is uncontroversially recognised for Sassanid times. The lenition of voiceless stops and affricates remained largely unexpressed in Pahlavi spelling, which continues to reflect the Arsacid sound values, but is known from the more phonetic Manichaean spelling of texts from Sassanid times. :Arsacid ''šap'' > Sassanid ''šab'' (late 'night' (Pahlavi ''LYLYA'', ''šp'''; Manichaean ''šb'') :Arsacid ''pit'' > Sassanid ''pid'' (late 'father' (Pahlavi ''AB'', ''p(y)t''', Manichaean ''pyd'') :Arsacid ''pārak'' > Sassanid ''pārag'' (late aːraɣ 'gift' (Pahlavi ''pʾlk''') :Arsacid ''hač'' > Sassanid ''az'' 'from' (Pahlavi ''MN'', ''hc'', Manichaean ''ʾc'' or ''ʾz'') As a result of these changes, the voiceless stops and affricates /p/, /t/, /k/, /t͡ʃ/ rarely occurred after vowels – mostly when geminated, which has protected them from the lenition (e.g. ''waččag'', sp. ''wck''' 'child'), and due to some other sound changes.Skjærvø 2009: 201 Another difference between Arsacid and Sassanid-era pronunciation is that Arsacid word-initial /y/ produced Sassanid /d͡ʒ/ (another change that is not reflected in the Pahlavi spelling). The sound probably passed through the phase /ʒ/, which may have continued until very late Middle Persian, since Manichaean texts did not identify Indic /d͡ʒ/ with it and introduced a separate sign for the former instead of using the letter for their native sound.Sundermann 1989: 145 Nonetheless, word-initial /y/ was retained/reintroduced in learned borrowings from
Avestan Avestan (), or historically Zend, or by the speakers as Upastavakaena ( pas.taˈvakˈaeːna is an umbrella term for two Old Iranian languages: Old Avestan (spoken in the 2nd millennium BCE) and Younger Avestan (spoken in the 1st millennium B ...
. :Arsacid ''yām'' > Sassanid ''ǰām'' 'glass' (Pahlavi ''yʾm'', Manichaean ''jʾm''); but: :Avestan ''yazata'' > Middle Persian ''yazd'' 'god' (Pahlavi ''yzdt''') Furthermore, some forms of Middle Persian appear to have preserved ''ǰ'' (from
Proto-Iranian Proto-Iranian or Proto-Iranic is the linguistic reconstruction, reconstructed proto-language of the Iranian languages branch of Indo-European language family and thus the ancestor of the Iranian languages such as Pashto, Persian language, Persia ...
/d͡ʒ/ or /t͡ʃ/) after ''n'' due to Parthian influence, instead of the usual weakening to ''z''. This pronunciation is reflected in Book Pahlavi, but not in Manichaean texts: :Proto-Iranian *''panča'' > ''panǰ'' (spelt ''pnc'' in Book Pahlavi) or ''panz'' (spelt ''pnz'' in Manichaean) Judging from the spelling, the consonant /θ/ may have been pronounced before /r/ in certain borrowings from Parthian in Arsacid times (unlike native words, which had /h/ for earlier ''*θ'' in general and /s/ for the cluster ''*θr'' in particular), but it had been replaced by /h/ by the Sassanid period: :Arsacid ''miθr'' > Sassanid ''mihr'' 'Mithra, contract' (Pahlavi ''mtr''', Manichaean ''myhr'').Skjærvø 2009: 204Расторгуева & Молчанова 1981: 49-50 The phoneme /ɣ/ (as opposed to the late allophone of /g/) is rare and occurs almost only in learned borrowings from Avestan and Parthian, e.g. ''moγ'' (Pahlavi ''mgw'' or ''mwg'' 'Magian'), ''maγ'' (Pahlavi ''mγ'') 'hole, pit'.Skjærvø 2007: 7 The sound /ʒ/ may also have functioned as a marginal phoneme in borrowings as well. The phoneme /l/ was still relatively rare as well, especially so in Manichaean texts, mostly resulting from
Proto-Iranian Proto-Iranian or Proto-Iranic is the linguistic reconstruction, reconstructed proto-language of the Iranian languages branch of Indo-European language family and thus the ancestor of the Iranian languages such as Pashto, Persian language, Persia ...
*rd, *rz and, more rarely, *r. It also occurred in the combination /hl/, which was a reflex of Old Persian /rθ/ and /rs/ (cf. the words 'Pahlavi' and 'Parthian'). The sound /xw/ may be viewed as a phonemeMaggi & Orsatti 2018: 20 or merely as a combination of /x/ and /w/. Usually /x/, /xw/ and /ɣ/ are considered to have been
velar Velars are consonants place of articulation, articulated with the back part of the tongue (the dorsum) against the soft palate, the back part of the roof of the mouth (known also as the Soft palate, velum). Since the velar region of the roof of ...
; a less common view is that /x/ and /ɣ/ were uvular instead. Finally, it may be pointed out that most scholars consider the phoneme /w/ as being still a labial approximant, but a few regard it as a voiced labial fricative /v/. The initial clusters of /s/ and a stop (/sp-/, /st-/, /sk-/) had acquired a prosthetic vowel /i/ by the time of the Manichaean Middle Persian texts: ''istāyišn'' (''ՙst՚yšn'') 'praise' vs Pahlavi ''stāyišn'' (''ՙst՚dšn''') 'praise'.


Stress was on the last syllable. That was due to the fact that any Old Persian post-stress syllables had been apocopated: : Old Persian ''pati'' 'at' > Middle Persian ''pad'' : Old Persian ''martiya-'' 'man' > Middle Persian ''mard'' : Old Persian ''martiyā́nām'' 'man' (genitive-dative plural) > Middle Persian ''mardān'' It has been suggested that words such as ''anīy'' 'other' (Pahlavi spelling ''AHRN'', ''AHRNyd'', Manichaean ''՚ny'') and ''mahīy'' 'bigger' (Manichaean ''mhy'') may have been exceptionally stressed on the first syllable, since the last one was apocopated already in the course of the Middle Persian period: the later forms are ''an'' (Manichaean ''՚n''), and ''meh'' (Pahlavi ''ms'' and Manichaean ''myh'');Skjærvø 2009: 202 indeed, some scholars have reconstructed them as monosyllabic ''any'', ''mahy'' even for Middle Persian.


Middle Persian has been written in a number of different scripts.Sundermann 1989: 140-143 The corpora in different scripts also exhibit other linguistic differences that are partly due to their different ages, dialects and scribal traditions. The
Pahlavi scripts Pahlavi is a particular, exclusively written form of various Iranian languages, Middle Iranian languages. The essential characteristics of Pahlavi are: *the use of a specific Aramaic script, Aramaic-derived script; *the incidence of Aramaic lang ...
abjad An abjad (, ar, أبجد; also abgad) is a writing system in which only consonants are represented, leaving vowel sounds to be inferred by the reader. This contrasts with other alphabets, which provide graphemes for both consonants and vowels ...
s derived from the imperial variety of the
Aramaic alphabet The ancient Aramaic alphabet was adapted by Arameans from the Phoenician alphabet and became a distinct script by the 8th century BC. It was used to write the Aramaic languages spoken by ancient Aramean pre-Christian tribes throughout the Fertil ...
used in the chancelleries of the
Achaemenid Empire The Achaemenid Empire or Achaemenian Empire (; peo, wikt:𐎧𐏁𐏂𐎶, 𐎧𐏁𐏂, , ), also called the First Persian Empire, was an History of Iran#Classical antiquity, ancient Iranian empire founded by Cyrus the Great in 550 BC. Bas ...
. As is typical of abjads, they express primarily the consonants in a word form. What sets them apart from other abjads, however, is the use of Heterograms, and more specifically Aramaeograms, i.e. words written in Aramaic (sometimes, in later periods, with distortions) but pronounced in Middle Persian: e.g. ''LY'' (Aramaic 'to me') for ''man'' 'me, I'. There were about a thousand of these in the Book Pahlavi variety. In addition, their spelling remained very conservative, expressing the pronunciation of the Arsacid period. The two most important subvarieties are: # Inscriptional Pahlavi, used in the inscriptions of Sassanid kings and officials from the 3rd-4th centuries CE. The 22 letters are written separately and still relatively well distinguished compared to later versions: the only formal coincidences of original Aramaic signs are the pair ''m'' and ''q'' and the triplet ''w'', ''ʿ'' and ''r''.McKenzie 1986: xi # Book Pahlavi, used primarily in Zoroastrian books from the 5th century CE on. Most texts are thought to reflect the stage of the language from the 6th to the 10th centuries CE.Sundermann 1989: 155 (6th-7th centuries for the translations of the Avesta and perhaps some didactic and entertainment literature, 9-10th centuries for the dogmatic and legal texts that form most of the corpus) This is the script that the overwhelming majority of Middle Persian texts is recorded in. A cursive script characterised by many ligatures and by the formal coincidence of originally different Aramaic letters, reducing the number to just 14 distinct signs. Now, also ''n'' coincides with the triplet ''w'' = ''ʿ'' = ''r'', and in addition, another triplet ''g'', ''d'' and ''y'' merges too, as does the pair ''ʾ'' and ''ḥ''. Aramaic ''ṭ'' had also disappeared. In later times, some mergers were disambiguated by means of diacritic signs, following the example of the Arabic abjad: thus, ''g'', ''d'' and ''y'' were distinguished again; however, this wasn't applied consistently. Other known Pahlavi varieties are the early Pahlavi found in inscriptions on coins issued in the province of Pars from the 2nd century BC to the 3rd century CE; the relatively conservative Psalter Pahlavi (6th-8th centuries CE), used in a Christian
Psalter A psalter is a volume containing the Book of Psalms, often with other devotional material bound in as well, such as a liturgical calendar and litany of the Saints. Until the emergence of the book of hours in the Late Middle Ages, psalters ...
fragment, which still retains all the letter distinctions that Inscriptional Pahlavi had except the one between ''t'' and ''ṭ''; and the Pahlavi found in
papyri Papyrus ( ) is a material similar to thick paper that was used in ancient times as a writing surface. It was made from the pith of the papyrus plant, ''Cyperus papyrus'', a wetland sedge. ''Papyrus'' (plural: ''papyri'') can also refer to a do ...
from the early 7th century CE, which displays even more letter coincidences than Book Pahlavi. The Manichaean script was an abjad introduced for the writing of Middle Persian by the prophet Mani (216-274 CE), who based it on his native variety of the Aramaic script of Palmyrene origin. Mani used this script to write the known book '' Šābuhrāgān'' and it continued to be used by Manichaeans until the 9th century to write in Middle Persian, and in various other Iranian languages for even longer. Specifically the Middle Persian Manichaean texts are numerous and thought to reflect mostly the period from the 3rd to the 7th centuries CE. In contrast to the Pahlavi scripts, it is a regular and unambiguous phonetic script that expresses clearly the pronunciation of 3rd century Middle Persian and distinguishes clearly between different letters and sounds, so it provides valuable evidence to modern linguists. Not only did not display any of the Pahlavi coalescences mentioned above, it also had special letters that enabled it to distinguish and (although it didn't always do so), as well as and ͡ʒ unique designations for and and consistent distinctions between the pairs - and Расторгуева & Молчанова 1981: 18Skjærvø 2009: 199 Since knowledge of Pahlavi decreased after the Muslim conquest of Iran, the Zoroastrians occasionally transcribed their religious texts into other, more accessible or unambiguous scripts. One approach was to use the Avestan alphabet, a practice known as Pazand; another was to resort to the same
Perso-Arabic script The Persian alphabet ( fa, الفبای فارسی, Alefbâye Fârsi) is a writing system that is a version of the Arabic script used for the Persian language spoken in Iran (Iranian Persian, Western Persian) and Afghanistan (Dari, Dari Persi ...
that was already being used for
New Persian New Persian ( fa, فارسی نو), also known as Modern Persian () and Dari (), is the current stage of the Persian language spoken since the 8th to 9th centuries until now in Greater Iran and surroundings. It is conventionally divided into thre ...
, and that was referred to as Pārsī. Since these methods were used at a relatively late linguistic stage, these transcriptions often reflect a very late pronunciation close to New Persian. In general, Inscriptional Pahlavi texts have the most archaic linguistic features, Manichaean texts and the Psalter exhibit slightly later, but still relatively early language stages, and while the Pahlavi translations of the Avesta also retain some old features, most other Zoroastrian Book Pahlavi texts (which form the overwhelming majority of the Middle Persian corpus as a whole) are linguistically more innovative.

Transliteration and transcription

Transliteration of Pahlavi script

In view of the many ambiguities of the Pahlavi script, even its
transliteration Transliteration is a type of conversion of a text from one writing system, script to another that involves swapping Letter (alphabet), letters (thus ''wikt:trans-#Prefix, trans-'' + ''wikt:littera#Latin, liter-'') in predictable ways, such as ...
does not usually limit itself to rendering merely the letters as written; rather, letters are usually transliterated in accordance with their origin regardless of the coinciding forms: thus, even though Book Pahlavi has the same letter shapes for original ''n'', ''w'' and ''r'', for original ''ʾ'' and ''ḥ'' and for original ''d'', ''g'' and ''y'', besides having some ligatures that coincide in shape with certain individual letters, these are all transliterated differently.McKenzie 1986: x-xivSundermann 1989: 146-147 For instance, the spelling of ''gōspand'' 'domestic animal' is transliterated ''gwspnd'' in spite of the fact that the ''w'' and ''n'' have the same graphic appearance. Furthermore, letters used as part of Aramaic heterograms and not intended to be interpreted phonetically are written in capitals: thus the heterogram for the word ''ān'' is rendered ''ZK'', whereas its phonetic spelling is transliterated as ''ʾn''' (the final vertical line reflects the so-called 'otiose' stroke, see belowSkjærvø 2007: 15). Finally, there is a convention of representing 'distorted/corrupt' letters, which 'should' have appeared in a different shape from a historical point of view, by under- or overlining them: e.g. the heterogram for ''andar'' 'in' is transliterated ''BYN'', since it corresponds to Aramaic ''byn'', but the sign that 'should' have been ''b'' actually looks like a ''g''. Within Arameograms, scholars have traditionally used the standard Semitological designations of the Aramaic (and generally Semitic) letters, and these include a large number of
diacritic A diacritic (also diacritical mark, diacritical point, diacritical sign, or accent) is a glyph added to a letter (alphabet), letter or to a basic glyph. The term derives from the Ancient Greek (, "distinguishing"), from (, "to distinguish"). T ...
s and special signs expressing the different Semitic phonemes, which were not distinguished in Middle Persian. In order to reduce the need for these, a different system was introduced by D. N. McKenzie, which dispenses with diacritics as much as possible, often replacing them with vowel letters: ''A'' for ''ʾ'', ''O'' for ''ʿ'', ''E'' for ''H'', ''H'' for ''Ḥ'', ''C'' for ''Ṣ'', for example ''ORHYA'' for ''ʿRḤYʾ'' (''bay'' 'god, majesty, lord'). For ''ṭ'', which still occurs in heterograms in Inscriptional Pahlavi, Θ may be used. Within Iranian words, however, both systems use ''c'' for original Aramaic ''ṣ'' and ''h'' for original Aramaic ''ḥ'', in accordance with their Iranian pronunciation (see below). The letter ''l'', when modified with a special horizontal stroke that shows that the pronunciation is /l/ and not /r/, is rendered in the McKenzie system as ''ɫ''. The traditional system continues to be used by many, especially European scholars. The MacKenzie system is the one used in this article.

Transliteration of Manichaean script

As for Pahlavi, ''c'' is used for the transliteration of original Aramaic ''ṣ'' and ''h'' for the transliteration of original ''ḥ''. Original Aramaic ''h'', on the other hand, is sometimes rendered as ''ẖ''. For original ''ṭ'', the sign ''ṯ'' is used. The special Manichaean letters for /x/, /f/, /ɣ/ and are transcribed in accordance with their pronunciation as ''x'', ''f'', ''β'', ''γ'' and ''δ''. Unlike Pahlavi, the Manichaean script uses the letter
Ayin ''Ayin'' (also ''ayn'' or ''ain''; transliterated ) is the sixteenth Letter (alphabet), letter of the Semitic scripts, including Phoenician alphabet, Phoenician , Hebrew alphabet, Hebrew , Aramaic alphabet, Aramaic , Syriac alphabet, Syria ...
also in Iranian words (see below) and it is transliterated in the usual Semitological way as ''ՙ''.Encyclopaedia Iranica: Manichaean script


Since, like most abjads, even the Manichaean script and a maximally disambiguated transliterated form of Pahlavi do not provide exhaustive information about the phonemic structure of Middle Persian words, a system of transcription is also necessary. There are two traditions of transcription of Pahlavi Middle Persian texts: one closer to the spelling and reflecting the Arsacid-era pronunciation, as used by Ch. Bartholomae and H. S. Nyberg (1964) and a currently more popular one reflecting the Sassanid era pronunciation, as used by C. Saleman, W. B. Henning and, in a somewhat revised form, by D. N. MacKenzie (1986). The less obvious features of the usual transcription are: # long vowels are marked with a macron: ''ā'', ''ē'', ''ī'', ''ō'', ''ū'' for /aː/, /eː/, /iː/, /oː/, /uː/. # The semivowels are marked as follows: ''w'' for /w/ and ''y'' for /j/. # The palatal obstruents are marked with
caron A caron (), háček or haček (, or ; plural ''háčeks'' or ''háčky'') also known as a hachek, wedge, check, kvačica, strešica, mäkčeň, varnelė, inverted circumflex, inverted hat, flying bird, inverted chevron, is a diacritic A d ...
s as follows: ''š'' for /ʃ/, ''č'' for /t͡ʃ/, ''ǰ'' for /d͡ʒ/ and ''ž'' for /ʒ/. # The
voiceless velar fricative The voiceless velar fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in some Speech, spoken languages. It was part of the consonant inventory of Old English language, Old English and can still be found in some dialects of English language, English, ...
/x/ is marked as ''x'', its labialised counterpart /xw/ is ''xw'', and the (phonemic)
voiced velar fricative The voiced velar fricative is a type of consonant In articulatory phonetics, a consonant is a speech sound that is articulated with complete or partial closure of the vocal tract. Examples are and pronounced with the lips; and pronou ...
/ɣ/ is ''γ''.


A common feature of Pahlavi as well as Manichaean spelling was that the Aramaic letters ''ṣ'' and ''ḥ'' were adapted to express the sounds /t͡ʃ/ and /h/, respectively. In addition, both could use the letter ''p'' to express /f/, and ''ṣ'' to express ''z'' after a vowel.



The widespread use of Aramaeograms in Pahlavi, often existing in parallel with 'phonetic' spellings, has already been mentioned: thus, the same word ''hašt'' 'eight' can be spelt ''hšt'' or ''TWMNYA''.Skjærvø 2007: 97 A curious feature of the system is that simple word stems sometimes have spellings derived from Aramaic inflected forms: the spellings of verb stems include Aramaic inflectional affixes such as ''-WN'', ''-TWN'' or ''-N'' and ''Y-'';Skjærvø 2007: 57 the spellings of pronouns are often derived from Aramaic prepositional phrases (''tо̄'' 'you' is ''LK'', originally Aramaic ''lk'' 'to you', ''о̄y'' 'he' is ''OLE'', originally Aramaic ''ʿlh'' 'onto him'); and inalienable nouns are often noun phrases with pronominal modifiers (''pidar'' 'father' is ''ABYtl'', originally Aramaic ''ʾby'' 'my father', ''pāy'' 'foot' is ''LGLE'', originally Aramaic ''rglh'' 'his foot'). Furthermore, the Aramaic distinctions between ''ḥ'' and ''h'' and between ''k'' and ''q'' were not always maintained, with the first often replacing the second, and the one between ''t'' and ''ṭ'' was lost in all but Inscriptional Pahlavi: thus ''YKTLWN'' (pronounced ''о̄zadan'') for Aramaic ''yqṭlwn'' 'kill', and ''YHWWN'' (pronounced ''būdan'') for Aramaic ''yhwwn'' 'be', even though Aramaic ''h'' is elsewhere rendered ''E''. In the rest of this article, the Pahlavi spellings will be indicated due to their unpredictability, and the Aramaeograms will be given priority over the 'phonetic' alternatives for the same reason. If a word expressed by an Arameogram has a grammatical ending or, in many cases, a word-formation suffix, these are generally expressed by phonetic elements: ''LYLYAʾn'' for ''šabʾn'' 'nights'. However, verbs in Inscriptional Pahlavi are sometimes written as 'bare ideograms', whose interpretation is a major difficulty for scholars.

Historical and ambiguous spelling

It has also been pointed out that the Pahlavi spelling does not express the 3rd century lenitions, so the letters ''p'', ''t'', ''k'' and ''c'' express /b/, /d/, /g/ and /z/ after vowels, e.g. ''šp''' for ''šab'' 'night' and ''hc'' for ''az'' 'from'. The rare phoneme /ɣ/ was also expressed by the same letter shape as ''k'' (however, this sound value is usually expressed in the transliteration). Similarly, the letter ''d'' may stand for /y/ after a vowel, e.g. ''pʾd'' for ''pāy'' 'foot' – this is no longer apparent in Book Pahlavi due to the coincidence of the shapes of the original letters ''y'', ''d'' and ''g'', but is already clearly seen in Inscriptional and Psalter Pahlavi. Indeed, it even appears to have been the general rule word-finally, regardless of the word's origins, although modern transliterations of words like ''xwadāy'' (''xwtʾd'') and ''mēnōy'' (''mynwd'') do not always reflect this analogical / pseudo-historical spelling. Final ''īy'' was regularly written ''yd''.Skjærvø 2009: 203 In the same way, ''(w)b'' may also correspond to a ''w'' in the pronunciation after a vowel. The fortition of initial /y/ to /d͡ʒ/ (or /ʒ/) is not reflected either, so ''y'' can express initial /d͡ʒ/, e.g. ''yʾm'' for ''ǰām'' 'glass' (while it still expresses /j/ in the learned word ''yzdt''' for ''yazd'' 'god'. Some even earlier sound changes are not consistently reflected either, such as the transition of /θ/ to /h/ in some words (in front of /r/ this reflex is due to Parthian influence, since the Middle Persian reflex should have been /s/). In such words, the spelling may have ''s'' or, in front of ''r'' – ''t''. For example, ''gāh'' 'place, time' is spelt ''gʾs'' (cf. Old Persian ''gāθu'') and ''nigāh'' '(a) look' is spelt ''nkʾs''; ''šahr'' 'country, town' is spelt ''štr''' (cf. Avestan ''xsaθra'') and ''mihr'' 'Mithra, contract, friendship is spelt ''mtr'''. In contrast, the Manichaean spellings are ''gʾh'', ''ngʾh'', ''šhr'', ''myhr''. Some other words with earlier /θ/ are spelt phonetically in Pahlavi, too: e.g. ''gēhān'' ''gyhʾn'' 'material world', ''čihr'' ''cyhl'' 'face'. There are also some other cases where /h/ is spelt /t/ after ''p'': ''ptwnd'' for ''paywand'' 'connection', and /t/ may also stand for /y/ in that position: ''ptkʾl'' for ''pahikār'' 'strife'. There are some other phoneme pairs besides /y/ and /d͡ʒ/ that are not distinguished: ''h'' (the original Aramaic ''ḥ'') may stand either for /h/ or for /x/ (''hm'' for ''ham'' 'also' as well as ''hl'' for ''xar'' 'donkey'), whereas the use of original Aramaic ''h'' is restricted to heterograms (transliterated ''E'' in McKenzie's system, e.g. ''LGLE'' for pāy 'foot'). Not only /p/, but also the frequent sound /f/ is expressed by the letter ''p'', e.g. ''plhw''' for ''farrox'' 'fortunate'.Расторгуева & Молчанова 1981: 16 While the original letter ''r'' is retained in some words as an expression of the sound /r/, especially in older frequent words and Aramaeograms (e.g. ''štr''' for ''šahr'' 'country, town', ''BRTE'' for ''duxt'' 'daughter'), it is far more common for the letter ''l'' to have that function, as in the example ''plhw''' for ''farrox''. In the relatively rare cases where ''l'' does express /l/, it can be marked as ''ɫ''.

Expression of vowels

Like many abjads, the system may express not only consonants, but also some vowels by means of certain consonant signs, the so-called matres lectionis. This is usually limited to long vowels: thus, original ''ʾ'' can stand for the vowel /aː/ (e.g. in ''pʾd'' for ''pād''), ''y'' can stand for /iː/ and /eː/ (e.g.''pym'' for ''pīm'' 'pain' and ''nym'' for ''nēm'' 'half'), and ''w'' can stand for /uː/ or /oː/ (''swt''' for ''sūd'' 'profit' and ''swl'' for ''sōr'' 'salty'). However, short /u/ is also typically expressed like long /uː/ (e.g. ''swd'' for ''suy'' 'hunger'), whereas short /i/ and the assumed /e/ and /o/ vary beween being expressed like their long counterparts or remaining unexpressed: ''p(y)t'' for ''pid'' 'father', ''sl(y)šk'' for ''srešk'' 'tear', ''nhwm'' for ''nohom'' 'ninth'. Due to elision of /w/, written ''yw'' can also correspond to /eː/: ''nywk''' 'good'. Gemination of ''consonants'' was not expressed, e.g. ''waččag'', sp. ''wck''' 'child'). In Inscriptional and Psalter Pahlavi, a ''-y'' that was not pronounced appears word-finally, e.g. ''šhpwhry'' for ''Šahpuhr''. Its origin and function are disputed. In Book Pahlavi, it developed into a peculiar convention, the so-called 'otiose' stroke, which resembles ''w''/''n''/''r'' and is added to demarcate the end of the word after those letters that never connect to the left: ''mān''' 'house'.Расторгуева & Молчанова 1981: 58-59 Like many abjads, Pahlavi ''ʾ'' can express simply the fact that a word begins in a vowel, e.g. ''ʾp̄ʾyt''' for ''abāyēd'' 'it is necessary' (though two alephs usually aren't written in a row to express an initial long vowel).


In contrast to the historical and ideographic features of Pahlavi, Manichaean spelling is relatively straightforward. Like Pahlavi, the Manichaean script designates vowel-initial words with ''ʾ'', but a further spelling convention in it is that it is the letter ''ՙ'', rather than ''ʾ'', that is written before initial front vowels, e.g. ''ՙym'' for ''im'' 'this' (in contrast to Pahlavi ''ʾm'' (or ''LZNE''). Vowels are marked by matres lectionis in the Manichaean script in the usual way, and long vowels are more likely to be marked. In spite of the availability of signs for each sound, Manichaean spelling did not always make perfectly phonetic use of them. In particular, not only in Pahlavi but even in Manichaean, the letter ''p'' was often used to express /f/, and /z/ after vowels was written etymologically as ''c'': thus, ''frāz'' 'forth' was spelt ''prʾc'', just as in Pahlavi. If the voiced fricatives really occurred as allopohones of /b/, /g/, /d/ in Middle Persian, the special Manichaean signs for fricatives ''β'', ''γ'' and ''δ'' usually were not used to express this either. Conversely, the Semitic letters for the consonants ''q'', ''ṭ'' and ''h'' (transliterated ''ẖ'' in Manichaean) were retained and used, occasionally, even though they only expressed the same Middle Persian sounds as ''k'' and ''t'', and ''ḥ'' (transliterated ''h'' in Manichaean). The Manichaean script also has abbreviation marking double dots for the forms ''ʾwd'' 'and', ''ʾw-š'' 'and he' and ''ʾw-šʾn'' 'and they', which may be transcribed as ''ẅ'', ''š̈'' and ''š̈ʾn''. Elisions and plural may also be marked with double dots.


elision In linguistics, an elision or deletion is the omission of one or more sounds (such as a vowel, a consonant, or a whole syllable) in a word or phrase. However, these terms are also used to refer more narrowly to cases where two words are run toget ...
of unstressed word-final syllables during the transition from Old to Middle Persian has eliminated many grammatical endings. As a result, compared to the synthetic grammar of Old Persian, Middle Persian belongs to a much more analytic language type, with relatively little
inflection In linguistic morphology, inflection (or inflexion) is a process of word formation in which a word is modified to express different grammatical categories such as tense, case, voice, aspect, person, number A number is a mathemat ...
and widespread expression of grammatical meanings through syntactic means instead (specifically, use of
preposition Prepositions and postpositions, together called adpositions (or broadly, in traditional grammar, simply prepositions), are a part of speech, class of words used to express spatial or temporal relations (''in'', ''under'', ''towards'', ''before'') ...
s and periphrases).

Nominal morphology

Case and number inflection

Early Middle Persian inflection as found in the Sassanid rock inscriptions (3rd-4th centuries CE) still retained a minimal case system for the nominal parts of speech, i.e. nouns, adjectives, pronouns and numerals. It included a direct or subject case (originating from the old nominative) used for the subject and the predicative nominal and an oblique case used for other functions (indirect object, genitive possessor, complement of a preposition, subject/'agent' of the ergative construction).Skjærvø 2007: 139-140 The case distinction was only present in the plural of nouns, in nouns of relationship (family terms) that end in ''-tar'' or ''-dar'' in the oblique, and in the first person singular pronoun ''az''/''an'' (ANE). The attested system is shown in the table below, using the words ''mard'' (''GBRA'') 'man', ''pid'' (''AB''') 'father' as examples. The endings ''-īn'' and ''-ūn'' occur in the place of ''-ān'' in a decreasing number of exceptions. In Inscriptional Pahlavi, forms such as ''frazendīn'' (''przndyn''') 'of the children' and ''dušmenūn'' (''dwšm(y)nwn''') 'of the enemies' are still found. In Manichaean Middle Persian, likewise, forms such as ''zanīn'' (spelt ''znyn''), 'women', ''ruwānīn'' 'souls' and ''dušmenūn'' (''dwšmynwn'') are preserved. It also has the form ''awīn'' as an equivalent of ''awēšān'' 'they, those'.Skjærvø 2009: 208 In Book Pahlavi, the generalisation of ''-ān'' has advanced to the point where only ''-īn'' is preserved, namely in the inflections of the words ''harw'' (''KRA'') and ''harwisp'' (''hlwsp̄''') 'every, all' – plural ''harwīn'' and ''harwisp-īn'' or ''harwistīn'', respectively, as well as optionally of ''dō'' (''2'', ''TLYN'''), 'two' – plural ''dōwīn'' or ''dōnīn''. There is some disagreement and uncertainty about whether the case of the ''direct'' object in this early inflectional system was direct or oblique. Originally, it should have been direct in the ergative-absolutive constructions, but possibly oblique in the nominative-accusative ones. It has been claimed that 'the direct object could stand in both cases' or that it is unclear which case specifically the ''plural'' direct object took, with a suggested distinction between indefinite and definite direct object taking the direct and the oblique cases, respectively. For an even more archaic stage, some have claimed that the singular of regular nominals had its own oblique case form, too, and that it was marked by the ending ''-ē'' (spelt ''-y''), which still occurs on nouns in Inscriptional and Psalter Pahlavi, albeit somewhat unsystematically. This would have been expected, assuming that both oblique forms continue the Old Iranian genitives in ''*-ahya'' and ''*-ānam'', respectively. However, this theory has been disputed and rejected by many scholars. The case system broke down in the course of the Middle Persian period, as the oblique case forms were gradually generalised and displaced the direct ones. First, the oblique plural form in ''-ān'' (''-īn'' and ''-ūn'') was generalised as a general plural form; a few instances of this usage are found as early as in the 6th-8th century Pahlavi Psalter, and while the preserved parts of the 3rd century ''Shābuhragān'' may retain it, most other Manichaean texts use ''-ān'' as a general plural form and only retain the case distinction in the family terms and the 1st singular pronoun. Finally, even though the Middle Persian translations of the Avesta still retain the old system, most clearly so in the family terms, the other Book Pahlavi Zoroastrian texts display the new system with no case distinctions at all and solely a contrast between singular and plural. At this stage, the old direct and oblique cases of the nouns of relationship such as ''pid'' and ''pidar'' were preserved only as free variants.Maggi & Orsatti 2014: 22 At the same time, even when morphologically unexpcressed, the 'underlying' case of a nominal phrase remains relevant throughout the Middle Persian period for the agreement on the verb and the use of the pronominal enclitics, to be described in the relevant sections. In addition to the plural ending ''-ān'', a new plural suffix ''-īhā'' is increasingly common both in later Manichaean texts, where also the variant ''-īhān'' occurs, and especially in Book Pahlavi. It is used with inanimate nouns and has been said to express 'individual plurality': 'the various, individual Xs'. At the same time, ''-ān'' is still used with inanimate as well as with animate nouns, and is far more common than ''-īhā''. Some examples are ''šahr-īhā (''štryhʾ'') 'countries' and ''dar-īhā (''BBAyhʾ'') 'doors', but also ''čiš-ān'' (''MNDOMʾn'') 'things'. The resulting late Middle Persian system looks as follows, as exemplified with the words ''mard'' 'man' and ''kо̄f'' 'mountain': As long as case declension was still preserved, a possessor noun stood in the oblique case. In this older construction, it ''preceded'' the possessed noun. After the breakdown of the case system, what remained of this construction was a simple juxtaposition between a possessor noun and a possessed noun, and that was indeed preserved as one possible expression of possession: e.g. ''dūdag sālār'' (''dwtk' srdʾl'') 'the head of a family', 'the family('s) head', ''Ōhrmazd nām'' (''ʾwhrmzd ŠM'') 'the name of
Ahuramazda Ahura Mazda (; ae, , translit=Ahura Mazdā; ), also known as Oromasdes, Ohrmazd, Ahuramazda, Hoormazd, Hormazd, Hormaz and Hurmuz, is the creator deity in Zoroastrianism. He is the first and most frequently invoked spirit in the ''Yasna''. ...
'.Skjærvø 2007: 18 However, there was also a more explicit option using the relative particle ''ī'', which introduced a ''following'' possessor nominal phrase (also in the oblique case, as long as the distinction existed): e.g. ''sālār ī dūdag'' (''srdʾl Y dwtk'''), ''nām ī Ōhrmazd'' (''ŠM y ʾwhrmzd'').Skjærvø 2007: 33 This is discussed in more detail in the section on the relative particle.


Indefiniteness may be expressed by the encliticisation of the word ''ē(w)'' (spelt '1' or ''HD'') 'one' to a noun: ''mard-ēw'' (''GBRA-1'') 'a (certain) man'.Skjærvø 2007: 17 This usage has been described by certain scholars as an 'indefinite article', while others do not regard it as such, since its use is far less common than that of the English word ''a(n)''.



= Originally, adjectives had the same inflectional categories as nouns and took the same endings. When used independently as nouns, they still have number inflection: ''weh-ān'' (''ŠPYLʾn'') 'the good (people)'. When they are used as attributive modifers of nouns, however, agreement is optional and, while it remains common in Manichaean Middle Persian, it is increasingly rare in Book Pahlavi, where, e.g. both ''abārīgān gyāgān'' (''ʾp̄ʾrykʾn gywʾkʾn'' ) 'other places' and ''abārīg dēwān'' (''ʾp̄ʾryk' ŠDYAʾn'') 'other demons' have been attested. When the modifying adjective is introduced by the relative particle ''ī'', as well as in predicative position, it never takes the plural suffix: e.g. ''mardān ī weh'' (''GBRAʾn Y ŠPYL'') 'good men'.Sundermann 1989: 156 Some sources also assert that the original singular oblique case ending ''-ē'' (''-y'') is seen in attributive preposed adjectives in some examples: e.g. ''čē-š asar karb az asarē rо̄šnīh frāz brēhēnīd'' (''MEš ʾsl klp MN ʾsly lwšnyh prʾc blyhynyt'') 'for he created the eternal form from eternal light'.Расторгуева 1966: 52


= Comparison of adjectives (as well as adverbs) is regularly expressed with the comparative degree suffix ''-tar'' (spelt ''-tl'') and the superlative degree suffix ''-tom'' (spelt ''-twm''),Skjærvø 2007: 85 or possibly ''-tum''; in Manichaean, they also have the allomorphs ''-dar'' and ''-dom'' after voiced consonants. For example, ''abēzag'' (''ʾp̄yck') 'pure' ''is compared ''abēzag-tar'' 'purer - ''abēzag-''tom'' 'purest'''. '' There are also some irregular or relict forms reflecting more ancient suffixes (comparative ''-y'' or ''-īy'' or resulting fronting of the preceding vowel, superlative ''-ist'') and/or suppletion:Расторгуева & Молчанова 1981: 64-65 In some cases, only a 'superlative' form exists without corresponding positive and comparative forms: ''bālist'' (''bʾlyst''') 'supreme, highermost', ''nidom'' (''nytwm'') 'lowermost', ''bēdom'' (''bytwm'') ''outermost'', ''fradom'' (''AWLA'') 'first', ''abdom'' (''ʾp̄dwm'') 'last'. The object of comparison for an adjective in the comparative degree is introduced by the preposition ''az'' (''hc'') 'from', the subordinating conjunction ''kū'' (''AYK'') 'where, that' or, more rarely, ''čiyо̄n'' (''cygwn''') 'as': ''о̄y az/kū/čiyо̄n tо̄ о̄zо̄mandtar'' (''OLE MN/AYK/cygwn' LK ʾwcʾmndtl'') 'he is stronger than you.' The object of comparison for an adjective in the superlative degree is introduced by the preposition ''az'' (''hc'') or simply by a possessive construction: ''о̄y (az) mardʾn о̄zо̄mandtom'' (sp. ''OLE (MN) GBRAʾn ʾwcʾmndtwm'') ''he is the strongest of the men'.


= When adjectives modify a noun without the help of any linking particle, they usually precede them,Skjærvø 2007: 26 but may occasionally follow them, too. A far more common possibility than either is for the adjective to be introduced by the relative particle ''ī'', on which see the relevant section. Thus, e.g. 'a/the big house' can be expressed as ''wazurg mān'' (''LBA mʾn'), mān wazurg'' (''mʾn' LBA'') or ''mān ī wazurg'' (''mʾn' Y LBA'').


=Personal pronouns

= The personal pronouns have a stressed form and an enclitic form. They are as follows:Расторгуева & Молчанова 1981: 81-82 The enclitic allomorphs with initial /i/ (''-im'', etc.) are used after consonants. The vowel /u/ or /o/ can also appear instead of /i/, albeit rarely (''-um'', ''-om''). The spelling variant ''LY'' of ''man'' is used before the particle ''-iz'' (''c'') 'too': ''man-iz'' is spelt ''LYc''.

Case forms and syntactic function

Of the personal pronouns proper, only the first stressed form has an attested case distinction, but the use of the direct case is already archaic in Book Pahlavi, where the form ''man'' (''L'') is generalised. The pronunciation of the direct case form is controversial – Manichaean has only ''an'' (''ʾn''), whereas the form ''az'' has been said to be due to influence from Parthian and its existence has been questioned. In addition, the third person pronoun is originally a demonstrative pronoun and is declined like a noun, so originally the form with the plural suffix ''-ān'' – and, presumably, the Manichaean one in ''-īn'' – appeared only in the oblique case; however, again, the oblique was generalised in Manichaean and Book Pahlavi. Apart from that, the stressed forms can have all the same syntactic functions as a noun: subject (''man wēnēm'', sp. ''L HZYTWNym'', 'I see'), object (''man wēnēd'', sp. ''L HZYTWNyt''', 'he sees me'), complement of a preposition (''о̄ man'', sp. ''OL L'', 'to me'), and a modifier expressing a possessor. As with nouns, the last option is possible in two ways. The first one, which is significantly rarer, is for the pronoun to be placed before another noun. Much more frequently, it is postposed and linked to the head noun with the relative particle ''ī''. Thus, 'my house' can be expressed as ''man mān'' (''L mʾn'''), but more commonly as ''mān ī man'' (''mʾn' Y L''). In contrast, the enclitic forms can only have oblique functions: i.e., they cannot correspond to the (non-ergative) subject of the sentence, although a few such cases have been attested in late texts, possibly due to New Persian influence. They can, however, express: # an indirect object, e.g. ''u-š guft Ohrmazd ...'' (''APš gwpt'/YMRRWNt' ʾwhrmzd''), 'and Ohrmazd told him... '; # a possessor, e.g. ''ka-t čašm о̄ zrēh о̄ftēd'' (''AMTt AYNE OL zlyh ʾwptyt''') 'when your eye (i.e. glance) falls on the sea';Расторгуева 1966: 59 ''u-m mād Spandarmad'' (''APm AM spndrmt''') 'and my mother is Spenta Armaiti' # the complement of a preposition, e.g. ''čē-š andar'' (''MEš BYN'') 'which is in it 'Расторгуева & Молчанова 1981: 82 # the agent in an ergative construction, e.g. ''xwamn ī-m dīd'' (''hwmn' ZYm HZYTWN'') 'the dream which I saw', # a direct object in a non-ergative construction, e.g. ''u-š о̄zan!'' (''APš YKTLWN'') 'and kill it!'

Placement of the enclitic pronouns

The enclitic form is usually attached to a word in the beginning of the clause, typically to the first one, and that is often a conjunction or a particle: specifically it occurs frequently after the conjunctions ''ud'' 'and' (which appears before these enclitics as the allomorph ''u-'' and is spelt ''AP''), ''ka'' (''AMT'') 'when', ''kū'' (''AYK'') 'that, so that', ''čē'' (''ME'') 'because', after the relative particle ''ī'' (then spelt ''ZY-''), the relative pronoun ''kē'' (''MNW'') 'who, which' and the particle ''ā-'' (''ʾ'') 'then'. Two enclitics can occur after each other, in which case the 1st person enclitic comes first, and in the absence of such, the enclitic denoting the agent has priority:Sundermann 1989: 131 e.g. ''ān owо̄n-im-iš wahišt nimūd'' ''ZK ʾwgwnmš whšt' nmwt''' 'in that manner he showed me paradise.' When the pronoun is logically the complement of a preposition, it is usually nevertheless ''not'' attached to it. Still, such examples do occur occasionally and tend then to be written phonetically instead of the usual spelling of the preposition with an Aramaeogram, e.g. ''az-iš'' 'from her', spelt ''hcš'' rather than ''MNš'' as usually, and ''о̄-mān'' 'to us', spelt ''ʾwmʾn''' instead of ''OLmʾn''. More commonly, however, the enclitic is attached to the first word of the clause, so that the preposition that governs it ends up being placed after it, as in the already adduced example ''čē-š andar'' 'which is in it'. The exception are the prepositions ''pad'' (''PWN'') 'at', ''о̄'' (''OL'') 'to' and ''az'' (''MN'') 'from', which do accept the 3rd person enclitic ''-(i)š'', using it both with a singular and with a plural reference, and ''о̄'' then appears as the allomorph ''aw'' before ''-iš'': ''padiš'' (''ptš''), ''awiš'' (''ʾwbš''), ''aziš'' (''hcš''). However, if the logical complement is of a non-3rd person, the appropriate enclitic (''-(i)m'', etc.) is attached to the first word in the clause rather than the preposition, and it is 'resumed' on the preposition itself by the ''3rd'' person enclitic: e.g. ''u-m awiš'' (''APm ʾwbm'' 'on me'). A relative pronoun can be 'resumed' like this, too: ''kē ... padiš'' 'on ... which', and even a noun can, sometimes: ''Zardušt ... padiš'' 'for... Zarathustra'.Расторгуева & Молчанова 1981: 81-83

=Reflexive pronouns

= There are two reflexive pronouns – a nominal one ''xwad'' (''BNPŠE'') 'oneself' and an adjectival one ''xwēš'' (''NPŠE'') 'one's own' (earlier ''xwēbaš'', hence Manichaean ''xw(b)š''.

=Demonstrative pronouns

= The demonstrative pronouns can be used with singular and plural referents, with the exception of ''о̄y''. They are the following: # ''ēn'' (''ZNE'') 'this', used deictically as well as preparatively, with a meaning 'the following'; # ''(h)ān'' (''ZK'', Manichaean ''hʾn'') 'that', with a plural ''ānēšān'' found only in Manichaean, used anaphorically and in a
determinative A determinative, also known as a taxogram or semagram, is an ideogram used to mark semantics, semantic categories of words in logographic scripts which helps to disambiguate interpretation. They have no direct counterpart in spoken language, thoug ...
function to indicate a noun followed by a relative clause; # ''о̄y'' (''OLE'') 'that' with a plural ''awēšān'' (''OLEšʾn'''), also used as a 3rd person pronoun; Some rarer ones are: # ''ēd'' (''HNA'') 'this', used deictically, but rare; # ''im'' (''LZNE'') 'this' with a plural ''imēšān'' and ''imīn'' used in Manichaean, occurring in Book Pahlavi mostly in set phrases such as ''im cim rāy'' (''LZNE cym lʾd'') 'for this reason', ''im rо̄z'' (''LZNE YWM'') 'today').Расторгуева & Молчанова 1981: 84-89Skjærvø 2007: 119 Some other demonstrative pronouns are ''ham'' (''hm'') 'the same' and ''and'' (''ʾnd'') 'so much'. Demonstrative adverbs are ''ēdо̄n'' (''ʾytwn'''), ''о̄wо̄n'' (''ʾwgwn''') and ''о̄h'' (''KN''), all three of which mean 'so, thus'; ''ēdar'' 'here' (''LTME''); ''awar'' 'hither' (''LPNME''), which is also used as an imperative 'come here!' and has a plural form ''awarēd'' (''LPNMEyt'''),Skjærvø 2007: 58 ''ōrōn'' (''ʾwlwn''') 'hither'; ''ānо̄h'' (''TME'') 'there'; ''nūn'' (''KON'') 'now'; ''ēg'' (''ADYN'') 'then, thereupon'; ''ā-'' (''ʾ'') 'then' (normally used with a following enclitic pronoun); ''hād'' (''HWEt''') 'now, then'; ''pas'' (''AHL'') 'afterwards'; ''pēš'' ''LOYN''' 'before that, earlier'.Расторгуева & Молчанова 1981: 96-97

=Interrogative pronouns

= The interrogative pronouns can normally also be used as relative pronouns and introduce dependent clauses, and as well as indefinite pronouns. The main ones are ''kē'' (''MNW'') 'who', ''čē'' (''ME'') 'what', 'what kind of', 'which', ''kadām'' (''ktʾm'') 'what kind of, which', ''kadār'' (''ktʾl'') 'which' and ''čand'' (''cnd'') 'how much/many'. The first two and the last one are also used as relative pronouns, i.e. they introduce dependent clauses and mean 'which'. In that use, they can't be preceded by prepositions, so they are instead resumed in the dependent clause by the 3rd person singular enclitic or a demonstrative pronoun: 'from which' can be expressed by ''kē ... aziš'' and 'with which' can be ''kē' ... abāg''. Interrogative adverbs are ''čiyо̄n?'' (''cygwn'') 'how', ''kū?'' (''AYK'') 'where' and ''kay?'' (''AYMT'') 'when'.Skjærvø 2007: 141 The first two can also introduce dependent clauses as relative pronominal adverbs, meaning 'as' and 'that', respectively. The relative adverb corresponding to ''kay?'' (''AYMT'') is, however, ''ka'' (''AYT'') 'when'.

=Indefinite pronouns

= The specialised indefinite pronouns are:Расторгуева & Молчанова 1981: 95 # ''ēč'' or ''hēč'' (''ʾyc'') 'any' (attributive). # ''kas'' (''AYŠ'') 'anybody'. It is also used as a noun: 'a person'. # ''tis'' (a southwestern form) or ''čis'' (a northwestern form) (sp. ''MNDOM'') 'something'. It is also used as a noun: 'a thing'. As already mentioned, the interrogative word ''čand'' (''cnd'') can also be used as an indefinite one: 'any number/amount', whereas ''ē(w)-čand'' (''ʾy(w)cnd'') is unambiguously indefinite: 'some (number/amount), a few'. An indefinite adverb is ''hagriz'' (''hklc'') 'ever'. The indefinite meaning can be reinforced by the particle ''-iz'', sp. ''-(y)c'', meaning 'too'. Thus ''kas-iz'' 'whoever', etc. The form of ''čē'' in this case is extended to ''čēgām-iz'' 'whatever'. Together with a negative particle ''nē'' 'not' occurring in the same clause, the indefinite pronouns also function as negative ones: 'not ... anybody' > 'nobody' etc.: e.g. ''kas nē bawēd'' (''AYŠ LA YHWWNyt''') 'there will be nobody.'

=Alternative pronouns

= Pronouns are ''anīy'' (''AHRN'') 'other' and ''abārīg'' (''ʾp̄ʾlyk''') 'other, further'; a corresponding pronominal adverb is ''enyā'' (''ʾynyʾ'') 'otherwise'.

=Universal pronouns

= There are many pronouns with universal meaning, including ''har(w)'' (''KRA'', ''hl'', Manichaean ''hrw'') 'every' (pl. ''harwīn'') ; ''ham'' (''hm'') 'altogether, all, whole', ''hamāg'' (''hmʾk''') 'whole, entire, all', ''hāmōyēn'' (''hʾmwdyn''') 'all, the whole', ''wisp'' (''wsp'') 'all, each, every', ''harwisp'' ''hlwsp̄'' (pl. ''harwispīn'') or ''harwist'' 'all, each, every'. A pronominal adverb with universal meaning is ''hamē(w)'' (Book Pahlavi ''hmʾy'', Manichaean ''hmyw'') 'always'.Расторгуева & Молчанова 1981: 120

The relative particle

Within a nominal phrase, many different kinds of modifiers following the head were introduced by so-called relative particle ''ī'' (spelt ''ZY-'' in Inscriptional and Psalter Pahlavi, but ''Y'' in Book Pahlavi except in front of pronominal enclitics; in Manichaean also ''īg'', sp. '' ʿyg''), which could be roughly translated as 'which'. This is the predecessor of the New Persian construction known as Ezāfe. It could introduce: # adjectives: ''kunišn ī nēk'' (''kwnšn' Y nywk''') 'good deed' # 'genitive' possessor noun or pronoun phrases: ''pus ī Ardawān'' (''BRE Y ʾldwʾn'') 'son of Ardawan' # prepositional phrases: ''awīn ī andar diz'' 'those in the fortress' # dependent clauses: ''ēn warzīgar ... ī pad ēn deh mānēd'' (''ZNE wlcykl ... Y PWN ZNE MTA KTLWNyt''') 'that farmer that lives in this village' Besides following the head, the modifier can be attached to a demonstrative pronoun, usually ''(h)ān'' (''ZK'') 'that', but also ''ēn'' (''ZNE''), ''ōy'' (''OLE'') and ''ēd'' (''HNA''), which precedes the head of the phrase: ''ān ī ahlaw kas'' (''ZK Y ʾhlwb' AYŠ'') 'the righteous person' ''ān ī-š pādixšāyīhā zan'' (''ZK Yš ŠLYTAyhʾ NYŠE'') 'the wife he is lawfully married to', lit. 'the wife he lawfully has'.


Many adjectives can be used adverbially without any change: ''Ardawān saxt awištāft'' 'Ardawan was in a great hurry' (''ʾldwn sht' ʾwštʾp̄t''), lit. 'Ardawan was hurrying greatly'. However, adverbs can also be formed from adjectives, as well as from nouns and phrases, by adding the suffix ''-īhā'' (''-yhʾ''): ''tuxšāg-īhā'' (''twxšʾkyhʾ'') 'diligent-ly', ''dād-īhā'' (''dʾtyhʾ'') 'law-fully'. Like adjectives, adverbs can be compared; e.g. ''azabar'' (''hcpl'') 'above' – ''azabartar'' (''hcpltl'') 'farther above' – ''azabartom'' (''hcpltwm'') 'farthest above'. Adverbs in ''-īhā'' can also be compared: ''kam-wināh-īhā-tar'' 'with less sin', lit. 'more little-sin-fully'. Some common locational adverbs are ''azabar'' (''hcpl'') 'above' and ''azēr'' (''hcdl'' or ''ʾdl'') 'below', ''andarōn'' (''BYNlwn''' / ''ʾndlwn''') 'inside', ''bērōn'' (''bylwn''') 'outside', ''pērāmōn'' (''pylʾmwn''') 'around' and ''parrōn'' (''plwn''' 'away, hence'). Many of these are formed as compounds with the noun ''rōn'' (''lwn''') 'direction' as a second element. For pronominal adverbs, see the sections on the pronouns of the respective types. For directional adverbs commonly co-occurring with verbs, see the section of preverbs.

Verbal morphology

Synthetic forms survive only in the present tense, although it does continue to distinguish to a greater or lesser extent four different moods. The past and perfect tenses are expressed periphrastically, even though there might be a few relicts of a synthetic imperfect in early inscriptions, and there may be a single synthetic imperfect form in Manichaean Middle Persian (see the section on ''The preterite'' below).Maggi & Orsatti 2014: 25


A Middle Persian verb has two stems – a present stem and a past stem, which coincides with the past participle. Most other synthetic forms are based on the present stem, but the infinitive uses the past stem (as do a few derivational suffixes, see below). The past stem generally ends in ''-d'' or ''-t'' (after voiced and voiceless consonants, respectively). Sometimes this is the only difference between the stems – this is common for roots in -š (''kuš'' - ''kušt'', sp. ''NKSWN-'', 'to kill') and is also found e.g. in the verb ''xwardan'' (''OŠTENtn''') 'to eat' (''xwar-'' – ''xward''). However, much more commonly, there are other differences and the exact relationship between the two stems is often unpredictable. For example: Some common patterns of alternation between the final consonants of the two stems are: Other notable alternations are seen in ''ward-'' – ''wašt'' 'to turn', ''dār-'' – ''dāšt'' (''YHSNN-'') 'to hold', ''nimāy-'' – ''nimūd'' 'to show', ''zan-'' – ''zad'' (''MHYTWN-'') 'to hit'. Some verbs also derive the past stem merely by the addition of a suffix, which, however, does not consist solely of the consonant -''t''/''d''. Most commonly it is ''-īd'' (''-yt'''), but a number of verbs also take ''-ād'' (''-ʾt''') or ''-ist'' (''-st): The past stem formations in ''-īd'' and ''-ist'' are typical of denominative verbs, passives in the suffix ''-īh-'' and causatives. Finally, a few stem pairs are clearly suppletive: Another form of suppletion is found in the verb meaning 'to be, exist', which has the stem ''h-'' (spelt ''HWE-'') in the present tense, but in the preterite it uses the forms of the verb ''būdan'' 'to become, to be', which has the present stem ''baw-'' (often contracted simply to ''b-'') and the past stem ''būd'' (spelt ''YHWWN-'').

Personal endings and present tense of the three moods

= Overview

= The present-tense forms of the four moods are formed by adding the following endings to the present stem:Sundermann 1989: 149-150Skjærvø 2007: 68-69 For example, the verb ''raftan'' (''SGYTWNtn''') 'to go' will be conjugated as ''rawēm'' (''SGYTWNym''), ''rawē'' (''SGYTWNyd''), ''rawēd'' (''SGYTWNyt'''), etc. in the indicative, ''raw'' (''SGYTWN''), etc. in the imperative, ''rawān'' (''SGYTWNʾn''), rawāy (''SGYTWNʾy''), rawād (''SGYTWNʾt''), etc. in the subjunctive, and so on.

= The vowel of the endings

= The endings containing alternative vowels to ''ē'' are not found in Manichaean Middle Persian, except for the 1st person plural ''-om'', which has, conversely, been reported to be the only version there. For the 1st person singular ending, most authors list ''-ēm'' as the normal form, but some consider ''-am'' to have been the regular ending in non-Manichaean Middle Persian as opposed to the 1st person plural ''-ēm''. Thus, sg. ''-am'' : pl.''-ēm'' in Pahlavi would correspond to sg. ''-ēm'' : pl. ''-om'' in Manichaean. In general, the apparently random variation of the vowels has been interpreted either as relicts of the inflection of minority stem types or, conversely, as foreshadowings of the New Persian form of the endings. Furthermore, a small number of verbs had alternative contracted forms for the 3rd singular present with no vowel in the ending at all: e.g. ''kund'' for expected ''kunēd'' of ''kardan''. Verbs for which such forms are attested include ''daštan'' (''YHSNNtn''') 'hold' – ''dad'' (''dt''')'', raftan (''SGYTWNtn''')'' 'go' ''– rawd (lpd), burdan (YBLWNtn''') 'carry' – ''bard (bld), čāštan (cʾštn') '''teach' ''- čāšt'' (''čʾšt'''), ''hōšīdan'' (''hwšytn''') 'dry' ''- hōšt'' (''hwšt''') 'dries' and ''fragendan'' (''plkndn''') 'lay foundations' - ''fragend'' (''plknd'')''.'' In addition, the present stem of ''būdan (YHWWNtn')'' 'become''', baw-,'' is often shortened to b-'': b-ēd (byt').'' Although the 2nd singular imperative has no ending, a vowel ''-ā- appears in it before enclitics in Manichaean and Psalter Pahlavi, e.g. ''ahrām-ā-m!'' (''ʾhrʾmʾm'') 'raise me up!'

= Subjunctive and optative

= The subjunctive forms for persons other than the third occur in Manichaean Middle Persian, but not in Book Pahlavi. The subjunctive may express a wish (in the present tense) or a hypothetical or conditioned event (the latter mostly in the past tenses) The optative is another way to express a wish. However, the same meaning is expressed by combining the present indicative with separate optative particles: ''ē(w)'', sp.''ʾy(w)'' in Book Pahlavi (e.g. ''ē dārēd'', sp. ''ʾy YHSNNyt''' 'let him possess it') and ''hēb'' in Manichaean (e.h. ''hēb dārēd'' ''hyb dʾryd'', the same) The present indicative and the present subjunctive may also express future tense (the former is used especially for near future).

= Copula

= The synthetic forms of the copula verb follow mostly the same pattern as other verbs, the present stem consisting of the consonant ''h-'' (sp. ''HWE-'') alone: thus, 1st sg. ind. ''hēm'' (''HWEym'') or ''ham'' (''HWEm''), subj. ''hān'', etc. However, the 3rd person singular of the present indicative is ''ast'' (sp. ''AYT''),Расторгуева & Молчанова 1981: 110 and this latter form is used mostly in the meaning 'to exist'; it is usually (but not always) omitted when the meaning is of pure predication, as in ''he is a man'' – ''ōy mard'' (''OLE GBRA''), in contrast to ''there is a man'' – ''mard ast'' (''AYT GBRA''). The 3rd plural ''hēnd'' is often omitted as well, and even a subjunctive ''hād'' may be absent. Moreover, the existential 3rd person singular also has a special contracted negated form: instead of the regular *''nē ast'' (''LA AYT''), it is ''nēst'' (''LOYT''') The optative proper is regular: ''hē'' (''HWEyd''). The imperative function, however, appears to be performed by an optative form of the verb ''būdan'' (''YHWWNtn'''), 'to be, become': ''bāš'' contracted from ''bawēš'', and in the plural imperative, the same verb is used: ''bawēd''. Finally, the copula could also occur in enclitic form without the initial ''h-'', although this isn't found very often in written texts: ''kōdak-am'' (sp. ''kwtkm'') 'I am small'.

= Imperfect

= In addition to these endings, P. O. Skjærvø (2009: 219) identifies relicts of the Old Persian imperfect in Inscriptional Pahlavi: the markers, which are added to the present stem, are ''-ēn'' for the 1st singular, ''-ē'' or ''-ēd'' for the 3rd and ''-om'' for the 1st plural. However, in the synthetic passive formed with the suffixes ''-īh-'' or ''-īy-'', no ending is added at all in the imperfect: ''gugānīh-∅'' 'was destroyed'. There is much uncertainty and debate about the exact interpretations of these and similar forms.

= Number agreement

= When a plural subject is inanimate, the verb may remain in the singular instead of agreeing with it, unless individuality is specially emphasised.

Periphrastic forms

= Past tenses

= All the past tenses use periphrastic constructions with the main verb in the past participle form; e.g. ''raft'' from the verb ''raftan'' (''SGYTWN'' 'go'). The finite auxiliary verb is conjugated for the appropriate person and mood; the rules for person agreement in particular are described in the section on ''Ergativity in the past tenses''. The constructions are as follows:

The preterite

The preterite is formed by combining the past participle of the verb and the copula ''h-'' (''HWE-'') used as an
auxiliary verb An auxiliary verb (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) is a verb that adds functional or grammatical meaning to the clause (linguistics), clause in which it occurs, so as to express grammatical tense, tense, Grammatical aspect, aspect, L ...
conjugated for the appropriate person and mood. The copula is, as usual, dropped in the third singular: : ''(az) raft hēm'' (''(ANE) SGYTWNt' HWEym'') 'I went', but: : ''(ōy) raft'' (''(OLE) SGYTWNt''') 'he went'. Since the verb ''h-'' has no corresponding past participle of the same root, it uses suppletively the past participle of ''būdan'': : ''(az) būd hēm'' (''(ANE) YHWWNt''' / ''bwt' HWEym'') 'I was', but: : ''(ōy) būd'' (''(OLE) YHWWNt / bwt''') 'he was'. This tense expresses an action in the past. In addition, a synthetically (and suppletively) formed past tense of the copula appears to be found in Manichaean Middle Persian: 3rd person singular ''anād'' 'was' and 3rd person plural ''anānd'' 'were'. There is no obvious difference in function between this and the ordinary preterite. This has been said to be a relict of the Old Persian imperfect tense, and it has been conjectured that a mysterious Armaeogram ''HWYTN-'' occurring in Inscriptional Pahlavi also designates the stem found in this form of the copula.

The past preterite

The past preterite also uses the past participle, but it differs from the simple preterite in that the copula ''itself'' is in the preterite rather than the present here: ''(az) raft būd hēm'' ((''ANE'') ''SGYTWNt' YHWWNt''' / ''bwt''' HWEym) 'I had gone'; : ''(ōy) raft būd'' ((''OLE'') ''SGYTWNt' YHWWNt''' / ''bwt''') '(he) had gone'. Since Manichaean Middle Persian (and possibly Inscriptional Pahlavi) retains synthetic past (imperfect) forms of the copula, it is also able to use them as auxiliaries in the past preterite construction (which has then been called 'past imperfect', although it doesn't seem to have a different function from the other construction): : ''(ōy) raft anād'' = '(he) had gone'. : ''(awēšān) raft anānd'' = '(they) had gone'. The past preterite expresses an action preceding another action in the past.

The perfect

The perfect also uses the past participle, but it differs from the preterite in that the auxiliary verb uses is not the copula, but ''ēstādan'' (''YKOYMWNtn''') 'to stand' in the present tense. Thus: : ''(az) raft ēstēm'' (''(ANE) SGYTWNt' YKOYMWNym'') 'I have/am gone' : ''(ōy) raft ēstēd'' (''(OLE) SGYTWNt' YKOYMWNyt''') '(he) has/is gone'. This tense expresses a past action whose results are still observable in the present.

The past perfect

The past perfect or pluperfect differs from the simple perfect in that the verb ''ēstādan'' ''itself'' is in the preterite rather than the present here: : ''(az) raft ēstād hēm'' ((''ANE'') ''SGYTWNt' YKOYMWNʾt' HWEym'') 'I had/was gone'; : ''(ōy) raft ēstād'' ((''OLE'') ''SGYTWNt' YKOYMWNaʾt''') '(he) had/was gone'. This tense expresses a past action whose results were still observable at some point in the past.

Past pluperfect

Some authors identify yet another form, a past pluperfect: : ''(az) raft ēstād būd hēm'' ((''ANE'') ''SGYTWNt' YKOYMWNʾt' YHWWNt''' / ''bwt' HWEym'') 'I had/was gone'; : ''(ōy) raft ēstād būd'' ((''OLE'') ''SGYTWNt' YKOYMWNʾt' YHWWNt''' / ''bwt''') '(he) had/was gone'.

Omission of the auxiliary verb

The auxiliary ''būdan'' is sometimes omitted not only in the 3rd person singular, but even in the plural: ''u-mān ō padīrag āmad awēšān widerdagān ruwān'' (''APmʾn' OL ptyrk' YATWNt' OLEšʾn' wtltkʾn' lwbʾn''') 'and the souls of the departed came to meet us.'

Ergativity in the past tenses

Like the English and Latin past participles, the Middle Persian past participle describes the logical ''subject'' of a verb when the verb is intransitive, but the logical object of the verb when the verb is transitive: e.g. ''raft'' (''SGYTWNt'') '(somebody who is) gone', but ''dīd'' (''HZYTWNt''') '(something that is) seen (by somebody)'. As a result, the construction with the copula (and with the auxiliary ''ēstādan'') has 'active' meaning when the verb is intransitive – ''tō raft hē'', sp. ''(LK) SGYTWNt' HWEyd'', lit. 'you are gone' – but 'passive' meaning when the verb is transitive – ''(tō) mard dīd'', sp. ''(LK) GBRA HZYTWNt''', lit. 'the man is seen (by you)'. In other words, the participant that normally would have been the object is treated as the subject here, and the participant that normally would have been the subject is treated as an oblique modifier. Since in these transitive verb constructions, the participant that is treated like the single argument of an intransitive verb is not the more subject-like one, but the more object-like one, the
morphosyntactic alignment In linguistics, morphosyntactic alignment is the grammatical relationship between Argument (linguistics), arguments—specifically, between the two arguments (in English, subject and object) of transitive verbs like ''the dog chased the cat'', an ...
of these constructions is ergative. Since this alignment is confined to the past tenses, it is further described as split-ergative. The most obvious consequence of this that while the verb in a past tense agrees with the (logical) subject if it is intransitive (just as it would in the present tense), it agrees with the (logical) object if it is transitive: : ''tō mardān dīd hēnd'' (''LK GBRAʾn HZYTWNt' HWEnd)'' = 'you saw the men', lit. 'by you the men were seen'; Cf. present tense: ''tō mardān wēnē'' (''LK GBRAʾn HZYTWNyd) = '''you see the men'; Cf. also the past tense of an intransitive verb: ''tō raft hē'' (''LK SGYTWNt' HWEyd'') 'you went' : ''mardān tō dīd hē'' (''GBRAʾn LK HZYTWNt' HWEyd'') = 'The men saw you', lit. 'by the men you were seen'; Cf. present tense: ''mardān tō wēnēnd'' (''GBRAʾn LK HZYTWNt' HWEnd'') = 'the men see you'; Cf. also the past tense of an intransitive verb: ''mardān raft hēnd'' (''GBRAʾn SGYTWNt' HWEnd'') 'the men went' Another consequence is seen in the case inflection of nominals, inasmuch as it is preserved. In contrast to the use of the cases in the present tense, the ergative construction means that it is the logical object that is in the direct case and the logical subject that is in the oblique case. Thus, originally we would have, e.g. ''az mardān wēnēm'' 'I see the men' in the present, but ''man mard dīd hēnd'' in the past; ''mard man wēnēnd'' 'the men see me' in the present, but ''mardān az dīd hēm'' 'the men saw me' in the past. Even after the last vestiges of case inflection in nouns and the stressed forms of the pronouns had been lost and so their forms in ergative and nominative constructions had become identical, the fact that the very frequent pronominal enclitics were restricted to the oblique case meant that their use still reflected the alignment difference between the tenses: : ''u-t mard dīd'' (''APt GBRA HZYTWNt''') = 'and you saw the man' Cf. present tense: ''u-t mard wēnēd'' ''APt GBRA HZYTWNyt''') = 'and the man sees you' In contrast, *''u-t raft hē'' 'and you went' is impossible, as is *''u-t mard dīd hē'' 'and the man saw you'. That is because only the stressed form of the pronoun can function in the direct case. Finally, it may be pointed out that the possibility of expressing the logical subject at all appears to have developed later in the perfect tenses with ''ēstādan'' than in the preterites with ''būdan''. It is not yet found in Inscriptional and Psalter Pahlavi, nor in Manichaean Middle Persian, where these constructions are impersonal and passive. However, in Book Pahlavi, it is already found regularly, so that clauses like ''u-t mard dīd ēstē'' are fully possible.

= Present passive

= The present tense proper of the verb ''būdan'', ''bawēm'', is also combined with the past participle to express a kind of present passive: ''dād bawēd'' (''YHBWNt' YHWWNyt''') 'it is, will have been given'. As in the ergative construction, the agent can occasionally be expressed with an oblique enclitic, e.g. ''ā-š kard bawēd'' 'then it is done by him' (''ʾš OBYDWNyt' YHWWNyt''').Skjærvø 1997: 104

= Future periphrasis

= Albeit rarely, the verb ''kamistan'' 'to want' combined with an infinitive may express future tense: ''dušpādixšāyīh ī awēšān sar kāmēd būdan'' (''dwšSLYTAyh Y OLEšʾn' LOYŠE YCBENyt' YHWWNtn''') 'their evil rule will end', lit. 'wants to end'.

Aspectual verbal particles

There are two particles occurring before the verb which may modify its aspectual meaning (apparently in opposite ways), even though their use is not obligatory. One of them appears in Pahlavi as ''be'' (''BRA'') and in Manichaean as ''ba'' (''bʾ''). Its earliest meaning seems to have been directional and specifically andative, i.e. 'away, out', and this is still said to be the case in Inscriptional and Psalter Pahlavi as well as in Manichaean,Sundermann 1989: 154 but in Book Pahlavi it also seems to have other meanings, which are less clear and more controversial. It has been argued to express perfective aspect in the past or in the future.Расторгуева & Молчанова 1981: 118-119 For example, ''mard ī šahr ka-š kas pad pusīh be padīrēd'' (''GBRA y štr' AMTš AYŠ PWN BREyh BRA MKBLWNyt')'' 'if somebody adopts a man of the kingdom as his son'; ''Šābuhr be xandīd'' (''šʾpwhl GHBHWNyt''') ' Šābuhr laughed'. It also occurs relatively frequently with imperatives in Book Pahlavi, but not in Manichaean Middle Persian. The other particle is ''hamē'' (''hmʾy''), originally identical to the adverb meaning 'always'. It expresses imperfective and more specifically durative or
iterative Iteration is the repetition of a process in order to generate a (possibly unbounded) sequence of outcomes. Each repetition of the process is a single iteration, and the outcome of each iteration is then the starting point of the next iteration. ...
aspect: ''kanīzag pad sar ī čāh būd ud ... čahārpāyān rāy āb hamē dād'' (''knyck' PWN LOYŠE y cʾh YHWWNt' ... chʾlpʾdʾn rʾd MYA hmʾy YHBWNt''') 'the girl was by the side of the well and was giving water to the animals'. Some have viewed its aspectual use as a late phenomenon indicative of the transition to New Persian.

Non-finite verb forms

= Infinitive

= The infinitive has two versions:Skjærvø 1997: 120-122 # a 'long' one that is derived from the past stem by adding ''-an'': e.g. ''kardan'' (''kartn' / OBYDWNtn''') # a 'short' one that is identical to the past stem, and thus to the past participle: ''kard'' (''kart''' / ''OBYDWNt')'' It can function syntactically as a (verbal) noun: ''pad griftan ī Ardaxšīr'' (''PWN OHDWNtn' Y ʾrthšyr'') 'in order to seize Ardaxšīr' (lit. 'for the seizing of Ardaxšīr'), ''hangām ī xwarišn xwardan'' (''hngʾm y OŠTENšn' OŠTENtn''') 'the time to eat food' (lit. the time of food eating')''.''

= Participles

= The past participle, which coincides with the past stem. It has passive meaning when the verb is transitive, but active meaning when the verb is intransitive: ''kard'' (''krt''' or ''OBYDWNt''') 'made' but ''āxist'' (''KDMWNt''') 'risen'. It is most commonly used predicatively, but it can also be nominalised: ''duzīd'' (''dwcyd'') 'the stolen (goods)'.Расторгуева & Молчанова 1981: 129 If it is an attribute modifier instead, it is usually introduced by the relative particle: ''čiš ī widard'' (''MNDOM Y wtlt''') 'a thing that has passed away, vanished'. An extended form of the past participle is produced by the addition of the suffix ''-ag'' (''-k'') to the past stem. This form is used attributively more often than the previous one: ''duxt ī padīriftag'' (''BRTE Y MKBLWNtk''') 'an adopted daughter' and is also frequently nominalised: ''nibištag'' (''YKTYBWNtk''') 'something written, a document' (cf. Latin ''scriptum'', English ''writ''). There is also a present active participle derived from the present stem with the ending in ''-ān'' (''ʾn''): e.g. ''griyān'' (''BKYWNʾn''), ''gldʾn''), 'crying'. It may occur as a gerund – ''zarduxšt griyān passox guft'' (''zrtwxšt gldʾn pshw' gwpt''), 'Zarasthustra answered, weeping.' and is the usual verb form governed by the verb ''niwistan'' (''nwystn'') 'to begin', which, however, is mostly typical of Manichaean (albeit attested in Psalter Pahlavi). These constructions are rare in Book Pahlavi. Historically, the derivational deverbal suffix ''-endag'' / ''-andag'' (-''ndk''') as in ''sōzendag'' (''swcndk''' 'burning') contains the Proto-Indo-European present active participle suffix and it does retain such a meaning, so the adjective derived with has also been called a 'participle'.Skjærvø 2009: 215 So have deverbal adjectives formed with the productive suffix ''-āg'' (-''ʾk''') as in ''sazāg'' (''scʾk'') 'fitting', which also have very similar semantics (see the section on ''Word formation'').Расторгуева & Молчанова 1981: 73 Both of these latter are mostly used attributively. The suffix ''-išn'' (''-šn'') generally forms deverbal nouns of action from the present stem of the verb as in ''kunišn'' (''kwnšn''') 'doing, deed, action' from ''kardan'' (''OBYDWNtn''' / ''krtn''') 'to do'. However, such formations also function in predicative position as
gerundive In Latin grammar, a gerundive () is a verb form that functions as a verbal adjective. In Classical Latin, the gerundive is distinct in form and function from the gerund and the Latin conjugation#Participles, present active participle. In Late Lati ...
s and have since been referred to as 'participles of necessity': ''u-š čē kunišn'' 'And what is he to do?', lit. 'What is an (appropriate) action for him?'; ''mardōmān ... mizd ī mēnōy bē nē hilišn'' (''ANŠWTAʾn mzd Y mynwd BRE LA ŠBKWNšn''') 'people must not relinquish their reward in the spiritual world'. Indeed, they have come to resemble adjectives in that they can be inflected for degree: ''zanišntar'' (''MHYTWNšntl'') 'more worthy of being hit/killed'.

= Voice

= The periphrastic present passive construction with a past participle and ''būdan'' in the present tense (''dād bawēd'', 'is given') has already been mentioned in the section ''Present passive''. The corresponding ergative preterite constructions and ergative perfect tense constructions with ''ēstādan'' 'stand' are not really passive, since they do not contrast with an active form in the same tense and are the standard and only way of expressing these tenses. Nevertheless, they can still be used without an overt agent, resulting in a passive meaning: ''pus ... ōzad'' (''BRE YKTLWNt''') 'the son ... was killed', ''mardōm ... xwānd hēnd'' (''ANŠWTA ... KRYTWNt' HWEnd'') 'the people ... were called'. Another periphrastic way of expressing the passive is by using a third person plural 'they' as an impersonal subject: ''kas pad wēmārīh nē mīrēd bē pad zarmānīh ayāb ōzanēnd'' (''AYŠ PWN wymʾryh LA BRE YMYTWNyt' PWN zlmʾnyh ʾdwp YKTLWNynd'') 'nobody will die of illness, but (only) from of old age or they will be killed (lit. or they kill them)'. However, there is also a ''synthetic'' passive form derived from the present stem with the suffix ''-īh-'' (''-yh-''), in older texts such as the Pahlavi Psalter also ''-īy-'' (sp. -''yd''-). The vowel might have been shortened in later Middle Persian pronunciation. The corresponding past stem may end in ''-ist'' or in ''-īd''. Some examples are ''dārīhēd'' (''YHSNNyhyt''') 'is held' (of ''dāštan'', present stem ''dār-'', 'to hold'), ''yazīhīd'' (''YDBHWNyhyt''') 'was recited' (of ''yaštan'', present stem ''yaz-'', 'to recite, celebrate'). If the base verb has the factitive/causative suffix ''-ēn-'' (''-yn-''), it is removed before the addition of ''-īh-'': ''rawāgēnīdan'' (''lwbʾkynytn''') 'propagate' > ''rawāgīhistan'' 'be propagated' (''lwbʾkyhystn''')

= Possession

= Middle Persian does not have a verb 'to have'. Instead, possession is expressed by stating the existence of the possessed object using the verb 'to be' and by treating the possessor as an oblique argument (inflecting it in the oblique case, if possible): ''man paygāl ast'' (''L pygʾl AYT') 'To me, a cup exists' = 'I have a cup';'' xwāstag ī-š ast ''(''NKSYA Yš AYT') 'the property which he has', lit. 'which exists to him'.


Certain adverbial particles are combined with verbs to express direction, while remaining separate words. The most important ones are the following: Some of these (''abar'' and ''andar'') function as prepositions as well.


The most common simple prepositions are: The special postposed forms of ''pad'', ''ō'' and ''az'' with a resumptive pronoun ''-(i)š'' – ''padiš'' (''ptš''), ''awiš'' (''ʾwbš''), ''aziš'' (''hcš'') – have already been mentioned in the section on pronouns. Certain adverbs and nouns can be used as prepositions, in which case they usually (but not always) use the relative particle or the preposition ''az'' to introduce the noun: thus the adverb ''pēš'' (''LOYN''') can be extended as ''pēš ī'' 'in front of', ''pēš az'' 'before'. In turn, the adverb may be preceded by a preposition: ''ō pēš ī''. A noun does not necessarily require a preceding preposition: ''mayān ī'' (''mdyʾn Y'') '(in) the middle of'. In this way, many prepositional meanings are expressed: 'before' (''pēš ī,'' sp. ''LOYN' Y''), 'after' (''pas ī'' ''AHL''), 'around' (''pērāmōn ī,'' sp. ''pylʾmwn' Y''), 'beside' (''kanārag ī'', sp. ''knʾlk' Y''), 'near, close to' (''nazdīk ī'', sp. ''nzdyk' Y''), 'beside, around' (''pad sar ī,'' sp. ''PWN LOYŠE Y''), 'except, apart from' ''ǰud az'' (sp. ''ywdt' MN'''), etc.Расторгуева & Молчанова 1981: 136-141 Instead of being introduced by ''ī'', the component nominal phrase may also be placed before the noun, so it becomes possible to speak of an ' ambiposition': ''az / ō ... rōn'' (''MN / OL ... lwn''') 'from / in the direction of' (from ''rōn'' 'direction'); a similar structure is seen in ''bē ... enyā'' (''BRA ... ʾynyʾ'') 'except', where ''enyā'' 'otherwise' may also be omitted.Skjærvø 2009: 210 While prepositions can remain stranded after their complements because of some syntactic processes mentioned above, there is also a ''regular'' postposition: ''rāy'' (''lʾd''), meaning 'for (the sake of)', 'because of', 'about', 'to'. The postpositional phrase can also be preceded by a preposition: ''az ... rāy'' 'because of', ''pad ... rāy'' 'concerning, in order to'. In some other combinations that have been identified as 'ambipositions', the first element can also be dropped, causing the second one to occur as a postposition: such is the case in ''(az) ... hammis(t)'' ('together with') and ''(bē) ... tā'' 'except'.


The most common coordinating conjunctions are: The word ''ā-'' (''ʾ'') 'then' may be described as a demonstrative adverb, but it, too, operates as a sentence connector or introducing particle much like ''u-'', albeit less frequently: an important function of both seems to be to 'support' a pronominal enclitic, and ''ā-'' generally occurs with one, e.g. ''ā-š dīd'' (''ʾš HZYTWNt''') 'then he saw'. The common subordinating conjunctions are: The conjunction ''ud'' may be reinforced with the particle ''ham'' (''hm''): ''ham abar ahlawān ud ham abar druwandān'' (''hm QDM ʾhlwbʾn W hm QDM dlwndʾn'') 'both for the righteous and for the unrighteous'.


The particles are: # ''nē'' (''LA'') 'not', a negative particle; e.g. ''mardōm ham nē dēw'' (''ANŠWTA HWEm LA ŠDYA'') 'I am human, not a demon.' As already mentioned, it merges with the verb form ''ast'' (''AYT'') 'exists, there is' in the contraction ''nēst''' (''LOYT''') 'doesn't exist, there isn't'. # ''ma'' or ''mā'' (''AL'') 'do not', a prohibitative particle preceding verbs in the imperative and the conjunctive: ''ān xwāstag ma stan!'' (''ZK NKSYA AL YNSBWN'') 'Do not take this thing!' # ''-(i)z'' (-(''y'')''c'') 'also, too, even'. The vowel-initial version is used after consonants. This particle is enclitic and appended to whatever is being emphasised: ''ēn-iz paydāg'' (''ZNEc pytʾk) 'This, too, is clear.'

Word formation

Suffixes that form nouns

The most productive suffixes that form nouns are

=Action noun suffixes

= # ''-išn'' (''-šn''') is by far the most productive suffix that forms action nouns and nouns with related meanings from the present stems of verbs: ''menīdan'' (''mynytn''') 'to think' > ''menišn'' (''mynšn''') 'thinking, thought', ''xwardan'' (''OŠTENtn''') 'to eat' > ''xwarišn'' (''OŠTENšn''') 'food'. The verbal noun in ''-isn'' (''-šn'') also functions in predicative position as a
gerundive In Latin grammar, a gerundive () is a verb form that functions as a verbal adjective. In Classical Latin, the gerundive is distinct in form and function from the gerund and the Latin conjugation#Participles, present active participle. In Late Lati ...
, expressing that the action 'ought to be' performed: ''andar hamahlān ... hučašm bawišn'' (''BYN hmʾlʾn ... hwcšm bwšn'') 'among comrades ... one ought to be benevolent'.Skjærvø 2007: 65-66Расторгуева & Молчанова 1981: 66 # ''-ag'' (''-k'') forms nouns (action nouns, but often with various concrete meanings) from verbs (both stems) and numerals: ''widardan'' (''wtltn''') 'pass, cross' > ''widarag'' (''wtlg'') 'path, passage', ''čāštan'' (''cʾštn''') 'teach' > ''čāštag'' (''cʾštk'') 'teaching', ''haft'' (''hp̄t''') 'seven' > ''haftag'' (''hp̄tk'') 'week' This suffix is also thought to have had
diminutive A diminutive is a root word that has been modified to convey a slighter degree of its root meaning, either to convey the smallness of the object or quality named, or to convey a sense of Intimate relationship, intimacy or Term of endearment, endea ...
meaning and appears to have been added to already existing nouns with no change in meaning (''ǰām'' > ''ǰāmag'' 'glass') or with an unpredictable change (''čašm'', sp. ''AYNE'', 'an eye' > ''čašmag'', sp. ''cšmk''' 'a spring, well'). As such, it was a very productive and expanding suffix.Расторгуева & Молчанова 1981: 68-69 It is identical to an adjective-forming suffix, and that it was its original function; on that, see the next section.

=Abstract noun suffixes

= # ''-īh'' (''-yh'') is by far the most productive suffix that forms abstract nouns from adjectives, nouns and rarely from verbs: ''tārīg'' or ''tārīk'' (''tʾryk'') 'dark' > ''tārīgīh'' (''tʾrykyh'') 'darkness'; ''dōst'' (''dwst''') 'friend' > ''dōstīh'' (''dwstyh'') 'friendship'; ''ast'' (''AYT''') 'exists' > ''astīh'' (''AYTyh'') 'existence' It can be combined with the action noun suffix ''-išn'' as ''-išnīh'' (''-šnyh''): ''drō-gōwišnīh'' (''KDBA YMRRWNšnyh'' / ''dlwb' YMRRWNšnyh'') 'speaking lies': # An unproductive suffix forming abstract nouns from adjectives is ''-āy'' (''-ʾd''), most commonly expressing size or degree along a certain dimension: ''pahn'' (''pʾhn'') 'wide' > ''pahnāy'' (''phnʾd'') 'width'.

=Agent noun suffixes

= # ''-ār'' (''-ʾl'') is a productive suffix that forms agent nouns from the past stems of verbs: ''dādan'' (''YHBWNtn''') 'give, create' > ''dādār'' (''dʾtʾl'') 'creator'. There are some surprising exceptions where the meaning is passive: ''griftan'' (''OHDWNtn''') 'seize' > ''griftār'' (''glptʾl'') 'prisoner'.Расторгуева & Молчанова 1981: 66, 72-73 #: The likewise productive suffix ''-āg'' (''-ʾk'') has also been said to derive agent nouns from verbs, but they might be seen as adjectives as well and are treated in the section on adjectives. # ''-gar'' (''-kl'') and ''-gār'' (''-kʾl''), both occasionally appearing with an initial ''ī'', productively derive nouns from nouns, expressing the meaning 'doer of something', as well as adjectives from nouns meaning 'doing something': ''warz'' (''wlc'') 'work, farming' > ''warzīgar'' (''wlcykl'') 'worker, farmer'; ''wināh'' (''wnʾs'') 'sin' > ''wināhgār'' 'sinner' (''wnʾskl''), ''ziyān'' (''zydʾn''') 'harm' > ''ziyāngār'' (''zydʾnkʾl'') 'harmful'. When the base noun ends in the suffix ''-ag'', both the final consonant of the stem and the initial consonant of the suffix appear as ''/k/'': ''kirbag'' (''krpk''') 'good deed' > ''kirbakkar'' (''krpkkl'') 'doer of good deeds, beneficent'. # ''-bān'' (''pʾn''') productively forms nouns meaning somebody in charge of what the base noun designates, a caretaker: ''stōr'' (''stwl'') 'horse' > ''stōrbān'' (''stwlpʾn''') 'groom'.Расторгуева 1966: 34 # ''-bed'' (''pt''') forms titles with a similar meaning to the above suffix, but with a nuance of power and possession rather than caretaking: ''spāh'' (''spʾh'') 'army' > ''spāhbed'' (''spʾhpt''') 'army commander'. # ''-yār'' (''-dʾl'') is a rare suffix with a somewhat similar meaning to the previous one, as seen in ''šahr'' (''štr''') > ''šahryār'' (''štr'dʾl''). # ''-(a)gān'' (-''kʾn''') is a rare suffix that derives nouns from other nouns; the meaning is of a person or thing connected to what the base noun designates: ''wāzār'' (''wʾcʾl'') 'market' > ''wāzāragān'' ('' wʾcʾlkʾn''') 'merchant'Расторгуева & Молчанова 1981: 70

=Place nouns

= # ''-(e/i)stān'' (''stʾn''') is a productive suffix that forms place nouns: ''asp'' (''SWSYA'') 'horse' > ''aspestān'' (''ʾs̄pstʾn''') 'horse stable',Skjærvø 2007: 118 ''hindūg'' (''hndwk''') 'Indian' > ''hindūstān'' (''hndwstʾn''') 'India'. It is also included in the names of seasons. # ''-dān'' (''-dʾn''') is a rare suffix forming place nouns: ''ast(ag)'' (''ʾstk''') 'bone' > ''astōdān'' (''ʾstw''(''k'')''dʾn''') 'ossuary' # ''-īgān'' (''-ykʾn''') apparently forms collective and place nouns: ''māh'' (''BYRH'') 'moon, month' > ''māhīgān'' 'month' (''BYRHykʾn''), ''šāh'' (''MLKA'') 'king' > ''šāhīgān'' (''šhykʾn''') 'palace'.Расторгуева & Молчанова 1981: 69

=Diminutive suffix

= The diminutive suffix is ''-īzag'' (''-yck'''). E.g. ''murw'' (''mwlw'') 'bird' > ''murwīzag'' (''mwlwyck''') 'birdie'.Расторгуева & Молчанова 1981: 74 It has been conjectured that also the abovementioned suffix ''-ag'' (''-k'') had the same meaning, but it is difficult to find unambiguous attestations of this usage. Adjectives have their own diminutive suffix, on which see below.

=Feminine suffix

= Feminine gender could be expressed in proper names by ''-ag'': ''J̌am'' > ''J̌amag''. It could also be expressed by the Avestan suffixes ''-ānīy'' / ''-ēnīy'': ''ahlaw'' 'righteous' > ''ahlawēnīy'' 'righteous woman'.

Suffixes that form adjectives

=Adjectives derived from nominals

= # ''-īg'' (''-yk'''), sometimes possibly ''-īk'': derives adjectives from nouns, often with a meaning 'belonging to' and 'originating from', but also 'having': ''āb'' (''MYA'') 'water' > ''ābīg'' (''ʾp̄yk''') 'aquatic'; ''Pārs'' (''pʾls'') 'Fars' > ''pārsīg'' (''pʾlsyk''') 'Persian'; ''zōr'' (''zʾwl'') 'power' > ''zōrīg'' (''zʾwlyk''') 'powerful'; ''nazd'' (''nzd'') 'vicinity' > ''nazdīk'' (''nzdyk''') 'close, near'; # When the adjective is derived from a geographical name, the suffix ''-īg'' is often preceded by ''-āy-'' (''-ʾd-''): ''hrōm'' (''hlwm'') 'Rome' > ''hrōmāyīg'' (''hlwmʾdyk''') 'Roman'; ''Asūrestān'' 'Assyria' > ''asūrāyīg'' 'Assyrian'. That suffix ''-āy'' also occurs alone in the noun ''hrōmāy'', 'a Roman'. # ''-ōmand'', ''-mand'' (''-ʾwmnd'', -''mnd''): derives adjectives meaning 'having something', 'full of something': ''ōz'' (''ʾwc'') 'strength' > ''ōzōmand'' (''ʾwc ʾwmnd'') 'strong'; ''xwarrah'' (''GDE'') 'fortune, glory' > ''xwarrahōmand'' (''GDE ʾwmnd'') 'fortunate, glorious', ''šōy'' (''šwd'') 'husband > ''šōymand'' (''šwdmnd'') 'having a husband'; # ''-(ā)wand'' or ''-(ā)wend'', spelt ''-(ʾwnd)'' (in Manichaean also ''-ʾwynd'') is a rare, originally older version of the previous suffixSkjærvø 2007: 100 and derives adjectives from nouns, often with the same meaning as ''-ōmand'', but sometimes expressing a more general connection as in ''xwēš'' (''NPŠE'') 'own' > ''xwēšāwand'' (''hwyšʾwnd'') 'relative'. # ''-gen'' or ''-gēn'', spelt ''-k(y)n''', is a rare suffix similar in function to ''-ōmand''. # ''-war'' (-''wl'') and ''-wār'' (-''wʾl'') derive adjectives from nouns, expressing some kind of connection to what the noun designates, and these adjectives may in turn be converted into nouns. E.g. ''kēn'' (''kyn'') 'revenge' > ''kēnwar'' (''kynwl'') 'vengeful', ''asp'' (''ŠWŠYA'') 'horse' > ''aswār'' (''PLŠYA'', ''ʾspwʾl'', ''aswbʾl'') 'equestrian > horseman'. #: According to some descriptions, ''-wār'' (-''wʾl'') also derives adverbs from adjectives and nouns: ''sazagwār'' (''sckwʾl'') 'fittingly', ''xwadāywār'' (''hwtʾdwʾl'') 'in a lordly manner'.Skjærvø 2009: 263 # ''-ēn'' (''-yn''') is a productive suffix that derives adjectives expressing the material something is made of: ''zarr'' (''ZHBA'') 'gold' > ''zarrēn'' (''ZHBA-yn''') 'golden' # ''-ag'' (''-k'''): besides forming nouns, this suffix also derives adjectives from nouns and the past stem of verbs: ''tišn'' (''tyšn''') 'thirst' > ''tišnag'' (''tyšnk''') 'thirsty'. Sometimes it is also productively added to an existing adjective with no apparent change of meaning: ''wad'', sp. ''SLYA'' > ''wadag'', sp. ''wtk''' 'bad, evil' # ''-ōg'' (''-wk''') is a rare suffix which, like the previous one, is added to existing adjectives without a noticeable change in meaning, although they may also be converted into nouns. # ''-ān'' (''-ʾn''') forms possessive adjectives of names and, in particular,
patronymic A patronymic, or patronym, is a component of a personal name based on the given name of one's father, grandfather (avonymic), or an earlier male ancestor. Patronymics are still in use, including mandatory use, in many countries worldwide, alt ...
s: ''ayādgār ī Zarērān'' (''ʾbydʾt Y zryrʾn'') 'memoir of Zarēr'; ''Ardaxšīr'' (''ʾrthšyr'') > ''Ardaxšīrān'' (''ʾrthšyrʾn'') 'son of Ardaxšīr'; not to be confused with the present participle suffix; # The suffix ''-agān'' (''-kʾn''') form patronymics as well: ''Pābag'' (''pʾpk''') > ''Pābagān'' (''pʾpkʾn''') 'son of Pābag/Pāpak'; # As already mentioned, ''-gānag'' derives adjectives from numerals with the meaning '-fold'. # The suffix -''ak'' (''-k''') formed diminutive adjectives: ''and'' (''ʾnd'') 'so much' > ''andak'' (''ʾndk''') 'a little'.

=Suffixes that derive adjectives from verbs

= # ''-āg'' (''-ʾk''') is a productive suffix that derives adjectives from the present stems of verbs to describe the performer of the action of the verb; these adjectives are often used as nouns and have been described as agent nouns as well. For example, ''dānistan'' (''YDOYTWNstn''') 'to know' > ''dānāg'' (''dʾnʾk''') 'a knowing one, a wise man'. # ''-(a/e)ndag'' (''-ndk''', ''-yndk''') is an unproductive suffix that has the same meaning as the above: ''zī(wi)stan'' ''zywstn''' 'to live' > ''zīndag'' ''zywndk''' 'alive, living'. # As already mentioned, there is also a present active participle ending in ''-ān'' (''-ʾn'''), with the same meaning as the above two. The boundary between participles and derived adjectives isn't clear.

Suffixes that form verbs

1. The suffix ''-ēn-'' (''-yn-'') and less commonly ''-ān-'', whose past stem always ends in ''-īd'' ''yt''), has the following functions: - It transforms nominal parts of speech into verbs with factitive meaning: ''pērōz'' (''pylwc'') 'victorious' > ''pērōzēnīdan'' (''pylwcynytn''') 'to make victorious'; - It makes verbs, to whose present stem it is added, into transitive verbs with
causative In linguistics, a causative (list of glossing abbreviations, abbreviated ) is a valency (linguistics), valency-increasing operationPayne, Thomas E. (1997). Describing morphosyntax: A guide for field linguists'' Cambridge: Cambridge University Pres ...
meaning: ''tarsīdan'' (''tlsytn''') 'to be afraid' > ''tarsēnīdan'' (''tlsynytn''') 'to scare' Apart from that, factitive verbs could be formed simply by creating a new past stem in ''-īdan'': ''nām'' (''ŠM'') 'name' > ''nāmīdan'' 'to name'. More commonly, phrasal verbs were used instead as in ''nām kardan''. On the other hand, there still survived some intransitive-transitive verb pairs with quality and quantity differences in the root, where the transitive one usually has the vowel ''ā'': intr. ''nibastan'' (''ŠKBHWNstn'''), ''nibay-'' 'to lie down' – tr. ''nibāstan'' (''npʾstn'''), ''nibāy-'' 'to lay down'; intr. ''nišastan'', ''nišīn-'' 'to sit (down) – tr. ''nišāstan'', ''nišān-'' 'to seat' (both spelt with the Armaeogram ''YTYBWNstn''', but distinguished in the phonetic spellings ''nšstn''' – ''nšʾstn'''). 2. There is also a suffix that forms intransitive verbs from transitive ones. Specifically, it derives present verb stems from transitive past stems in ''-ft'' and ''-xt'', but apparently leaves the two verbs identical in the past stem. In Manichaean, the suffix is ''-s'' and removes the preceding dental of the past stem: ''buxtan'' (present stem ''bōz-'') 'save' > present stem ''buxs-'' 'be saved'. In Pahlavi, the suffix is ''-t-''; in other words, the new present stem coincides with the past one: ''bōxtan'', sp. ''bwhtn''', (present stem ''bōz-'') 'save' > present stem ''bōxt-'' 'be saved'


=Nominal prefixes

= 1. ''a(n)-'', sp. ''ʾ(n)-'', expresses negation or absence of something. Simple negation is found in examples like ''purnāy'' (''pwlnʾd'') 'adult' > ''aburnāy'' (''ʾpwlnʾd'') 'non-adult', ''dōstīh'' (''dwstyh'') 'friendship, amity' > ''adōstīh'' (''ʾdwstyh'') 'enmity', ''ēr'' (''ʾyl'') 'Iranian, Zoroastrian' > ''anēr'' (''ʾnyl''), 'non-Iranian', 'non-Zoroastrian'.Расторгуева & Молчанова 1981: 75Расторгуева 1966: 35 However, when added to most nouns, the prefix ''a(n)-'' converts them into adjectives or nouns meaning 'lacking something': ''kanārag'' (''knʾlk''') 'border' > ''akanārag'' (''ʾknʾlk''') 'borderless'Skjærvø 2007: 82Skjærvø 2009: 260 It can also produce adjectives when added to present verb stems, indicating non-performance of the action: ''dānistan'' (''YDOYTWNstn''') 'to know' > ''adān'' (''ʾdʾn''') 'ignorant'. 2. ''abē-'', sp. ''ʾp̄y'' is added to nouns to form adjectives expressing the lack of something, which also one of the functions of the previous suffix. Hence, they can even occur with the same stems and more or less the same meanings: ''bīm'' 'fear' > ''abēbīm'' (''ʾp̄ypym'') as well as simply ''abīm'' (''ʾp̄ym'') 'fearless'. 3. ''ham-'' (''hm-'') expresses togetherness and sameness. It, too converts nouns into adjectives or nouns meaning 'having / belonging to the same X': e.g. ''kār'' (''kʾl'') 'deed, labour' > ''hamkār'' (''hmkʾl'') 'collaborator'. 4. ''ǰud-'' (''ywdt-'') has partly the opposite meaning to ''ham-'', transforming nouns into adjectives or nouns meaning 'having / belonging to a different/opposite X', e.g. ''kāmag'' (''kʾmk''') 'desire' > ''ǰudkāmag'' (''ywdt' kʾmk''') 'disagreeing', lit. 'having a different desire'. However, it can also have the meaning 'keeping X away', as in ''dēw'' (''ŠDYA'' 'demon') > ''ǰud-dēw'' (''ywdtŠDYA'') 'keeping the demons away', 'anti-demonic'.Skjærvø 2007: 99 Finally, it has a meaning akin to ''abē-'' in cases like ''ǰud-āb'' (''ywdt'MYA'') 'waterless'. It is also an independent word meaning 'separate', 'different', so it can be viewed as the first member of a compound as well. 5. ''hu-'' (''hw-'') can derive nouns from other nouns to express the meaning 'good X', e.g. ''pādixšāy'' (''ŠLYTA'') 'king' > ''hupādixšāy'' (''hwpʾthšʾd'') 'good king'. Far more commonly, however, it forms adjectives and nouns meaning 'having good X': e.g. ''bōy'' (''bwd'') 'smell' > ''hubōy'' (''hwbwd'') 'fragrant'; ''sraw'' (''slwb''') 'word' > ''husraw'' (''hwslwb''') 'having good fame'. 6. ''duš-'' / ''dus'' / ''duǰ-'' (sp. ''dwš-'', ''dw(s)-''), with the second allomorph occurring before /s/ and the third one before voiced stops, has the opposite meaning to the previous prefix: it forms adjectives and nouns meaning 'having bad X', or rarely, simply 'bad X'. For example, ''dušpādixšāy'' (''dwšpʾthšʾd'') 'bad king', ''dusraw'' (''dwslwb''') 'infamous', ''dēn'' (''dyn''') > ''duǰdēn'' (Pahlavi ''dwšdyn''', Manichaean ''dwjdyn'') 'infidel' 7. Finally, a few adjectives begin in ''pad-'' (''PWN-'') and meaning 'having' or 'associated with': e.g. ''parrag'' (''plk''') 'wing' > ''pad-parrag'' (''PWN plk''') 'having wings'; ''drō'' (''KDBA'', ''dlwb''') 'a lie' > ''pad-drō'' (''PWN dlwb'') 'lying'.

=Verbal prefixes

= Some adverbial particles can co-occur with verbs, but remain separate words; on these, see the section ''Preverbs''. Earlier Indo-European verbal prefixes have coalesced with the following roots and their original meaning is hardly ever discernible, even though they are very frequent. Thus, we have the following elements: # ''ā-'' expressing approaching something: ''burdan'' (''YBLWMtn''') 'carry' > ''āwurdan'' (''YHYTYWNtn''') 'bring', ''āmadan'' (''YATWNtn''') and ''madan'' (''mtn'''), both meaning 'to come'. # ''ab(e)/ap-'' expressing movement away from something: : ''burdan'' (''YBLWMtn''') 'carry' > ''appurdan'' (''YHNCLWNtn''') 'steal' # ''fra-'' expressing movement forward: ''franaftan'' (''plnptn''') 'go (forth), proceed, depart'. # ''gu-'' expressing togetherness: ''gumēxtan'' (''gwmyhtn''') '(co-)mix'. # ''ham-'' and ''han-'' (the latter variant before non-labial consonants), also expressing togetherness or connection, 'with'. This prefix still occurs with the same form in nouns, but in verbs its meaning is seldom obvious: ''bastan'' (''ASLWNtn''') 'bind, tie' > ''hambastan'' (''hnbstn''') 'bind together, encircle, compose', but also ''hambastan'' (''hnbstn''') 'collapse', ''hanǰāftan'' (''hncʾptn''') 'complete, conclude'. # ''ni-'' expressing movement downwards: ''nišastan'' (''YTYBWNstn''') 'sit (down)', ''nibastan'' (''ŠKBHWNstn'''), 'lie (down)', ''nibištan'' (''YKTYBWNstn''') 'write (down)' # ''ō-'' expressing bringing an action to completion: ''zadan'' (''MHYTWNtn''') 'hit' > ''ōzadan'' (''YKTLWNtn''') 'kill' # ''par-'' expressing movement 'around': ''bastan'' (''ASLWNtn''') 'bind, tie' > ''parwastan'' (''plwatn''') 'surround, enclose'; ''pargandan'' (''plkndn''') 'scatter, disperse'. # ''pay-'' expressing direction towards something: ''bastan'' (''ASLWNtn''') 'bind, tie' > ''paywastan'' (''ptwstn''') 'join, connect' # ''us-'', ''uz-'' expressing direction upwards or outwards: ''uzīdan'' (''ʾwcytn''') 'go out, end, expend', ''uzmūdan'' (ʾzmwtn') 'try out, experiment' # ''wi-'' expressing movement away or apart from something: ''rēxtan'' (''lyhtn''') 'flow' > ''wirēxtan'' (''OLYKWNtn''') 'escape, run away'.


Compounding is very productive. The following types are common: 1.
bahuvrihi A ''bahuvrihi'' compound (from sa, बहुव्रीहि, tr=bahuvrīhi, lit=much rice/having much rice, originally referring to fertile land but later denoting the quality of being wealthy or rich) is a type of compound (linguistics), comp ...
or possessive compound, a compound adjective or noun of the structure Modifier + Noun, designating the possessor of what the second member designates: * ''wad-baxt'' (''wt' bʾxt'''), lit. 'bad' (''SLYA'') + 'fortune' = 'who has ill fortune', i.e. 'unfortunate'; : ''pād-uzwān'' (''pʾtʾwzwʾn'''), lit. 'protected' (''NTLWNt''') + 'tongue' (''ŠNA'') = 'who has protected tongue', i.e. 'reticent'; :''čahār-pāy'' (''chʾlpʾd''), lit. 'four' (''ALBA'') + 'leg' (''LGLE''), 'which has four legs', i.e. 'quadruped, animal'. The modifier is usually an adjective or another part of speech that typically modifies nouns. 2. A determinative compound noun of the structure Modifier + Noun, designating a subset of the class that the second member designates: : ''kār-nāmag'' (''kʾl nʾmk'''), lit. 'deed' + 'book', a 'book of deeds', i.e. a biography. The modifier is usually a noun, less cderived/ borrowed words from Middle Persian commonly an adjective as in ''weh-dēn'' (''ŠPYLdyn'''), lit. 'good' + 'religion' = 'Zoroastrianism'. 3. A determinative compound adjective or noun of the structure Modifier + Deverbal Noun or Participle: : ''anāg-kerdār'' (''ʾnʾk' kltʾl''), lit. 'evil' + 'doer' = 'evildoer'; :''Ōhrmazd-dād'' (''ʾwhrmzd dʾt''), lit. 'Ahuramazda' + 'given' (''YHBWNt''') = 'given, created by Ahuramazda'. 4. A determinative compound adjective or noun of the structure Modifier + Present Verb Stem. The meaning is of an agent noun: : ''axtar'' (''ʾhtl'') 'star', ''āmārdan'' (''ʾmʾldn''') 'calculate' > ''axtar-(ā)mār'', lit. 'star' + 'calculate' = 'astrologer' An uncommon type is the copulative ( dvandva) type that combines two stems on equal terms – some possible examples are: : ''rōz-šabān'' (''lwc špʾn''), lit. 'day' (''YWM'') + 'night' (''LYLYA'') + ''-ān'' = 'a 24-hour period'; and :''uštar-gāw-palang'' (''wštlgʾwp̄plng''), lit. 'camel' (''GMRA'') + 'ox' (''TWRA'') + 'leopard' (''płng'').


The numeral system is decimal. The numerals usually don't inflect, but may take the plural ending when preceding the noun they modify, e.g. Manichaean ''sēnān anōšagān'' 'the three immortals'.Расторгуева & Молчанова 1981: 79 The numerals are usually spelt in Pahlavi as digits, but there are also Aramaeograms for the cardinals from 1 to 10.Расторгуева & Молчанова 1981: 77-78

Cardinal numerals

The cardinal ones from one to ten are: The teens are mostly formed by combining the relevant number of units and the word ''dah'' 'ten', but there are some voicings, epentheses of /z/, elisions and unpredictable alternations at the morpheme boundaries. The tens often bear some resemblance to the correspondent units and sometimes end in -''ād'' or -''ad'', but often aren't synchronically analysable: The hundreds combine the relevant unit and the word ''sad'' 'hundred' (e.g. ''hašt sad'' for 800), except for 200, which is ''duwēst''. One thousand is ''hazār'', and multiples of it are formed again on the pattern ''hašt hazār'' and so on, but there is also a special numeral for 10 000, ''bēwar'' (spelt ''bywl''). Compound numerals may be formed with or without the conjunction ''ud'' 'and': ''čihl ud čahār'' or ''čihl čahār''. Fractions simply conjoin the cardinal numerals of the denominator and the numerator: ''sē-ēk (ī ...)'' 'one third (of ...)', and may also take the 'indefinite article' ''-ēw''. Another notable derivation is the one in ''-gānag'' meaning '-fold', e.g. ''sēgānag'' (''3-kʾnk'') 'triple'. Cardinal numerals may precede or follow the noun; the noun is usually in the singular, but may be in the plural, too.

Ordinal numerals

Ordinal numerals are formed regularly by adding the ending ''-om'' (sp. ''-wm'') to the corresponding cardinal numeral: e.g. ''haft-om'' (''7-wm'') 'seven-th'. After vowels, a semivowel is inserted before ''-om'': ''-y-'' after the front vowels ''e'' and ''i'', and ''-w-'' after the back vowel ''o'': thus, 3rd can be ''sē-y-om'', 30th is ''sī-y-om'', 2nd is ''dō-w-om''. While this regular pattern can be applied even to the first three numerals, they also have more common irregular variants: ''fradom'' (''pltwm'') 'first', ''dudīgar'' or ''didīgar'' (''dtykl'') 'second', ''sidīgar'' (''stykl'') 'third'. The final ''ar'' may be absent in Manichaean texts: ''dudīg'' (''dwdyg'') and ''sidīg'' (''sdyg''). Furthermore, 'first' may also occur as ''naxust'' (''nhwst''') and ''nazdist'' (''nzdst) and 'second' may also occur as ''did'' (''TWB'', ''dt'''), which also means 'another', and ''didom''. 'Fourth' can also be ''tasom'' (''tswm''). Like the cardinal numbers, the ordinal ones can occur before or after the noun, and in the latter case, they may be linked to it by the relative particle ''ī''.


The usual word order is subject – object – verb, although there are deviations from it. As already mentioned, genitive and adjective modifiers usually precede their heads if unmarked as such, but adjectives can also be placed after their heads, and a modifier introduced by the relative particle ''ī'' is placed after its head, unless appended to a demonstrative pronoun modifying the phrase head (pronoun + ''ī'' + modifier + head). The language uses prepositions, but they may end up as postpositions if their logical complements are enclitic pronouns or relative pronouns. The enclitic pronouns are normally appended to the first word of the clause. Yes/no questions are only distinguished from statements by means of intonation.
Wh-question A question is an utterance which serves as a request for information. Questions are sometimes distinguished from interrogatives, which are the grammatical forms typically used to express them. Rhetorical questions, for instance, are interroga ...
s do not need to be introduced by the interrogative word either: ''war ... kū kard ēstēd?'' (''wl ... AYK krt' YKOYMWNyt''') 'Where has the shelter been made?' Certain verbs are used impersonally: the logical subject is absent or oblique, and the action is expressed by an infinitive or a dependent clause with a verb in the subjunctive. Thus the present tense of ''abāyistan'' 'be necessary, fitting' is used as follows: ''abāyēd raftan'' (''ʾp̄ʾdt' SGYTWNtn''' ), 'it is necessary to go'. Other verbs used like this, obligatorily or optionally, are ''sahistan'' (''MDMENstn''') 'seem', ''saz-'' (''sc'') 'be proper' (present tense only), ''šāyistan'' (''šʾdstn''') 'be possible', ''kāmistan'' (''YCBENstn''') 'want' (constructed like 'be desirable to s.o.') and ''wurrōyistan'' (''HYMNN-stn) 'believe' (constructed like 'seem credible to s.o.'). So are some nouns such as ''tuwān'' 'might, power': ''tuwān raftan'' (''twbʾn' SGYTWNtn''') 'one can go'. There are many phrasal verbs consisting of a nominal part of speech and a relatively abstract verb, most commonly ''kardan'' (''OBYDWNtn''' / ''krtn''') 'do', sometimes also ''dādan'' (''YHBWNtn''') 'to give', ''burdan'' (''YBLWNtn''') 'to bear', ''zadan'' (''MHYTWNtn''') 'to hit', etc. Some examples are ''duz kardan'' (''dwc krtn''') 'to steal', lit. 'to do a theft', ''framān dādan'' (''plmʾn' YHBWNtn'''), 'to command', lit. 'to give a command', ''āgāh kardan'' (''ʾkʾs krtn''') 'inform', lit. 'make informed'. The plural number was used in reference to kings, both in the first person (by the kings themselves), in the second person (when addressing a king) and in the third person (when referring to kings, e.g. ''awēšān bayān'', sp. ''OLEšʾn' ORHYAʾn'', 'Their Majesty', originally only the oblique case form). An action performed by a superior was introduced by the dummy verb ''framūdan'' 'order' governing an infinitive of the main verb: ''framāyē xwardan!'' (''prmʾdyd OŠTENʾn'') 'deign eat!'.


In contrast to the numerous Arameograms in Pahlavi spelling, there aren't many actual borrowings from Aramaic in Middle Persian; indeed, the number of borrowings in the language in general is remarkably small. An exception is the Middle Persian Psalter, which is a relatively literal translation of the
Peshitta The Peshitta ( syc, ܦܫܺܝܛܬܳܐ ''or'' ') is the standard version of the Bible for churches in the Syriac Christianity, Syriac tradition, including the Maronite Church, the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Syriac Catholic Church, the Syriac O ...
and does contain a sizable number of theology-related loans from
Syriac Syriac may refer to: *Syriac language, an ancient dialect of Middle Aramaic *Sureth, one of the modern dialects of Syriac spoken in the Nineveh Plains region * Syriac alphabet ** Syriac (Unicode block) ** Syriac Supplement * Neo-Aramaic languages a ...
: e.g. ''purkānā'' 'redemption'. Pahlavi often has more forms borrowed from Parthian than Manichaean does: e.g. Pahlavi ''zamestān'' (''zmstʾn''') vs Manichaean ''damestān'' (''dmstʾn'') 'winter'. Naturally, theological terms borrowed from Avestan occur in Zoroastrian Pahlavi, sometimes even in the original script, but often in 'Pahlavised' form or as loan translations:


A sample of Inscriptional Middle Persian: Kartir's inscription (Kartir KZ 1) on the Ka'ba-ye Zartosht

A sample of Manichaean Middle Persian: excerpt from the Shābuhragān

A sample of Psalter Pahlavi Middle Persian: Psalm 129

A sample of Book Pahlavi Middle Persian (historical narrative): Beginning of The Book of Ardā Wirāz

A sample of Book Pahlavi Middle Persian (legendary narrative): an excerpt from the Lesser Bundahišn

Sample of Book Pahlavi Middle Persian (theological discourse): excerpt from the Lesser Bundahišn 2


A sample Middle Persian poem from manuscript of Jamasp Asana:



There are a number of
affix In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. It is called a scientific study because it entails a comprehensive, systematic, objective, and precise analysis of all aspects of language, particularly its nature and ...
es in Middle Persian that did not survive into Modern Persian:

Location suffixes

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 cluster In linguistics, a consonant cluster, consonant sequence or consonant compound, is a group of consonants which have no intervening vowel. In English, for example, the groups and are consonant clusters in the word ''splits''. In the education fie ...
s were very common in Middle Persian (e.g. spās "thanks"). However,
New Persian New Persian ( fa, فارسی نو), also known as Modern Persian () and Dari (), is the current stage of the Persian language spoken since the 8th to 9th centuries until now in Greater Iran and surroundings. It is conventionally divided into thre ...
does not allow initial consonant clusters, whereas final consonant clusters are common (e.g. asb "horse"). 1 Since many long vowels of Middle Persian did not survive, a number of
homophone A homophone () is a word that is Pronunciation, pronounced the same (to varying extent) as another word but differs in meaning. A ''homophone'' may also differ in spelling. The two words may be Spelling, spelled the same, for example ''rose'' ( ...
s 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 cognates 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 Classical Arabic ( ar, links=no, ٱلْعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلْفُصْحَىٰ, al-ʿarabīyah al-fuṣḥā) or Quranic Arabic is the standardized literary form of Arabic used from the 7th century and throughout the Middle Ages, most notab ...
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''. The exact Arabic renderings of the suffixes ''-ik/-ig'' and ''-ak/-ag'' is often used to deduce the different periods of borrowing. The following is a parallel word list of cognates:Joneidi, F. (1965). Dictionary of Pahlavi Ideograms (فرهنگ هزوارش هاي دبيره پهلوي) (p. 8). Balkh (نشر بلخ).

Comparison of Middle Persian and Modern Persian names

See also

Avestan Avestan (), or historically Zend, or by the speakers as Upastavakaena ( pas.taˈvakˈaeːna is an umbrella term for two Old Iranian languages: Old Avestan (spoken in the 2nd millennium BCE) and Younger Avestan (spoken in the 1st millennium B ...
Old Persian Old Persian is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages (the other being Avestan language, Avestan) and is the ancestor of Middle Persian (the language of Sasanian Empire). Like other Old Iranian languages, it was known to its native ...
New Persian New Persian ( fa, فارسی نو), also known as Modern Persian () and Dari (), is the current stage of the Persian language spoken since the 8th to 9th centuries until now in Greater Iran and surroundings. It is conventionally divided into thre ...
Parthian language The Parthian language, also known as Arsacid Pahlavi and Pahlawānīg, is an extinct ancient Northwestern Iranian language once spoken in Parthia, a region situated in present-day northeastern Iran and Turkmenistan. Parthian was the language of s ...
Persian language Persian (), also known by its endonym and exonym, endonym Farsi (, ', ), is a Western Iranian languages, Western Iranian language belonging to the Iranian languages, Iranian branch of the Indo-Iranian languages, Indo-Iranian subdivision of th ...
* Persian language#History *
Middle Persian literature Middle Persian literature is the corpus of written works composed in Middle Persian, that is, the Middle Iranian dialect of Persis, Persia proper, the region in the south-western corner of the Iranian plateau. Middle Persian was the prestige diale ...



* MacKenzie, D. N. 1986. ''A concise Pahlavi dictionary''. London: OUP * Maggi, Mauro and Paola Orsatti. 2018. From Old to New Persian. In: ''The Oxford Handbook of Persian Linguistics''. P. 7-52 * Nyberg, H. S. (1964): ''A Manual of Pahlavi I – Texts, Alphabets, Index, Paradigms, Notes and an Introduction'', Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. * Skjærvø, Prods Oktor. 1997. On the Middle Persian Imperfect. In ''Syntaxe des Langues Indoiraniennes anciennes'', ed. E. Pirart, AuOrSup 6 (Barcelona), 161–88. * Skjærvø, Prods Oktor. 2007. ''Introduction to Pahlavi''. Cambridge, Mass. * Skjærvø, Prods Oktor. 2009. Middle West Iranian. In Gernot Windfuhr (ed.), ''The Iranian Languages'', 196–278. London & New York: Routledge. * Sundermann, Werner. 1989. Mittelpersisch. In: ''Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum''. Herausgegeben von Rudiger Schmidt. Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag. P. 138–165. * Расторгуева, В. С. 1966. ''Среднеперсидский язык''. Москва: Издательство "Наука" * Расторгуева, В. С., Е. К. Молчанова. 1981. Среднеперсидский язык. In: ''Основы иранского языкознания, т. 2''. Москва: Издательство "Наука". P. 6-146

External links

* ''Lessons in Pahlavi-Pazend'' by S.D.Bharuchī and E.S.D.Bharucha (1908) at the
Internet Archive The Internet Archive is an American digital library with the stated mission of "universal access to all knowledge". It provides free public access to collections of digitized materials, including websites, software applications/games, music, ...

Part 1

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) *
Introduction to Pahlavi by Prods Oktor Skjærvø
(archived 2 November 2012)
Pahlavica: An online dictionary of Zoroastrian Middle Persian
{{Authority control History of the Persian language Languages attested from the 3rd century BC Languages extinct in the 11th century Extinct languages of Asia Extinct languages of Europe Medieval languages