15 Facts About Middle Persian


Middle Persian or Pahlavi, known by its endonym Parsik or Parsig in its later form, is a Western Middle Iranian language which became the literary language of the Sasanian Empire.

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The transition from Imperial Aramaic to Middle Persian 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.

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Under Sassanid hegemony, the Middle Persian language became a prestige dialect and thus came to be used by non-Persian Iranians.

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Under Arab influence, Iranian languages began to be written in Arabic script, while Middle Persian began to rapidly evolve into New Persian and the name parsik became Arabicized farsi.

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ISO 639 language code for Middle Persian is pal, which reflects the post-Sasanian era use of the term Pahlavi to refer to the language and not only the script.

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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.

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Texts in Middle Persian are found in remnants of Sasanian inscriptions and Egyptian papyri, coins and seals, fragments of Manichaean writings, and Zoroastrian literature, most of which was written down after the Sasanian era.

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Pahlavi Middle Persian is the language of quite a large body of literature which details the traditions and prescriptions of Zoroastrianism, which was the state religion of Sasanian Iran before the Muslim conquest of Persia.

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The earliest texts in Zoroastrian Middle Persian were probably written down in late Sasanian times, although they represent the codification of earlier oral tradition.

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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.

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Furthermore, some forms of Middle Persian appear to have preserved j 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:.

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The resulting late Middle Persian system looks as follows, as exemplified with the words mard 'man' and k?f 'mountain':.

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Middle Persian verb has two stems – a present stem and a past stem, which coincides with the past participle.

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Since Manichaean Middle Persian retains synthetic past (imperfect) forms of the copula, it is 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):.

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Since many long vowels of Middle Persian did not survive, a number of homophones were created in New Persian.

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