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Eastern Iranian Languages

part 2


By the Middle Iranian stage, when a larger number of distinct languages are attested, a classification into Western and Eastern Iranian becomes more meaningful.

While Western Middle Iranian is represented by Middle Persian and Parthian, the chief Eastern Middle Iranian languages are Khotanese (with the closely related Tumshuqese), Sogdian, Chorasmian, and Bactrian, to which one may add the remnants of such languages as Sarmatian and Alanic (R. Bielmeier in Schmitt, pp. 236-45; cf. also Sims-Williams, ibid., pp. 165-67), together with the “Parnian” stratum in Parthian (Sims-Williams, ibid., p. 171) and reconstructed proto-forms of Eastern Iranian languages attested only in the modern period, e.g., “proto-Pashto.” It should be noted that, while the above division is universally accepted by specialists in Iranian dialectology, the dividing-line between Western and Eastern Iranian is in fact by no means clear-cut. The attested Middle Iranian languages seem rather to form a continuum from Middle Persian (South-Western) via Parthian (North-Western) to Bactrian, Chorasmian, and Sogdian (North-Eastern), with the Saka languages (Khotanese and Tumshuqese) at the opposite end of the spectrum. Bactrian, in particular, seems to occupy an intermediate position between Western and Eastern Iranian, sharing almost as many features with Parthian as with Chorasmian and Sogdian (Sims-Williams in Schmitt, pp. 165-72).

The Modern Eastern Iranian languages are even more numerous and varied. Most of them are classified as North-Eastern: Ossetic; Yaghnobi (which derives from a dialect closely related to Sogdian); the Shughni group (Shughni, Roshani, Khufi, Bartangi, Roshorvi, Sarikoli), with which Yaz-1ghulami (Sokolova 1967) and the now extinct Wanji (J. Payne in Schmitt, p. 420) are closely linked; Ishkashmi, Sanglichi, and Zebaki; Wakhi; Munji and Yidgha; and Pashto. According to Morgenstierne (1926, pp. 14-39; 1929; cf. also C. Kieffer in Schmitt, pp. 451ff.), Parachi and Ormuri occupy a special position as a “South-Eastern Iranian” group.


Typical features of Eastern Iranian

The Eastern Iranian languages are distinguished from the Western by both archaisms and innovations. A typical phonological archaism of Eastern Iranian is the widespread preservation of Old Iranian ?, as in Sogd. and Chor. my?, Shughni m??, Yazgh. mi? (but Sanglichi m?i, Munji m?? ) “day” < *mai??/?-; Sogd. pr?wty, Shughni ?ud-, Wakhi ??t- “burnt,” cf. O. Pers. ?av “to burn.” Sometimes ? even develops to a stop as in Western Yagh. m?t (Eastern Yagh. m?s) “day;” Khot. pa?huta, Sanglichi t??, Zeb. ted (but Ishkashmi sId) “burnt;” Alanic fourt, Oss. D. furt, Wakhi p?tr “son” < *pu?ra-. Most Eastern Iranian languages (but not Sogdian, Yaghnobi, Yidgha-Munji or Parachi) have developed a dental affricate c (= ts), in some contexts j (= dz) or s, from the OIr. palatal ?: cf. Khot. tcahora, Tumshuqese tsahari, Chor. cf’r, Bactr. sofaro (unpublished), Oss. D. cuppar, Shughni cav?r, Ishkashmi cIfur, Wakhi c?b?r, Pashto cal?r, Orm. c?r < *?a?war- “four.” Many of these languages preserve ? in special contexts or have created a new ?, e.g., by secondary palatalization of old k, resulting in contrast between c and ? (sometimes also ??). While the weakening of postvocalic b, d, g to v, ?, ? (sometimes with further changes, such as v > w or ? > l) is common throughout Iranian, the same changes in initial position are specific to Eastern Iranian. However, Parachi and Ormuri do not take part in this development, nor is it carried through consistently in all of the North-Eastern languages. (Some apparent inconsistencies may be due to reversal of a sound change. Thus, Yagh. v-, d-, ?- may derive from Sogd. v-, ?-, ?-, with a late change of ? to d analogous to that of ? to t in Western Yaghnobi.) Another widespread but not quite universal North-Eastern Iranian development is the voicing of OIr. *ft, *xt to vd, ?d: cf. Khot. hauda, Tumshuqese *hoda (in the ordinal hodama-), Chor. ’?d, Oss. avd, Shughni ?vd, Sanglichi ?v?, Wakhi ?b, Munji ?vda, Pashto ?w? < *hafta “seven;” Khot. d?ta (= ??da?), Tumshuqese du?a, Chor. ??d (= ?u?da), Bactr. logda, Oss. I. -d??d (in xod??d “sister-in-law”), Yazgh. ?o?d, Sanglichi wu????, Wakhi ???d, Yidgha lu?do < *duxt? (nom.) “daughter.” Sogdian has the partially voiced clusters vt and ?t (e.g., ’?t’, ?w?t’), whence Yaghnobi reverts to ft and xt. The voicing did not take place in the South-Eastern languages (cf. Par. h?t, dut).

To be continued ...

Other Links:

Kabisa: part 1

Kabisa: part 2

The History of the Iranian Flag

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