Pahlavi scripts

Pahlavi or Pahlevi is a particular, exclusively written form of various Middle Iranian languages. The essential characteristics of Pahlavi are[1]

Pahlavi compositions have been found for the dialects/ethnolects of Parthia, Persis, Sogdiana, Scythia, and Khotan.[2] 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.

Pahlavi scripts
Alternative abjad, logographic
LanguagesMiddle Iranian languages
Time period
3rd century BC to 17th century AD (hypothetical)
2nd century BC to 17th century AD (attested)
Parent systems
Child systems
ISO 15924Phli, 131
 (Inscriptional Pahlavi)

Prti, 130
 (Inscriptional Parthian)
Phlp, 132
 (Psalter Pahlavi)

Phlv, 133
 (Book Pahlavi)
Unicode alias
Inscriptional Pahlavi


The term Pahlavi is said[3] to be derived from the Parthian language word parthav or parthau, meaning Parthia, a region just east of the Caspian Sea, with the -i suffix denoting the language and people of that region. If this etymology is correct, Parthav presumably became pahlaw through a semivowel glide rt (or in other cases rd) change to l, a common occurrence in language evolution (e.g. Arsacid sard became sal, zard>zal, vard>gol, sardar>salar etc.). The term has been traced back further[3] to Avestan pərəthu- "broad [as the earth]", also evident in Sanskrit pŗthvi- "earth" and parthivi "[lord] of the earth". Common to all Indo-Iranian languages is a connotation of "mighty".


The earliest attested use of Pahlavi dates to the reign of Arsaces I of Parthia (250 BC) in early Parthian coins with Pahlavi scripts.[4] There are also several Pahlavi texts written during the reign of Mithridates I (r. 171–138 BC).[5] The cellars of the treasury at Mithradatkird (near modern-day Nisa) reveal thousands of pottery sherds with brief records; several ostraca that are fully dated bear references to members of the immediate family of the king.[6]

Such fragments, as also the rock inscriptions of Sassanid kings, which are datable to the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, do not, however, qualify as a significant literary corpus. Although in theory Pahlavi could have been used to render any Middle Iranian language and hence may have been in use as early as 300 BC, no manuscripts that can be dated to before the 6th century AD have yet been found. Thus, when used for the name of a literary genre, i.e. Pahlavi literature, the term refers to Middle Iranian (mostly Middle Persian) texts dated near or after the fall of the Sassanid empire and (with exceptions) extending to about AD 900, after which Iranian languages enter the "modern" stage.

The oldest surviving example of the Pahlavi literature is from fragments of the so-called "Pahlavi Psalter", a 6th- or 7th-century-AD translation of a Syriac Psalter found at Bulayiq on the Silk Road, near Turpan in north-west China. It is in a more archaic script than Book Pahlavi.[7]

After the Muslim conquest of Persia, the Pahlavi script was replaced by the Arabic script, except in Zoroastrian sacred literature.

The replacement of the Pahlavi script with the Arabic script in order to write the Persian language was done by the Tahirids in 9th century Khurasan.[8][9]

In the present day, "Pahlavi" is frequently identified with the prestige dialect of south-west Iran, formerly and properly called Pārsi, after Pars (Persia proper). This practice can be dated to the period immediately following the Islamic conquest.[5]


The Pahlavi script is one of the two essential characteristics of the Pahlavi system (see above). Its origin and development occurred independently of the various Middle Iranian languages for which it was used. The Pahlavi script is derived from the Aramaic script as it was used under the Achaemenids, with modifications to support the phonology of the Iranian languages. It is essentially a typical abjad, where, in general, only long vowels are marked with matres lectionis (although short /i/ and /u/ are sometimes expressed so as well), and vowel-initial words are marked with an aleph. However, because of the high incidence of logograms derived from Aramaic words, the Pahlavi script is far from always phonetic; and even when it is phonetic, it may have more than one transliterational symbol per sign, because certain originally different Aramaic letters have merged into identical graphic forms – especially in the Book Pahlavi variety. (For a review of the transliteration problems of Pahlavi, see Henning.[10]) In addition to this, during much of its later history, Pahlavi orthography was characterized by historical or archaizing spellings. Most notably, it continued to reflect the pronunciation that preceded the widespread Iranian lenition processes, whereby postvocalic voiceless stops and affricates had become voiced, and voiced stops had become semivowels. Similarly, certain words continued to be spelt with postvocalic ⟨s⟩ and ⟨t⟩ even after the consonants had been debuccalized to ⟨h⟩ in the living language.

The Pahlavi script consisted of two widely used forms: Inscriptional Pahlavi and Book Pahlavi. A third form, Psalter Pahlavi, is not widely attested.

Inscriptional Parthian

Although the Parthian Arsacids generally wrote in Greek, some of the coins and seals of the Arsacid period (mid-3rd-century BC to early 3rd-century AD) also include inscriptions in the Parthian language. The script of these inscriptions is called inscriptional Parthian. Numerous clay fragments from Arsacid-era Parthia proper, in particular a large collection of fragments from Nisa that date to the reign of Mithridates I (r. 171–138 BC), are likewise inscribed in inscriptional Parthian. The bilingual and trilingual inscriptions of the early (3rd-century AD) Sassanids include Parthian texts, which were then also rendered in inscriptional Parthian. The Parthian language was a Middle Iranian language of Parthia proper, a region in the north-western segment of the Iranian plateau where the Arsacids had their power base.

Inscriptional Parthian script had 22 letters for sounds and 8 letters for numerals. The letters were not joined. Inscriptional Parthian has its own Unicode block.

Naqsh-e Rajab - Shapur parade - detail of inscription

Parthian (above), along with Greek (below) and Middle Persian was being used in inscriptions of early Sassanian kings. Shapur inscription in Naqsh-e Rajab

Inscriptional Pahlavi

Inscriptional Pahlavi is the name given to a variant of the Pahlavi script as used to render the 3rd–6th-century Middle Persian language inscriptions of the Sassanid kings and other notables. Genuine Middle Persian as it appears in these inscriptions was the Middle Iranian language of Persia proper, the region in the south-western corner of the Iranian plateau where the Sassanids had their power base.

Inscriptional Pahlavi script had 19 characters which were not joined.[11]

Gold-Münze Ardaschir I Sassaniden

Coin of Ardashir I (r. 224–242) with Inscriptional Pahlavi writings.

Taq-e Bostan - Pahlavi writing

Inscriptional Pahlavi text from Shapur III at Taq-e Bostan, 4th century

Naqshe Rajab Darafsh Ordibehesht 93 (1)

Kartir's inscription at Naqsh-e Rajab

MIK - Sassaniden Pahlavi-Monogramm

Sasanian relief with Inscriptional Pahlavi monogram.

Psalter Pahlavi

Psalter Pahlavi derives its name from the so-called "Pahlavi Psalter", a 6th- or 7th-century translation of a Syriac book of psalms. This text, which was found at Bulayiq near Turpan in northwest China, is the earliest evidence of literary composition in Pahlavi, dating to the 6th or 7th century AD.[12] The extant manuscript dates no earlier than the mid-6th century since the translation reflects liturgical additions to the Syriac original by Mar Aba I, who was Patriarch of the Church of the East c. 540–552.[13] Its use is peculiar to Christians in Iran, given its use in a fragmentary manuscript of the Psalms of David.[14]

The script of the psalms has altogether 18 graphemes, 5 more than Book Pahlavi and one less than Inscriptional Pahlavi. As in Book Pahlavi, letters are connected to each other. The only other surviving source of Psalter Pahlavi are the inscriptions on a bronze processional cross found at Herat, in present-day Afghanistan. Due to the dearth of comparable material, some words and phrases in both sources remain undeciphered.

Of the 18 characters, 9 connect in all four traditional abjad positions, while 9 connect only on their right or are isolated. Numbers are built from units of 1, 2, 3, 4, 10, 20, and 100. The numbers 10 and 20 join on both sides, but the numbers 1, 2, 3, and 4 only join on the right, and if they are followed by an additional digit, they lose their tail, which is visually evident in their isolated forms. There are 12 encoded punctuation characters, and many are similar to those found in Syriac. The section marks are written in half-red and half-black, and several documents have entire sections in both black and red, as a means of distinction.

Book Pahlavi

Book Pahlavi is a smoother script in which letters are joined to each other and often form complicated ligatures. Book Pahlavi was the most common form of the script, with only 12 or 13 graphemes (13 when including aleph) representing 24 sounds. The formal coalescence of originally different letters caused ambiguity, and the letters became even less distinct when they formed part of a ligature.[11] In its later forms, attempts were made to improve the consonantary and reduce ambiguity through diacritic marks.

Book Pahlavi continued to be in common use until about AD 900. After that date, Pahlavi was preserved only by the Zoroastrian clergy.


The word Ērān-šahr, spelled ʾylʾnštr', in Book Pahlavi.

Ispahbod Xurshid's coin-1

Coin of Ispahbod Khurshid (r. 740–760) with Book Pahlavi writings. Book Pahlavi, instead of Inscriptional Pahlavi, was used in late Middle Persian inscriptions.

Stone cross with Pahlavi inscription

Stone cross with Book Pahlavi writings. Valiyapalli Church in Kottayam, Kerala, India.


In both Inscriptional and Book Pahlavi, many common words, including even pronouns, particles, numerals, and auxiliaries, were spelled according to their Aramaic equivalents, which were used as logograms. For example, the word for "dog" was written as ⟨KLBʼ⟩ (Aramaic kalbā) but pronounced sag; and the word for "bread" would be written as Aramaic ⟨LḤMʼ⟩ (laḥmā) but understood as the sign for Iranian nān.[15] These words were known as huzvārishn. Such a logogram could also be followed by letters expressing parts of the Persian word phonetically, e.g. ⟨ʼB-tr⟩ for pitar "father". The grammatical endings were usually written phonetically. A logogram did not necessarily originate from the lexical form of the word in Aramaic, it could also come from a declined or conjugated Aramaic form. For example, "you" (singular) was spelt ⟨LK⟩ (Aramaic "to you", including the preposition l-). A word could be written phonetically even when a logogram for it existed (pitar could be ⟨ʼB-tr⟩ or ⟨pytr⟩), but logograms were nevertheless used very frequently in texts.

Many huzvarishn were listed in the lexicon Frahang-i Pahlavig. The practice of using these logograms appears to have originated from the use of Aramaic in the chancelleries of the Achaemenid Empire.[16] Partly similar phenomena are found in the use of Sumerograms and Akkadograms in ancient Mesopotamia and the Hittite empire, and in the adaptation of Chinese writing to Japanese.

Problems in reading Book Pahlavi

As pointed out above, the convergence in form of many of the characters of Book Pahlavi causes a high degree of ambiguity in most Pahlavi writing and it needs to be resolved by the context. Some mergers are restricted to particular groups of words or individual spellings. Further ambiguity is added by the fact that even outside of ligatures, the boundaries between letters are not clear, and many letters look identical to combinations of other letters. As an example, one may take the fact that the name of God, Ohrmazd, could equally be read (and, by Parsis, often was read) Anhoma. Historically speaking, it was spelt ⟨ʼwhrmzd⟩, a fairly straightforward spelling for an abjad. However, ⟨w⟩ had coalesced with ⟨n⟩; ⟨r⟩ had coalesced, in the spelling of certain words, with both ⟨n⟩ and ⟨w⟩; and ⟨z⟩ had been reduced, in the spelling of certain words, to a form whose combination with ⟨d⟩ was indistinguishable from a ⟨ʼ⟩, which in turn had coalesced with ⟨h⟩. This meant that the same orthographic form that stood for ⟨ʼwhrmzd⟩ could also be interpreted as ⟨ʼnhwmh⟩ (among many other possible readings). The logograms could also pose problems. For this reason, important religious texts were sometimes transcribed into the phonetically unambiguous Avestan alphabet. This latter system is called Pazend.

Literary dialects

From a formal historical and linguistic point of view, the Pahlavi script does not have a one-to-one correspondence with any Middle Iranian language: none was written in Pahlavi exclusively, and inversely, the Pahlavi script was used for more than one language. Still, the vast majority of surviving Pahlavi texts are in Middle Persian, hence the occasional use of the term "Pahlavi" to refer to that language.

Arsacid Pahlavi

Following the overthrow of the Seleucids, the Parthian Arsacids—who considered themselves the legitimate heirs of the Achaemenids—adopted the manner, customs and government of the Persian court of two centuries previously. Among the many practices so adopted was the use of the Aramaic language ("Imperial Aramaic") that together with Aramaic script served as the language of the chancellery. By the end of the Arsacid era, the written Aramaic words had come to be understood as logograms, as explained above.

The use of Pahlavi gained popularity following its adoption as the language/script of the commentaries (Zend) on the Avesta.[3][17] Propagated by the priesthood, who were not only considered to be transmitters of all knowledge but were also instrumental in government, the use of Pahlavi eventually reached all corners of the Parthian Arsacid empire.

Arsacid Pahlavi is also called Parthian Pahlavi (or just Parthian), Chaldeo-Pahlavi, or Northwest Pahlavi, the latter reflecting its apparent development from a dialect that was almost identical to that of the Medes.[2]

Sasanian Pahlavi

Following the defeat of the Parthian Arsacids by the Persian Sasanians (Sassanids), the latter inherited the empire and its institutions, and with it the use of the Aramaic-derived language and script. Like the Parthians before him, Ardeshir, the founder of the second Persian Empire, projected himself as a successor to the regnal traditions of the first, in particular those of Artaxerxes II, whose throne name the new emperor adopted.

From a linguistic point of view, there was probably only little disruption. Since the Sassanids had inherited the bureaucracy, in the beginning the affairs of government went on as before, with the use of dictionaries such as the Frahang-i Pahlavig assisting the transition. The royalty themselves came from a priestly tradition (Ardeshir's father and grandfather were both, in addition to being kings, also priests), and as such would have been proficient in the language and script. More importantly, being both Western Middle Iranian languages, Parthian was closely related to the dialect of the southwest (which was more properly called Pārsi,[5] that is, the language of Pārsā, Persia proper).

Arsacid Pahlavi did not die out with the Arsacids. It is represented in some bilingual inscriptions alongside the Sassanid Pahlavi; by the parchment manuscripts of Auroman; and by certain Manichaean texts from Turpan. Furthermore, the archaic orthography of Sasanian Pahlavi continued to reflect, in many respects, pronunciations that had been used in Arsacid times (in Parthia as well as Fars) and not its contemporary pronunciation.

Sasanian Pahlavi is also called Sassanid Pahlavi, Persian Pahlavi, or Southwest Pahlavi.

Post-conquest Pahlavi

Following the Islamic conquest of the Sassanids, the term Pahlavi came to refer to the (written) "language" of the southwest (i.e. Pārsi). How this came to pass remains unclear, but it has been assumed[5] that this was simply because it was the dialect that the conquerors would have been most familiar with.

As the language and script of religious and semi-religious commentaries, Pahlavi remained in use long after that language had been superseded (in general use) by Modern Persian and Arabic script had been adopted as the means to render it. As late as the 17th century, Zoroastrian priests in Iran admonished their Indian co-religionists to learn it.[18]

Post-conquest Pahlavi (or just Pahlavi) is also called Zoroastrian Pahlavi or Zoroastrian Middle Persian.


Tables showing the letters and their names or pronunciations are available online.[19]

Inscriptional Pahlavi and Inscriptional Parthian were added to the Unicode Standard in October 2009 with the release of version 5.2. Psalter Pahlavi was added in June 2014 with the release of version 7.0. There have been two main proposals for encoding Book Pahlavi.[20][21]

The Unicode block for Inscriptional Pahlavi is U+10B60–U+10B7F:

Inscriptional Pahlavi[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+10B6x 𐭠 𐭡 𐭢 𐭣 𐭤 𐭥 𐭦 𐭧 𐭨 𐭩 𐭪 𐭫 𐭬 𐭭 𐭮 𐭯
U+10B7x 𐭰 𐭱 𐭲 𐭸 𐭹 𐭺 𐭻 𐭼 𐭽 𐭾 𐭿
1.^ As of Unicode version 12.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

The Unicode block for Inscriptional Parthian is U+10B40–U+10B5F:

Inscriptional Parthian[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+10B4x 𐭀 𐭁 𐭂 𐭃 𐭄 𐭅 𐭆 𐭇 𐭈 𐭉 𐭊 𐭋 𐭌 𐭍 𐭎 𐭏
U+10B5x 𐭐 𐭑 𐭒 𐭓 𐭔 𐭕 𐭘 𐭙 𐭚 𐭛 𐭜 𐭝 𐭞 𐭟
1.^ As of Unicode version 12.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

The Unicode block for Psalter Pahlavi is U+10B80–U+10BAF:

Psalter Pahlavi[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F
U+10B8x 𐮀 𐮁 𐮂 𐮃 𐮄 𐮅 𐮆 𐮇 𐮈 𐮉 𐮊 𐮋 𐮌 𐮍 𐮎 𐮏
U+10B9x 𐮐 𐮑 𐮙 𐮚 𐮛 𐮜
U+10BAx 𐮩 𐮪 𐮫 𐮬 𐮭 𐮮 𐮯
1.^ As of Unicode version 12.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

See also


  1. ^ Geiger & Kuhn 2002, pp. 249ff.
  2. ^ a b Kent 1953
  3. ^ a b c Mirza 2002, p. 162.
  4. ^ Mirza 2002, p. 162, no citation, but probably referring to West 1904
  5. ^ a b c d Boyce 2002, p. 106.
  6. ^ Boyce 2002, p. 106 cf. Weber 1992.
  7. ^ Weber 1992, pp. 32–33.
  8. ^ Ira M. Lapidus (29 October 2012). Islamic Societies to the Nineteenth Century: A Global History. Cambridge University Press. pp. 256–. ISBN 978-0-521-51441-5.
  9. ^ Ira M. Lapidus (22 August 2002). A History of Islamic Societies. Cambridge University Press. pp. 127–. ISBN 978-0-521-77933-3.
  10. ^ Henning 1958, pp. 126–29.
  11. ^ a b Livinsky, BA; Guang‐Da, Zhang; Samghabadi, R Shabani; Masson, Vadim Mikhaĭlovich (March 1999), Dani, Ahmad Hasan, ed., History of civilizations of Central Asia, Multiple history, 3. The crossroads of civilizations: A.D. 250 to 750, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, p. 89, ISBN 978-81-208-1540-7.
  12. ^ Gignoux 2002.
  13. ^ Andreas 1910, pp. 869–872.
  14. ^
  15. ^ Nyberg 1974.
  16. ^ "Frahang-i Pahlavig", Encyclopedia Iranica.
  17. ^ Dhalla 1922, p. 269.
  18. ^ Dhabar 1932 R382
  19. ^ Pahlavi script, archived from the original on December 4, 2016 gives pronunciations. The Unicode files give the names: U+10B60–U+10B7F Inscriptional Pahlavi |U+10B40–U+10B5F Inscriptional Parthian |U+10B80–U+10BAF Psalter Pahlavi.
  20. ^ Pournader, Roozbeh (2013-07-24). "Preliminary proposal to encode the Book Pahlavi script in the Unicode Standard" (PDF). Unicode® Technical Committee Document Registry. Retrieved 2018-06-21.
  21. ^ Meyers, Abe (2014-05-09). "L2/14-077R: Proposal for Encoding Book Pahlavi (revised)" (PDF). Working Group Document, ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2/WG2 and UTC. Retrieved 2014-08-20.


  • Andreas, Friedrich Carl (1910), "Bruchstücke einer Pehlewi-Übersetzung der Psalmen aus der Sassanidenzeit", Sitzungsberichte der Königlich Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaft, Philosophisch-historische Klasse. (in German), Berlin: PAW, XLI (4): 869–72
  • ——— (2002), "The Parthians", in Godrej, Pheroza J., A Zoroastrian Tapestry, New York: Mapin
  • Boyce, Mary (1990), Textual Sources for the Study of Zoroastrianism, Chicago: UC Press
  • Dhabar, Bamanji Nusserwanji (1932), The Persian Rivayats of Hormazyar Framarz and others, Bombay: K. R. Cama Oriental Institute
  • Dhalla, Maneckji Nusservanji (1922), Zoroastrian Civilization, New York: OUP
  • Henning, Walter B. (1958), Altiranisch. Handbuch der Orientalistik. Erste Abteilung (in German), Band IV: Iranistik. Erster Abschnitt. Linguistik, Leiden-Köln: Brill
  • Geiger, Wilhelm; Kuhn, Ernst, eds. (2002), Grundriss der iranischen Philologie, I.1, Boston: Adamant
  • Gignoux, Philippe (2002), "Pahlavi Psalter", Encyclopedia Iranica, Costa Mesa: Mazda
  • Kent, Roland G. (1950), Old Persian: Grammar, texts, lexicon, New Haven: American Oriental Society
  • MacKenzie, D. N. (1971), A Concise Pahlavi Dictionary, London: Curzon Press
  • Mirza, Hormazdyar Kayoji (2002), "Literary treasures of the Zoroastrian priests", in Godrej, Pheroza J., A Zoroastrian Tapestry, New York: Mapin, pp. 162–163
  • Nyberg, Henrik Samuel (1974), A Manual of Pahlavi, Part II: Glossary, Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz
  • Menachery, Prof. George (2005), "Pahlavi Crosses of Kerala in Granite Objects in Kerala Churches", Glimpses of Nazraney Heritage, Ollur: SARAS – South Asia Research Assistance Services
  • Weber, Dieter (1992), "Texts I: Ostraca, Papyri und Pergamente", Corpus Inscriptionum Iranicarum. Part III: Pahlavi Inscriptions, IV. Ostraca, V. Papyri, London: SOAS
  • West, Edward William (1904), "Pahlavi literature", in Geiger, Wilhelm; Kuhn, Ernst, Grundriss der iranischen Philologie II, Stuttgart: Trübner

External links

Language and literature

Writing system

Aimaq dialect

Aimaq or Aimaqi (Aimaq: ایماقی‎) is the dominant eastern Persian ethnolect spoken by the Aimaq people in central northwest Afghanistan (west of the Hazarajat), eastern Iran, and Tajikistan. It is close to the Khorasani and Dari varieties of Persian. The Aimaq people are thought to have a 5–15% literacy rate.

Aramaic language

Aramaic (Arāmāyā; square script אַרָמָיָא, Classical Syriac: ܐܪܡܝܐ‎) is a language or group of languages belonging to the Semitic subfamily of the Afroasiatic language family. More specifically, it is part of the Northwest Semitic group, which also includes the Canaanite languages such as Hebrew and Phoenician. The Aramaic alphabet was widely adopted for other languages and is ancestral to the Hebrew, Syriac and Arabic alphabets. During its approximately 3,100 years of written history, Aramaic has served variously as a language of administration of empires, as a language of divine worship and religious study, and as the spoken tongue of a number of Semitic peoples from the Near East.

Historically, Aramaic was the language of the Arameans, a Semitic-speaking people of the region between the northern Levant and the northern Euphrates valley. By around 1000 BC, the Arameans had a string of kingdoms in what is now part of western Syria. Aramaic rose to prominence under the Neo-Assyrian Empire (911–605 BC), under whose influence Aramaic became a prestige language, and its use spread throughout most of Mesopotamia and the Levant. At its height, variants of Aramaic were spoken all over in what is today Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Kuwait, Eastern Arabia, Northern Arabia, and to a lesser extent parts of southeast and south central Turkey, and parts of northwest Iran. Aramaic was the language of Jesus, who spoke the Galilean dialect during his public ministry, as well as the language of large sections of the biblical books of Daniel and Ezra, and also one of the languages of the Talmud.

The scribes of the Neo-Assyrian bureaucracy had also used Aramaic, and this practice—together with other administrative practices—was subsequently inherited by the succeeding Neo-Babylonians (605–539 BC), and the Achaemenids (539–323 BC). Mediated by scribes that had been trained in the language, highly standardized written Aramaic (in its Achaemenid form called Imperial Aramaic) progressively also become the lingua franca of trade and commerce throughout the Achaemenid territories, which extended as far east as the Indus valley. (That use of written Aramaic subsequently led to the adoption of the Aramaic alphabet and—as logograms—some Aramaic vocabulary in the Pahlavi scripts, which were used by several Middle Iranian languages, including Parthian, Middle Persian, Sogdian, and Khwarazmian).Aramaic's long history and diverse and widespread use has led to the development of many divergent varieties, which are sometimes considered dialects, though they have become distinct enough over time that they are now sometimes considered as separate languages. Therefore, there is not one singular, static Aramaic language; each time and place rather has had its own variation. The more widely spoken Eastern Aramaic and Mandaic forms are today largely restricted to Iraqi Kurdistan, northeastern Syria, northwestern Iran and southeastern Turkey, whilst the severely endangered Western Neo-Aramaic is spoken by small communities in northwestern Syria.

Certain dialects of Aramaic are also retained as a sacred language by certain religious communities. One of those liturgical dialects is Mandaic, which besides being a living variant of Aramaic is also the liturgical language of Mandaeism. Significantly more widespread is Syriac, the liturgical language of Syriac Christianity, in particular the Assyrian Church of the East, the Chaldean Catholic Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Assyrian Pentecostal Church, Assyrian Evangelical Church, Ancient Church of the East, Syriac Catholic Church, the Maronite Church, and the Saint Thomas Christian denominations of India. Syriac was also the liturgical language of several now-extinct gnostic faiths, such as Manichaeism.

Neo-Aramaic languages are still spoken today as a first language by many communities of Syriac Christians, Jews, and Mandaeans of Western Asia, most numerously by Chaldeans, Syriacs and Assyrians with numbers of fluent speakers ranging approximately from 1 million to 2 million, with the main languages among Assyrians being Assyrian Neo-Aramaic (235,000 speakers), Chaldean Neo-Aramaic (1 million speakers) and Turoyo (112,000 to 450,000 speakers), together with a number of smaller closely related languages with no more than 5,000 to 10,000 speakers between them. They have retained use of the once dominant lingua franca despite subsequent language shifts experienced throughout the Middle East. However, the Aramaic languages are now considered endangered. The languages are used by the older generation, all beyond retirement age, and so could go extinct within a generation. However, researchers are working to record all the dialects of Neo-Aramaic languages before they go extinct. Royal Aramaic inscriptions from the Aramean city-states date from 10th century BC, making Aramaic one of the world's oldest recorded living languages.

Avestan (Unicode block)

Avestan is a Unicode block containing characters devised for recording the Zoroastrian religious texts, Avesta, and was used to write the Middle Persian, or Pazand language.


Gabr (Persian: گبر‎) (also geuber, geubre, gabrak, gawr, gaur, gyaur, gabre) is a New Persian term originally used to denote a Zoroastrian.

Historically, gabr was a technical term synonymous with mōg, "magus", denoting a follower of Zoroastrianism, and it is with this meaning that the term is attested in very early New Persian texts such as the Shahnameh. In time, gabr came to have a pejorative implication and was superseded in literature by the respectable Zardoshti, "Zoroastrian".

By the 13th century the word had come to be applied to a follower of any religion other than Islam, and it has "also been used by the Muslim Kurds, Turks, and some other ethnic groups in modified forms to denote various religious communities other than Zoroastrians, sometimes even in the sense of unbeliever." As a consequence of the curtailment of social rights, non-Muslims were compelled to live in restricted areas, which the Muslim populace referred to as Gabristans.In the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish version gâvur, borrowed into English via French as "giaour", was used to refer to Christians. This is sometimes still used today in former Ottoman territories and carries a strong pejorative meaning.The etymology of the term is uncertain. "In all likelihood," gabr derives from the Aramaic gabrā, spelt GBRʼ, which – in written Middle Iranian languages – serves as an ideogram that would be read as an Iranian language word meaning "man." (for the use of ideograms in Middle Iranian languages, see Pahlavi scripts). During the Sasanian Empire (226-651), the ideogram signified a free (i.e. non-slave) peasant of Mesopotamia. Following the collapse of the empire and the subsequent rise of Islam, it "seems likely that gabr used already in Sassanian times in reference to a section of Zoroastrian community in Mesopotamia, had been employed by the converted Persians in the Islamic period to indicate their Zoroastrian compatriots, a practice that later spread throughout the country."It has also been suggested that gabr might be a mispronunciation of Arabic kafir "unbeliever," but this theory has been rejected on linguistic grounds both phonetic and semantic: "there is no unusual sound in kafir that would require phonetic modification", and kafir as a generic word probably would not refer to a specific revealed religion such as Zoroastrianism.

Harold Walter Bailey

Sir Harold Walter Bailey, (16 December 1899 – 11 January 1996), who published as H. W. Bailey, was an eminent English scholar of Khotanese, Sanskrit, and the comparative study of Iranian languages.

Heterogram (linguistics)

Heterogram (classical compound: "different" + "written") is a term used mostly in the study of ancient texts for a special kind of a logogram consisting of the embedded written representation of a word in a foreign language, which does not have a spoken counterpart in the main (matrix) language of the text. In most cases, the matrix and embedded languages share the same script. While from the perspective of the embedded language the word may be written either phonetically (representing the sounds of the embedded language) or logographically, it is never a phonetic spelling from the point of view of the matrix language of the text, since there is no relationship between the symbols used and the underlying pronunciation of the word in the matrix language.

In English, the written abbreviations e.g., i.e., and viz. are often read respectively as "for example", "that is", and "namely". When read this way, the abbreviations for the Latin words exempli gratia, id est, and videlicet are being used logographically to indicate unrelated English phrases. Similarly, the ampersand ⟨&⟩, originally a ligature for the Latin word et, in many European languages stands logographically for the local word for "and" regardless of pronunciation. This can be contrasted with the older way of abbreviating et cetera—&c.—where ⟨&⟩ is used to represent et as a full loanword, not a heterogram.

Heterograms are frequent in cuneiform scripts, such as the Akkadian cuneiform, which uses Sumerian heterograms, or the Anatolian cuneiform, which uses both Sumerian and Akkadian heterograms. In Middle Iranian scripts derived from the Aramaic scripts (such as the Pahlavi scripts), all logograms are heterograms coming from Aramaic. Sometimes such heterograms are referred to by terms identifying the source language such as "Sumerograms" or "Aramaeograms".

Inscriptional Pahlavi

Inscriptional Pahlavi is the earliest attested form of Pahlavi scripts, and is evident in clay fragments that have been dated to the reign of Mithridates I (r. 171–38 BC). Other early evidence includes the Pahlavi inscriptions of Arsacid era coins and rock inscriptions of Sassanid kings and other notables such as Kartir.

Inscriptional Pahlavi (Unicode block)

Inscriptional Pahlavi is a Unicode block containing monumental inscription characters for writing the Middle Persian language.

Inscriptional Parthian

Inscriptional Parthian is a script used to write Parthian language on coins of Parthia from the time of Arsaces I of Parthia (250 BC). It was also used for inscriptions of Parthian (mostly on clay fragments) and later Sassanian periods (mostly on official inscriptions).

Inscriptional Parthian script is written from right to left and the letters are not joined.

Inscriptional Parthian (Unicode block)

Inscriptional Parthian is a Unicode block containing characters of the script used under the Sassanid Empire.

Khosrow (word)

Khosrow is a male given name of Iranian origin, most notably held by Khosrow I of Sassanid Persia, but also by other people in various locations and languages. In some times and places, the word has come to mean "king" or "ruler", and in some cases has been used as a dynastic name.

Khosrow is the Modern Persian variant. The word ultimately comes from Proto-Iranian *Hu-sravah ("with good reputation"), itself ultimately from Proto-Indo-European *h₁su- ("good") + *ḱléwos ("fame").

The name has been attested in Avesta as Haosrauuaŋha (𐬵𐬀𐬊𐬯𐬭𐬀𐬎𐬎𐬀𐬢𐬵𐬀) and Haosrauuah, as the name of the legendary Iranian king Kay Khosrow. This is the oldest attestation.

The name was used by various rulers of Parthian Empire. It has been attested in Parthian-language inscriptions as "hwsrw" (𐭇𐭅𐭎𐭓𐭅), which may be variously transcribed and pronounced. The Latin form was Osroes or Osdroes. The Old Armenian form was Khosrov (Խոսրով), derived from Parthian, and was held by several rulers of the Arsacid dynasty of Armenia. The name is still used in modern Armenian.

Notable as to the use of Khosrow as a title is the father of Mirian III of Iberia who was known as k'asre (Old Georgian). This led to confusion, as some historians thought that Mirian III must therefore be the son of a Sasanian ruler, and not a Parthian one.

The name was notably used by several rulers of Sassanian Empire. In their native language, Middle Persian, the name has been spelt variously as hwslwb (Book Pahlavi script: ), hwslwb', hwsrwb, hwslwd, and hwsrwd' in Pahlavi scripts. The name has been variously transliterated as follows: Husrō, Husrōy, Xusro, Khusro, Husrav, Husraw, Khusrau, Khusraw, Khusrav, Xusraw, Xusrow, Xosrow, Xosro.* The Greek form was Khosróēs (Χοσρόης) and the Latin form was Chosroes and Cosroe. The Middle Persian word also means "famous" or "of good repute".The New Persian variant is خسرو, which can be transliterated as Khusraw, Khusrau, Khusrav, Khusru (based on the Classical Persian pronunciation [xʊsˈɾaw]), or Khosrow, Khosro (based on the modern Iranian Persian pronunciations [xosˈɾoʊ̯] and [xosˈɾo]).

The word was borrowed into Arabic as Kisrā or Kasrā (كسرى‎), a variant which come to be used in New Persian (کسری‎) as well. In Islamic Persia, kisrā became a strong byword for tyrannical pagan kingship, and is used as a general shorthand for Sassanian rulers (hence also "Taq-e Kasra", literally "Arc of Kasra"), as pharaoh is used for pre-Islamic Egyptian rulers.The Turkish variant is Hüsrev, derived from Ottoman Turkish (خسرو‎), itself from New Persian.

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.

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.

Persian alphabet

The Persian alphabet (Persian: الفبای فارسی‎, alefbā-ye fârsi), or Perso-Arabic alphabet, is a writing system used for the Persian language.

The Persian script is a modified version of the Arabic script. It is an abjad, meaning vowels are underrepresented in writing. The writing direction is mostly but not exclusively right-to-left; mathematical expressions, numeric dates and numbers bearing units are embedded from left to right. The script is cursive, meaning most letters in a word connect to each other; when they are typed, contemporary word processors automatically join adjacent letterforms. However, some Persian compounds do not join, and Persian adds four letters to the basic set for a total of 32 characters.

The replacement of the Pahlavi scripts with the Persian alphabet to write the Persian language was done by the Tahirid dynasty in 9th-century Greater Khorasan.

Psalter Pahlavi

Psalter Pahlavi is a cursive abjad which was used for writing Middle Persian on paper, it is thus described as one of the Pahlavi scripts. It was written right to left, usually with spaces between words.It takes its name from the Pahlavi Psalter, part of the Psalms translated from Syriac to Middle Persian and found in what is now western China.

Psalter Pahlavi (Unicode block)

Psalter Pahlavi is a Unicode block containing characters for writing Middle Persian. The script derives its name from the "Pahlavi Psalter", a 6th- or 7th-century translation of a Syriac book of psalms.

Rotokas alphabet

The modern Rotokas alphabet is a Latin alphabet consisting of only 12 letters of the ISO basic Latin alphabet without diacritics:

It is the smallest alphabet in use today. The majority of the Rotokas people are literate in their language. In the Rotokas writing system the vowel letters have their IPA values, though they may be written double, aa, ee, ii, oo, uu, for long vowels. The consonant letters have the following values:

G: [ɡ] or [ɣ]

K: [k]

P: [p]

R: [d], [ɾ] or [l]

S: [ts] or [s] (only occurs before I and in the name Rotokas)

T: [t] (never occurs before I)

V: [b] or [β]Here is a sample of written Rotokas:

Osireitoarei avukava iava ururupavira toupasiveira.

"The old woman's eyes are shut."

Vologases's relief

Vologases's relief is a relief located in UNESCO world heritage site UNESCO world heritage sitethe ancient site of Bisotun in Kermanshah Province, Iran. It shows a Parthian king (possibly Vologases III) with a bowl in his left hand. It also has an inscription in Pahlavi scripts. This historical heritage was listed in Iranian national heritages on 10 March 2002.

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