Avestan alphabet

The Avestan alphabet is a writing system developed during Iran's Sassanid era (226–651 CE) to render the Avestan language.

As a side effect of its development, the script was also used for Pazend, a method of writing Middle Persian that was used primarily for the Zend commentaries on the texts of the Avesta. In the texts of Zoroastrian tradition, the alphabet is referred to as din dabireh or din dabiri, Middle Persian for "the religion's script".

Bodleian J2 fol 175 Y 28 1
LanguagesAvestan language, Middle Persian
Time period
400–1000 CE
Parent systems
ISO 15924Avst, 134
Unicode alias


The development of the Avestan alphabet was initiated by the need to represent recited Avestan language texts correctly. The various text collections that today constitute the canon of Zoroastrian scripture are the result of a collation that occurred in the 4th century, probably during the reign of Shapur II (309–379). It is likely that the Avestan alphabet was an ad hoc[1] innovation related to this – "Sassanid archetype" – collation.

The enterprise, "which is indicative of a Mazdean revival and of the establishment of a strict orthodoxy closely connected with the political power, was probably caused by the desire to compete more effectively with Buddhists, Christians, and Manicheans, whose faith was based on a revealed book".[1] In contrast, the Zoroastrian priesthood had for centuries been accustomed to memorizing scripture — following by rote the words of a teacher-priest until they had memorized the words, cadence, inflection and intonation of the prayers. This they passed on to their pupils in turn, so preserving for many generations the correct way to recite scripture. This was necessary because the priesthood considered (and continue to consider) precise and correct enunciation and cadence a prerequisite of effective prayer. Further, the recitation of the liturgy was (and is) accompanied by ritual activity that leaves no room to attend to a written text.

The ability to correctly render Avestan did, however, have a direct benefit: By the common era the Avestan language words had almost ceased to be understood, which led to the preparation of the Zend texts (from Avestan zainti "understanding"), that is commentaries on and translations of the canon. The development of the Avestan alphabet allowed these commentaries to interleave quotation of scripture with explanation thereof. The direct effect of these texts was a "standardized" interpretation of scripture that survives to the present day. For scholarship these texts are enormously interesting since they occasionally preserve passages that have otherwise been lost.

The 9th–12th century texts of Zoroastrian tradition suggest that there was once a much larger collection of written Zoroastrian literature, but these texts — if they ever existed — have since been lost, and it is hence not known what script was used to render them. The question of the existence of a pre-Sassanid "Arsacid archetype" occupied Avestan scholars for much of the 19th century, and, "[w]hatever may be the truth about the Arsacid Avesta, the linguistic evidence shows that even if it did exist, it can not have had any practical influence, since no linguistic form in the Vulgate can be explained with certainty as resulting from wrong transcription and the number of doubtful cases is minimal; in fact it is being steadily reduced. Though the existence of an Arsacid archetype is not impossible, it has proved to contribute nothing to Avestan philology."[1]

Genealogy and script

The Pahlavi script, upon which the Avestan alphabet is based, was in common use for representing various Middle Iranian languages, but was not adequate for representing a religious language that demanded precision since Pahlavi was a simplified abjad syllabary with at most 22 symbols, most of which were ambiguous (i.e. could represent more than one sound).

In contrast, Avestan was a full alphabet, with explicit characters for vowels, and allowed for phonetic disambiguation of allophones. The alphabet included many characters (a, i, k, t, p, b, m, n, r, s, z, š, xv) from cursive Pahlavi, while some (ā, γ) are characters that only exist in the Psalter Pahlavi variant (in cursive Pahlavi γ and k have the same symbol).[2] Some of the vowels, such as ə appear to derive from Greek minuscules.[2] Avestan o is a special form of Pahlavi l that exists only in Aramaic signs. Some letters (e.g. ŋ́, , , v), are free inventions.[3]

Avestan script, like Pahlavi script and Aramaic script also, is written from right to left. In Avestan script, letters are not connected, and ligatures are "rare and clearly of secondary origin".[2]


Das Buch der Schrift (Faulmann) 106
Avestan chart by Carl Faulmann
Encyclopedie volume 2-183
Avestan chart on p138 in l'Encyclopédie
Encyclopedie volume 2-184
Avestan chart on p134 in l'Encyclopédie

In total, the Avestan alphabet has 37 consonants and 16 vowels. There are two main transcription schemes for Avestan, the newer style used by Karl Hoffmann and the older style used by Christian Bartholomae.

Avestan alphabet
Letter Transcription[4] IPA Unicode
Hoff. Bar.
𐬀 a a /a/ U+10B00: AVESTAN LETTER A
𐬁 ā ā /aː/ U+10B01: AVESTAN LETTER AA
𐬂 å /ɒ/ U+10B02: AVESTAN LETTER AO
𐬃 ā̊ å /ɒː/ U+10B03: AVESTAN LETTER AAO
𐬄 ą ą /ã/ U+10B04: AVESTAN LETTER AN
𐬅 ą̇ /ã/ U+10B05: AVESTAN LETTER AAN
𐬆 ə ə /ə/ U+10B06: AVESTAN LETTER AE
𐬇 ə̄ ə̄ /əː/ U+10B07: AVESTAN LETTER AEE
𐬈 e e /e/ U+10B08: AVESTAN LETTER E
𐬉 ē ē /eː/ U+10B09: AVESTAN LETTER EE
𐬊 o o /ɔ/ U+10B0A: AVESTAN LETTER O
𐬋 ō ō /oː/ U+10B0B: AVESTAN LETTER OO
𐬌 i i /ɪ/ U+10B0C: AVESTAN LETTER I
𐬍 ī ī /iː/ U+10B0D: AVESTAN LETTER II
𐬎 u u /ʊ/ U+10B0E: AVESTAN LETTER U
𐬏 ū ū /uː/ U+10B0F: AVESTAN LETTER UU
𐬐 k k /k/ U+10B10: AVESTAN LETTER KE
𐬑 x x /x/ U+10B11: AVESTAN LETTER XE
𐬒 /xʲ/, /ç/ U+10B12: AVESTAN LETTER XYE
𐬓 xᵛ xᵛ /xʷ/ U+10B13: AVESTAN LETTER XVE
𐬔 g g /ɡ/ U+10B14: AVESTAN LETTER GE
𐬕 ġ /ɡʲ/, /ɟ/ U+10B15: AVESTAN LETTER GGE
𐬖 γ γ /j/ U+10B16: AVESTAN LETTER GHE
𐬗 c č /t͡ʃ/ U+10B17: AVESTAN LETTER CE
𐬘 j ǰ /d͡ʒ/ U+10B18: AVESTAN LETTER JE
𐬙 t t /t/ U+10B19: AVESTAN LETTER TE
𐬛 d d /d/ U+10B1B: AVESTAN LETTER DE
𐬞 p p /p/ U+10B1E: AVESTAN LETTER PE
𐬟 f f /f/ U+10B1F: AVESTAN LETTER FE
𐬠 b b /b/ U+10B20: AVESTAN LETTER BE
𐬡 β w /β/ U+10B21: AVESTAN LETTER BHE
𐬢 ŋ ŋ /ŋ/ U+10B22: AVESTAN LETTER NGE
𐬣 ŋ́ ŋ́ /ŋʲ/ U+10B23: AVESTAN LETTER NGYE
𐬤 ŋᵛ /ŋʷ/ U+10B24: AVESTAN LETTER NGVE
𐬥 n n /n/ U+10B25: AVESTAN LETTER NE
𐬧 n, m /ŋ/
𐬨 m m /m/ U+10B28: AVESTAN LETTER ME
𐬩 /m̥/, /mʰ/
𐬌𐬌 ii /ii̯/[5] U+10B0C: AVESTAN LETTER I (doubled)
𐬬 v v /v/
𐬎𐬎 uu /uu̯/[5] U+10B0E: AVESTAN LETTER U (doubled)
𐬭 r r /r/ U+10B2D: AVESTAN LETTER RE
𐬯 s s /s/ U+10B2F: AVESTAN LETTER SE
𐬰 z z /z/ U+10B30: AVESTAN LETTER ZE
𐬱 š š /ʃ/ U+10B31: AVESTAN LETTER SHE
𐬲 ž ž /ʒ/ U+10B32: AVESTAN LETTER ZHE
𐬳 š́ š /ɕ/ U+10B33: AVESTAN LETTER SHYE
𐬴 ṣ̌ /ʂ/
𐬵 h h /h/ U+10B35: AVESTAN LETTER HE
Letter Hoff. Bar. IPA Unicode

Later, when writing Middle Persian in the script (i.e. Pazend), another consonant 𐬮 was added to represent the /l/ phoneme that didn't exist in the Avestan language.


List of Avestan ligatures according to Skjærvø (2003)

Four ligatures are commonly used in Avestan manuscripts:[6]

  • 𐬱 (š) + 𐬀 (a) = 𐬱𐬀 (ša)
  • 𐬱 (š) + 𐬗 (c) = 𐬱𐬗 (šc)
  • 𐬱 (š) + 𐬙 (t) = 𐬱𐬙 (št)
  • 𐬀 (a) + 𐬵 (h) = 𐬀𐬵 (ah)

U+200C ZERO WIDTH NON-JOINER can be used to prevent ligatures if desired. For example, compare 𐬱𐬀 (U+10B31 10B00) with 𐬱‌𐬀 (U+10B31 200C 10B00).

Fossey[7] lists 16 ligatures, but most are formed by the interaction of swash tails.


Words and the end of the first part of a compound are separated by a dot (in a variety of vertical positions). Beyond that, punctuation is weak or non-existent in the manuscripts, and in the 1880s Karl Friedrich Geldner had to devise one for standardized transcription. In his system, which he developed based on what he could find, a triangle of three dots serves as a colon, a semicolon, an end of sentence or end of section; which is determined by the size of the dots and whether there is one dot above and two below, or two above and one below. Two above and one below signify — in ascending order of "dot" size — colon, semicolon, end of sentence or end of section.

Avestan punctuation[6]
Mark Function Unicode
word separator U+2E31: WORD SEPARATOR MIDDLE DOT
𐬹 abbreviation or repetition U+10B39: AVESTAN ABBREVIATION MARK
𐬽 alternative mark for end of sentence
(found in Avestan texts but not used by Geldner)
𐬾 end of section
(may be doubled for extra finality)
𐬿 alternative mark for end of section
(found in Avestan texts but not used by Geldner)


The Avestan alphabet was added to the Unicode Standard in October, 2009 with the release of version 5.2.

The characters are encoded at U+10B00—10B35 for letters (ii and uu are not represented as single characters, but as sequences of characters[8]) and U+10B38—10B3F for punctuation.

Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+10B0x 𐬀 𐬁 𐬂 𐬃 𐬄 𐬅 𐬆 𐬇 𐬈 𐬉 𐬊 𐬋 𐬌 𐬍 𐬎 𐬏
U+10B1x 𐬐 𐬑 𐬒 𐬓 𐬔 𐬕 𐬖 𐬗 𐬘 𐬙 𐬚 𐬛 𐬜 𐬝 𐬞 𐬟
U+10B2x 𐬠 𐬡 𐬢 𐬣 𐬤 𐬥 𐬦 𐬧 𐬨 𐬩 𐬪 𐬫 𐬬 𐬭 𐬮 𐬯
U+10B3x 𐬰 𐬱 𐬲 𐬳 𐬴 𐬵 𐬹 𐬺 𐬻 𐬼 𐬽 𐬾 𐬿
1.^ As of Unicode version 11.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points


  1. ^ a b c Kellens 1989, p. 36.
  2. ^ a b c Hoffmann 1989, p. 49.
  3. ^ Hoffmann 1989, p. 50.
  4. ^ Gippert, Jost (2012). "The Encoding of Avestan – Problems and Solutions" (PDF). JLCL: Journal for Language Technology and Computational Linguistics. 27 (2). Retrieved 2017-08-25.
  5. ^ a b c Skjærvø, Pods Octor (1996). "Aramaic Scripts for Iranian Languages". In Daniels, Peter T.; Bright, William. The World's Writing Systems. Oxford University Press. pp. 527–528. ISBN 978-0195079937.
  6. ^ a b "The Unicode Standard, Chapter 10.7: Avestan" (PDF). Unicode Consortium. June 2018.
  7. ^ Fossey 1948, p. 49.
  8. ^ Everson & Pournader 2007, p. 4


  • Dhalla, Maneckji Nusservanji (1938), History of Zoroastrianism, New York: OUP.
  • Everson, Michael; Pournader, Roozbeh (2007), Revised proposal to encode the Avestan script in the SMP of the UCS (PDF), retrieved 2007-06-10.
  • Fossey, Charles (1948), "Notices sur les caractères étrangers anciens et modernes rédigées par une groupe de savants", Nouvelle édition mise à jour à l’occasion du 21e Congrès des Orientalistes, Paris: Imprimerie Nationale de France.
  • Hoffmann, Karl (1989), "Avestan language", Encyclopaedia Iranica, 3, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, pp. 47–52.
  • Hoffmann, Karl; Forssman, Bernhard (1996), Avestische Laut- und Flexionslehre (in German), Innsbruck: Innsbrucker Beiträge zur Sprachwissenschaft, ISBN 3-85124-652-7.
  • Kellens, Jean (1989), "Avesta", Encyclopaedia Iranica, 3, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, pp. 35–44.

Avestan , also known historically as Zend, refers to two languages: Old Avestan (spoken in the 2nd millennium BCE) and Younger Avestan (spoken in the 1st millennium BCE). The languages are known only from their use as the language of Zoroastrian scripture (the Avesta), from which they derive their name. Both are early Iranian languages, a branch of the Indo-Iranian languages within the Indo-European family. Its immediate ancestor was the Proto-Iranian language, a sister language to the Proto-Indo-Aryan language, with both having developed from the earlier Proto-Indo-Iranian. As such, Old Avestan is quite close in grammar and lexicon with Vedic Sanskrit, the oldest preserved Indo-Aryan language.

The Avestan text corpus was composed in ancient Arachosia, Aria, Bactria, and Margiana, corresponding to the entirety of present-day Afghanistan, and parts of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The Yaz culture of Bactria-Margiana has been regarded as a likely archaeological reflection of the early "Eastern Iranian" culture described in the Avesta.

Avestan's status as a sacred language has ensured its continuing use for new compositions long after the language ceased to be a living language.

Gujarati alphabet

The Gujarati script (ગુજરાતી લિપિ Gujǎrātī Lipi) is an abugida, like all Nagari writing systems, and is used to write the Gujarati and Kutchi languages. It is a variant of Devanagari script differentiated by the loss of the characteristic horizontal line running above the letters and by a number of modifications to some characters.

Gujarati numerical digits are also different from their Devanagari counterparts.

Index of Zoroastrianism-related articles

This is an alphabetical list of topics related to Zoroastrianism. This list is not complete, please add more to it as needed.

Iranian literature

Iranian literature, or Iranic literature, refers to the literary traditions of the Iranian languages, developed predominantly in Iran and other regions in the Middle East and the Caucasus, eastern Asia Minor, and parts of western Central Asia and northwestern South Asia. These include works attested from as early as the 6th century BC. Modern Iranian literatures include Persian literature, Ossetian literature, Kurdish literature, Pashto literature, and Balochi literature, among others.

List of writing systems

This is a list of writing systems (or scripts), classified according to some common distinguishing features. There are at least 3,866 languages that make use of an established writing system.The usual name of the script is given first; the name of the language(s) in which the script is written follows (in brackets), particularly in the case where the language name differs from the script name. Other informative or qualifying annotations for the script may also be provided.

Manichaean alphabet

Manichaean script is an abjad-based writing system rooted in the Semitic family of alphabets and associated with the spread of Manichaean religion from southwest to central Asia and beyond, beginning in the 3rd century CE. It bears a sibling relationship to early forms of the Pahlavi script, both systems having developed from the Imperial Aramaic alphabet, in which the Achaemenid court rendered its particular, official dialect of the Aramaic language. Unlike Pahlavi, Manichaean script reveals influences from Sogdian script, which in turn descends from the Syriac branch of Aramaic. Manichaean script is so named because Manichaean texts attribute its design to Mani himself. Middle Persian is written with this alphabet.

Mater lectionis

In the spelling of Hebrew and some other Semitic languages, matres lectionis (English: ; from Latin "mothers of reading", singular form: mater lectionis, from Hebrew: אֵם קְרִיאָה‎, 'em k'riya') refers to the use of certain consonants to indicate a vowel. The letters that do this in Hebrew are aleph א, he ה, waw ו and yod י. The yod and waw in particular are more often vowels than they are consonants.

In Arabic, the matres lectionis (though they are much less often referred to thus) are alif ا, wāw و, yā’ ي and to some extend hā’ ه.

The original value of the matres lectionis correspond closely to what is called in modern linguistics glides or semivowels.

Middle Persian

Middle Persian also known as Pahlavi or Parsik (𐭯𐭠𐭫𐭮𐭩𐭪 pārsīg), is the Middle Iranian language or ethnolect of southwestern Iran that during the Sasanian Empire (224–654) became a prestige dialect and so came to be spoken in other regions of the empire as well. Middle Persian is classified as a Western Iranian language. It descends from Old Persian and is the linguistic ancestor of Modern Persian.

Traces of Middle Persian, or Parsik, are found in remnants of Sasanian inscriptions and Egyptian papyri, coins and seals, fragments of Manichaean writings, and treatises and Zoroastrian books from the Sasanian era, as well as in the post-Sasanian Zoroastrian variant of the language sometimes known as Pahlavi, which originally referred to the Pahlavi scripts, and that was also the preferred writing system for several other Middle Iranian languages. Aside from the Aramaic alphabet-derived Pahlavi script, Zoroastrian Middle Persian was occasionally also written in Pazend, a system derived from the Avestan alphabet that, unlike Pahlavi, indicated vowels and did not employ logograms. Manichaean Middle Persian texts were written in the Manichaean alphabet, which also derives from Aramaic but in an Eastern Iranian form via the Sogdian alphabet.

Old Persian

Old Persian is one of the two directly attested Old Iranian languages (the other being Avestan). Old Persian appears primarily in the inscriptions, clay tablets and seals of the Achaemenid era (c. 600 BCE to 300 BCE). Examples of Old Persian have been found in what is now Iran, Romania (Gherla), Armenia, Bahrain, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt, with the most important attestation by far being the contents of the Behistun Inscription (dated to 525 BCE). Recent research (2007) into the vast Persepolis Fortification Archive at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago have unearthed Old Persian tablets, which suggest Old Persian was a written language in use for practical recording and not only for royal display.

Old Persian cuneiform

Old Persian cuneiform is a semi-alphabetic cuneiform script that was the primary script for Old Persian. Texts written in this cuneiform have been found in Iran (Persepolis, Susa, Hamadan, Kharg Island), Armenia, Romania (Gherla), Turkey (Van Fortress), and along the Suez Canal. They were mostly inscriptions from the time period of Darius I, such as the DNa inscription, as well as his son, Xerxes I. Later kings down to Artaxerxes III used more recent forms of the language classified as "pre-Middle Persian".

Pahlavi scripts

Pahlavi or Pahlevi is a particular, exclusively written form of various Middle Iranian languages. The essential characteristics of Pahlavi are

the use of a specific Aramaic-derived script;

the high incidence of Aramaic words used as heterograms (called hozwārishn, "archaisms").Pahlavi compositions have been found for the dialects/ethnolects of Parthia, Persis, Sogdiana, Scythia, and Khotan. Independent of the variant for which the Pahlavi system was used, the written form of that language only qualifies as Pahlavi when it has the characteristics noted above.

Pahlavi is then an admixture of

written Imperial Aramaic, from which Pahlavi derives its script, logograms, and some of its vocabulary.

spoken Middle Iranian, from which Pahlavi derives its terminations, symbol rules, and most of its vocabulary.Pahlavi may thus be defined as a system of writing applied to (but not unique for) a specific language group, but with critical features alien to that language group. It has the characteristics of a distinct language, but is not one. It is an exclusively written system, but much Pahlavi literature remains essentially an oral literature committed to writing and so retains many of the characteristics of oral composition.

Pamir languages

The Pamir languages are an areal group of the Eastern Iranian languages, spoken by numerous people in the Pamir Mountains, primarily along the Panj River and its tributaries.

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the Pamir language family was sometimes referred to as the Ghalchah languages by western scholars. The term Ghalchah is no longer used to refer to the Pamir languages or the native speakers of these languages.

One of the most prolific researchers of the Pamir languages was Soviet linguist Ivan Ivanovich Zarubin.


Pazend () or Pazand (Middle Persian: 𐭯𐭠𐭰𐭭𐭣‎; Avestan: 𐬞𐬀𐬌𐬙𐬌 𐬰𐬀𐬌𐬥𐬙𐬌‎) is one of the writing systems used for the Middle Persian language. It was based on the Avestan alphabet, a phonetic alphabet originally used to write Avestan, the language of the Avesta, the primary sacred texts of Zoroastrianism.

Pazend's principal use was for writing the commentaries (Zend) on and/or translations of the Avesta. The word "Pazend" ultimately derives from the Avestan words paiti zainti, which can be translated as either "for commentary purposes" or "according to understanding" (phonetically).

Pazend had the following characteristics, both of which are to be contrasted with Pahlavi, which is one of the other systems used to write Middle Persian:

Pazend was a variant of the Avestan alphabet (Din dabireh), which was a phonetic alphabet. In contrast, Pahlavi script was only an abjad.

Pazend did not have ideograms. In contrast, ideograms were an identifying feature of the Pahlavi system, and these huzvarishn were words borrowed from Semitic languages such as Aramaic that continued to be spelled as in Aramaic (in Pahlavi script) but were pronounced as the corresponding word in Persian.

In combination with its religious purpose, these features constituted a "sanctification" of written Middle Persian. The use of the Avestan alphabet to write Middle Persian required the addition of one symbol to the Avestan alphabet: This character, to support Middle Persian's /l/, phoneme had not previously been needed.

Following the fall of the Sassanids, after which Zoroastrianism came to be gradually supplanted by Islam, Pazend lost its purpose and soon ceased to be used for original composition. In the late 11th or early 12th century, Indian Zoroastrians (the Parsis) began translating Avestan or Middle Persian texts into Sanskrit and Gujarati. Some Middle Persian texts were also transcribed into the Avestan alphabet. The latter process, being a form of interpretation, was known as 'pa-zand'. "Pazand texts, transcribed phonetically, represent a late and often corrupt Middle Persian pronunciation, and so present their own problems." "The corruptions during this process are sometimes considerable." Among the transcribed texts are the prefaces (dibacheh) to prayers in Avestan. These prefatory prayers are invariably written in Pazend because of the need for "accurate" pronunciation. This practice has led to the misconception that "Pazend" is the name of a language.

Following Abraham Hyacinthe Anquetil-Duperron's translation of some of the texts of the Avesta in the late 18th century, the term "Zend-Avesta" was mistakenly used to refer to the sacred texts themselves (as opposed to commentaries on them). This usage subsequently led to the equally mistaken use of "Pazend" for the Avestan script as such and "Zend" for the Avestan language.

Persian language

Persian (), also known by its endonym Farsi (فارسی fārsi [fɒːɾˈsiː] (listen)), is one of the Western Iranian languages within the Indo-Iranian branch of the Indo-European language family. It is primarily spoken in Iran, Afghanistan (officially known as Dari since 1958), and Tajikistan (officially known as Tajiki since the Soviet era), Uzbekistan and some other regions which historically were Persianate societies and considered part of Greater Iran. It is written right to left in the Persian alphabet, a modified variant of the Arabic script, which itself evolved from the Aramaic alphabet.The Persian language is classified as a continuation of Middle Persian, the official religious and literary language of the Sasanian Empire, itself a continuation of Old Persian, the language of the Achaemenid Empire. Its grammar is similar to that of many contemporary European languages. A Persian-speaking person may be referred to as Persophone.There are approximately 110 million Persian speakers worldwide, with the language holding official status in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. For centuries, Persian has also been a prestigious cultural language in other regions of Western Asia, Central Asia, and South Asia by the various empires based in the regions.Persian has had a considerable (mainly lexical) influence on neighboring languages, particularly the Turkic languages in Central Asia, Caucasus, and Anatolia, neighboring Iranian languages, as well as Armenian, Georgian, and Indo-Aryan languages, especially Urdu (a register of Hindustani). It also exerted some influence on Arabic, particularly Bahrani Arabic, while borrowing much vocabulary from it after the Arab conquest of Iran.With a long history of literature in the form of Middle Persian before Islam, Persian was the first language in the Muslim world to break through Arabic's monopoly on writing, and the writing of poetry in Persian was established as a court tradition in many eastern courts. Some of the famous works of Persian literature are the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi, the works of Rumi, the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, the Panj Ganj of Nizami Ganjavi, the Divān of Hafez and the two miscellanea of prose and verse by Saadi Shirazi, the Gulistan and the Bustan.

Persian studies

Persian studies is the study of the Persian language and its literature specifically. It is differentiated from Iranian studies which is a broader, more interdisciplinary subject that focuses more on the histories and cultures of all Iranian peoples.

Phoenician alphabet

The Phoenician alphabet, called by convention the Proto-Canaanite alphabet for inscriptions older than around 1050 BC, is the oldest verified alphabet. It is an alphabet of abjad type, consisting of 22 consonant letters only, leaving vowel sounds implicit, although certain late varieties use matres lectionis for some vowels. It was used to write Phoenician, a Northern Semitic language, used by the ancient civilization of Phoenicia in modern-day Syria, Lebanon, and northern Israel.The Phoenician alphabet is derived from Egyptian hieroglyphs. It became one of the most widely used writing systems, spread by Phoenician merchants across the Mediterranean world, where it was adopted and modified by many other cultures. The Paleo-Hebrew alphabet is a local variant of Phoenician, as is the Aramaic alphabet, the ancestor of the modern Arabic. Modern Hebrew script is a stylistic variant of Aramaic. The Greek alphabet (with its descendants Latin, Cyrillic, Runic, and Coptic) also derives from Phoenician.

As the letters were originally incised with a stylus, they are mostly angular and straight, although cursive versions steadily gained popularity, culminating in the Neo-Punic alphabet of Roman-era North Africa.

Phoenician was usually written right to left, though some texts alternate directions (boustrophedon).

Phonetic transcription

Phonetic transcription (also known as phonetic script or phonetic notation) is the visual representation of speech sounds (or phones). The most common type of phonetic transcription uses a phonetic alphabet, such as the International Phonetic Alphabet.


In a right-to-left, top-to-bottom script (commonly shortened to right to left or abbreviated RTL), writing starts from the right of the page and continues to the left. This can be contrasted against left-to-right writing systems, where writing starts from the left of the page and continues to the right.

Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Urdu are the most widespread RTL writing systems in modern times.

Right-to-left can also refer to top-to-bottom, right-to-left (TB-RL or TBRL) scripts such as Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, though they are also commonly written left to right. Books designed for predominately TBRL vertical text open in the same direction as those for RTL horizontal text: the spine is on the right and pages are numbered from right-to-left.


Zend or Zand (Middle Persian :𐭦𐭭𐭣) is a Zoroastrian technical term for exegetical glosses, paraphrases, commentaries and translations of the Avesta's texts. The term zand is a contraction of the Avestan language word zainti 𐬰𐬀𐬌𐬥𐬙𐬌 , meaning "interpretation", or "as understood".

Zand glosses and commentaries exist in several languages, including in the Avestan language itself. These Avestan language exegeses sometimes accompany the original text being commented upon, but are more often elsewhere in the canon. An example of exegesis in the Avestan language itself includes Yasna 19-21, which is a set of three Younger Avestan commentaries on the three Gathic Avestan 'high prayers' of Yasna 27. Zand also appear to have once existed in a variety of Middle Iranian languages, but of these Middle Iranian commentaries, the Middle Persian zand is the only to survive fully, and is for this reason regarded as 'the' zand.With the notable exception of the Yashts, almost all surviving Avestan texts have their Middle Persian zand, which in some manuscripts appear alongside (or interleaved with) the text being glossed. The practice of including non-Avestan commentaries alongside the Avestan texts led to two different misinterpretations in western scholarship of the term zand; these misunderstandings are described below. These glosses and commentaries were not intended for use as theological texts by themselves but for religious instruction of the (by then) non-Avestan-speaking public. In contrast, the Avestan language texts remained sacrosanct and continued to be recited in the Avestan language, which was considered a sacred language. The Middle Persian zand can be subdivided into two subgroups, those of the surviving Avestan texts, and those of the lost Avestan texts.

A consistent exegetical procedure is evident in manuscripts in which the original Avestan and its zand coexist. The priestly scholars first translated the Avestan as literally as possible. In a second step, the priests then translated the Avestan idiomatically. In the final step, the idiomatic translation was complemented with explanations and commentaries, often of significant length, and occasionally with different authorities being cited.Several important works in Middle Persian contain selections from the zand of Avestan texts, also of Avestan texts which have since been lost. Through comparison of selections from lost texts and from surviving texts, it has been possible to distinguish between the translations of Avestan works and the commentaries on them, and thus to some degree reconstruct the content of some of the lost texts. Among those texts is the Bundahishn, which has Zand-Agahih ("Knowledge from the Zand") as its subtitle and is crucial to the understanding of Zoroastrian cosmogony and eschatology. Another text, the Wizidagiha, "Selections (from the Zand)", by the 9th century priest Zadspram, is a key text for understanding Sassanid-era Zoroastrian orthodoxy. The Denkard, a 9th or 10th century text, includes extensive summaries and quotations of zand texts.The priests' practice of including commentaries alongside the text being commented upon led to two different misunderstandings in 18th/19th century western scholarship:

The incorrect treatment of "Zend" and "Avesta" as synonyms and the mistaken use of "Zend-Avesta" as the name of Zoroastrian scripture. This mistake derives from a misunderstanding of the distinctions made by priests between manuscripts for scholastic use ("Avesta-with-Zand"), and manuscripts for liturgical use ("clean"). In western scholarship, the former class of manuscripts was misunderstood to be the proper name of the texts, hence the misnomer "Zend-Avesta" for the Avesta. In priestly use however, "Zand-i-Avesta" or "Avesta-o-Zand" merely identified manuscripts that are not suitable for ritual use since they are not "clean" (sade) of non-Avestan elements.

The mistaken use of Zend as the name of a language or script. In 1759, Anquetil-Duperron reported having been told that Zend was the name of the language of the more ancient writings. Similarly, in his third discourse, published in 1798, Sir William Jones recalls a conversation with a Hindu priest who told him that the script was called Zend, and the language Avesta. This mistake results from a misunderstanding of the term pazend, which actually denotes the use of the Avestan alphabet for writing certain Middle Persian texts. Rasmus Rask's seminal work, A Dissertation on the Authenticity of the Zend Language (Bombay, 1821), may have contributed to the confusion.Propagated by N. L. Westergaard's Zendavesta, or the religious books of the Zoroastrians (Copenhagen, 1852–54), by the early/mid 19th century, the confusion became too universal in Western scholarship to be easily reversed, and Zend-Avesta, although a misnomer, continued to be fashionable well into the 20th century.

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