KUHPĀYA ii. The Dialect



ii. The Dialect

The dialects spoken in the Kuhpāya district belong to the Central Dialects, but in a narrower sense they are grouped together with the welāyati “provincial” idioms around the city of Isfahan. There is substantial dialectal variation across the Kuhpāya district. Kuhpāʾi proper is spoken in Jabal (Kuki). As one travels northwest, through Fešārk, the speech gradually approaches that of Zefra. Sagzi on the west and Qehi on the south have distinct dialects, though not radically different from that of Jabal. On the other hand, Mošgenān, Tudešk, and Ješuqān, in the east of the Kuhpāya district, possess transitional varieties closely related to those of Nāʾin (q.v.). These dialects are all endangered, being overrun by Persian (Borjian, 2009; see also ISFAHAN xx. Geography of the Median Dialects of Isfahan.)

Kuhpāʾi proper, known locally as kukiže, is spoken in the township of Kupā and dozens of its piedmont villages, of which Kerdābād and ʿOlunābād are known for “purity” of their vernaculars. While it shares many traits with other Northwest Iranian dialects of the central Iranian Plateau, Kuhpāʾi has many characteristics of its own in phonology and grammar, with transitional features. This study is based on the author’s documentation of the dialect of Kupā, with supplementary data from Wilhelm Eilers’ article also on Kupāʾi and Ehsan Yarshater’s unpublished field notes on ʿOlunābādi (henceforth Olun.).


Formally a member of the Northwest (NW) Iranian group of languages, as are other Central dialects, Kuhpāʾi shows some remarkable Perside or Southwest (SW) Iranian features.

Proto-Indo-European (PIE) palatals normally yield sibilants, illustrating the non-Perside lineage of Kuhpāʾi: *ḱ > NW s: kas “small,” masser “bigger”; *ǵ(h) > z: zomā “bridegroom,” heze “yesterday,” ezme “firewood,” zon- “know”; but SW bāvu “arm”; del “heart”; *ḱu̯ > sb/šp: esbe “white,” səvarz/səbarz “spleen” (cf. Av. spərəzan-), išpiš/išbiš “louse” (< *spišā); *ǵu̯̯̯ > zu: zūn (zuun) “tongue.” — proto-Ir. *θr > *hr > r: pore “son,” dār “sickle,” a:r “mill,” ovir “pregnant”; but se “three.” The peculiar toponym “Mesr” (a hamlet located east of Kuhpāyā district) can be a Southwest Iranian form derived from Old Iranian *Miθra-.

Within the Mid. Ir. split, the dialect stands within the NW branch: OIr. *dw- > b: ber “door,” ibi “other.” OIr. *y-, *vy- > y: ye “barley,” “place; room,” yoš “boil” (< *yauš); vəyā (Pers. jodā) “separate,” yād “husband’s brother’s wife”; but the Perside juhun “young.” Note also yoz- ː yoss- “find” (< *wi-waid-), yuz “walnut” (Mid. Pers. gōz).

Old affricates yield ž fairly consistently: OIr. *j- > ž: žen “woman, wife,” žende “alive,” žin- “hit,” žār- ː žārt- (< *jyau-) “chew,” žē “cord, string” (Pers. zeh, Av. jyā-). Therefore, jīšt “bad” and jinji “woman, wife” might be loans from other Central Dialects. — postvocalic *-č- > ž: žēr “below,” mež- “suck,” riž- “pour,” vāž- “say,” tāž- “urinate,” tāžn- “make run,” - “cost,” vež- “sift,” duž- “sew,” and the suffixes -že, -ži (see Word Formation, below). Lateralized or lost in final position: si(y)- “burn (intr.)” (< *süž-, which yields the causative stem suž-n- “burn”), “day” (cf. ruže “fasting”); note also anomalies -ji “also” (cf. Av. cit̰), peš- “cook,” as in many other Central Dialects (CD).

An outstanding SW development is *št > st > ss in hass “eight” (but hašdattā “eighty”), hess “mud-brick” (but xešdak “gusset”; Pers. xeštak), engosvone “thimble” (but engošter “ring,” enguli “finger”), and the past stems va-yoss- (parallel with va-yošt-) “search,” hərass- “weave.” The doublets suggest the transitional position Kuhpāʾi holds in an overlapping buffer zone for this isogloss.

OIr. *ṛt > rt in past stems can either be retention or secondary development: mart- “die,” kart- “do,” bart- “carry,” gart- “turn,” žārt- “chew,” ver-ošmārt- “count,” and probably in dārt- “have” (cf. Pth. dird-), etc.

*rz/rd is preserved in bard “spade,” səbarz/səvarz “spleen,” nəmarzon “broom” (< *ni-marza-), darz- “sew”; but as in other CDs Kuhpāʾi leans in general toward SW in māl- “rub,” gil (preposition for Pers. gerd-e; may also be related to Pers. gal “neck”) “around,” allō “vulture” (< *ŗdufiya- “straight flyer,” cf. Av. ərəzīfīya, Mid. Pers., Pers. āluh, Kd. halō “eagle”). — *r > l is found in valg “leaf,” almun “aspiration,” čatl “lock of hair.” — Retention of PIE *l- is possibly seen in lubā “fox” (Olun. ture)

*xw > x: xox “sister,” xov “sleep,” xoy- “self.” *x, *h are lost in ēč “nothing,” üčgu “nobody,” ormā “date,” endār- ː endārt- “send” (< *ham-tār-, root tar-; Eilers, p. 224); but hoše “bunch,” hurd “small, chopped,” hešm “rage,” hošk/g “dry,” xo “with, to” (< *hada?), himir “dough,” hərin- ː hərint- “buy,” Olun. horsus “rooster,” herbeze “melon.”

Mid. West Ir. initial *w- is retained regularly: vā:ron “rain,” vafr “snow,” vā: “wind,” vəye “willow,” vāyom “almond,” vīss “twenty,” vače “child,” vəzark “big,” vešgi “hunger,” vesgi “so much,” vəyer- ː vašt- “pass,” the preverb ver- (for Pers. bar-); but bune “shrub, tree” (cf. Av. van-, vanā-), gorg “wolf.”

Mid. West Ir. -d- changes to glide systematically: kəye “house,” kāye “game,” māye “female,” hərom-zāye “bastard,” rūye “intestine,” komi(n) “which,” pəye “father,” (y) “mother,” bərāy-š “his brother,” jāyu “witchcraft” (note the loan j-), beyār “awake,” vāyom “almond,” vəye “willow,” kyuyu/küvu “squash,” vā: “wind,” so “hundred,” “smoke; buttermilk,” “early,” “moth,” naxou/v (cf. Mid. Pers. naxōd) “chickpeas,” vəyer- “pass,” šō- “went” (but d is retained in cluster šd in the past participle -šdé- “gone”), oma:- “came” (but past participle omdé), “visible,” past-stem formant -ā (cf. Pth. -āδ); but murdone (cf. Pers. muriāna) “termite.”

Clusters are reduced as in most modern NW Iranian languages: *xr, *fr > *hr > r: čar “spinning wheel,” ta:l “better,” suruži “smallpox” (hence sorx “red” is a loanword); gāre “down” (cf. Av. gufra-, jafra-), and the preverb ha- (< *fra-), which is seen as a frozen component in həmar- ː həmart- “break” (< *fra- + *marH “rub; crush”; cf. Cheung, p. 267), həran- ː hərass- “weave” (cf. Jowšaqāni  rān- ː rāst-, Meyma’i hεran- ː hεrāst-), hačon “pitchfork for wind winnowing, used after threshing” (< *fra- + čon “threshing cart”; cf. Pers. šāna “hey fork” < *šan- “scatter, shake down”; cf. Cheung, pp. 371-72).” But *fr survives in fərāš- ː fərāt- “sell,” and the loan fardā “tomorrow.” — OIr. *xt > t: doti “daughter, girl,” sot- “burn,” sāt- “make,” ret- “pour,” vāt- “say,” fərāt- “sell.” Note also pa(a)- “cook.” /xt/ occurs in baxt “luck,” raxt “clothing,” vaxt/vaxd “time.”

Like other provincial dialects of Isfahan, Kuhpāʾi retains *ft: gift- “seize,” kaft- “fall,” pakāft- “strike,” bəraft- “weep,” kuft- “pound,” roft- “sweep,” with the /t/ voiced occasionally: xofd/t- “sleep,” ašnofd- “hear”; note also ofdou “sun,” ofdāve “ewer,” mafdou “moonligt,” hafdom “seventh,” šefde/šefte “plant louse,” but kufter “pigeon,” kəloft “thick.” Inconsistent voicing of /t/ in the clusters /xt, ft, št/ is probably due to contact with the Persian of Isfahan.

Original labials in medial position are influenced by or absorbed into preceding vowels, yielding /av, ev, ov/ (see Phonology, below): (1) short vowel (mostly *a) + labial > [aβ] or [eβ]: avr “cloud,” ausār “bridle,” nav “new,” navber “first fruit,” gaud/gavd “deep,” kauš “shoe,” bənauš “purple,” derauš “awl,” kaun- “search,” čaus- “glue” (< *cavs- < *casp-); teu/tev “fever,” lev “lip,” šeu/v “night,” zeur “rough,” sevde “basket”; note also sovz/souz/sōz “green,” and the inter-syllabic: qovā “gown,” suve (Pers. sabu) “jar.” A parallel development is seen in mau “vine” (<*maδuk?). (2) long vowel + labial > [oβ]: ou/ov/ō “water,” gou/v “cow,” xov/ “sleep,” sou/sov “apple,” novdon/noudon “gutter,” jurou “socks,” tou/v “shine, twist,” sov- “wear away,” rov- “sweep,” xous-/xovs-“sleep,” bovre “brow” (metathesis?).

Limited changes: *p, *b, *w > m, in asm horse, Olun. vanəmes- “write,” fərāmon “abundant,” təlenjimin (Pers. taranjabin) “Manna of Hedysarum,” qamvāli (< qavvāli?) “dancing,” qalmaseng (Pers. qollāb-sang or qolva-sang) “sling.” But note the counter-example nəve (Pers. namad) “felt.” — *p- is changed sporadically to other labials: baynštā “five,” banje “claws” (hence the change must be very old), fesse “pistachio,” fəressūk “swallow.” — Initial consonants in tel “belly” (cf. del “heart”), t- “give,” dōv “mulberry,” go “that, which.” — Loss of consonants: /r/ in ažon “cheap,” - “cost,” gift- “seize”; /x/ in tom “seed,” məlē “locust”; /γ/ in čonder “beetroots,” šalem “turnip”; /t/ in pok “sledge hammer.” — jūq (Pers. ju(y), colloquial jub) “ditch” is an areal feature.

Vowels. (1) *a > e, as in ber “door,” reg “vein,” teng “tight,” enjir “fig,” dehene (< dahana) “bridle.” This development has led to the high frequency of /e/ in Kuhpāʾi. — *ay > ey, as in heyvon “animal.” — (2) *aw > [aβ, au]: dauri “plate,” hauz “pool,” qaul “promise,” četaur “how.” Interesting are the recent loanwords such as haule “towel” (from modern Tehrani Pers. howle, not from Isfahani Pers. holle). — (3) *āN- > oN: ron “thigh,” kom “palate,” dōnā “wise,” səlōm “salute”; also “I.” The late loan čamadon (indirectly from Russian) “baggage” suggests the currency of this trend. — (4) The front majhul is generally preserved: ēč “none,” žēr “under,” pēš “before,” mēš “ewe,” mēve “fruit,” gēve “cotton shoes,” kəvēj “wild plum,” deyr “late,” vēš/veždone “cotton seed,” deg “pot,” gež “confused,” reg “pebble,” resmon “thread”; but mīx “nail,” ti “thorn.” Remnants of the back majhul is seen in dš- “milk,” gš “ear.” Note also seyr “satiated” (cf. Pers. sēr < *sagra-), šīr “lion” (cf. Pers. šēr < šagra-). — (5) The inherited length, found in some words, is no longer phonemic, e.g. pīr/pir “old,” dūr “far,” hüsǖd “jealous.” The un-phonemic status of these vowels is suggested by poetic meter (Borjian, 2004). — (6) A new class of long vowels is generated owing to the loss of adjacent consonants. Word final: čī “thing,” durū “lie,” məlē “locust,” “mountain,” “footing,” žē/že “cord,” ra: “road,” kutā: short, allō “vulture,” dīmon “to see,” šōmon “to go,” pa:mon “to cook.” In medial position: vəza:rter (otherwise vəzarkter) “bigger,” a:ru “today,” jūn “pretty” (probably from juhun/juvun “young”), zūn “tongue” (< *zuvun), ša:r “town,” kēne “old,” pəra:ne “shirt,” na:l “horseshoe,” pərēyi “day before yesterday,” va:ter “better” (< vehtar?; cf. Isfahani Pers. bá:zi “better than” < beh az? baʿż-e?). — (7) Shift between long vowels: mōš (< *mūš) “mouse,” “where is,” jōr (coll. Pers. jur?) “well, healthy.” — (8) Unexplainable long vowels include jīšt “ugly,” f(ə)rā:mon “plenty,” bərēme (< *bram-) “weep,” ja:de (for Pers. jāda) “road,” which is heard as such or as jaʿde (with the pharyngeal stop) in rural Isfahan. — (9) Ar. ʿa- > ā-, observed in words of Arabic origin such as ālef “grass,” āros “bride,” āmu “uncle,” āme “aunt,” maybe due to absorption of the initial glottal consonant into the vowel (see Isfahan xxii. Gazi Dialect). — (10) Harmonization into the back vowels: pinīr (< panir) “cheese,” hüsǖd (< hasud) “jelous,” kimi (← kem “coarse sieve” + -i) “fine sieve,” diriče “small door/window.” The development of si(y)- “burn” (from *suž-) follows no known pattern within the dialect, but see below for synchronic harmonization.

Words ending in /-e/, such as čomče “spoon” and pore “boy,” generally follow the development -e < *-ak < *-aka. There are however words like pəra:ne “shirt,” vāyom-ta:le “bitter almonds,” qəlāžāre “pie, magpie,” vəye “willow” (< *waiti-), whose word-final vowel might reflect an original feminine suffix (cf. Morgenstierne).

Some words. ou-henj-i “irrigation” (< θanj-) suggests the verb stem hanj- “drag,” no longer used in the dialect, but note lonje “wick” and lonj “mucus” which share the root but via a different development pattern. — nirā (“stairway into subterranean channel”) preserves the old prefix ni- “down”; cf. Judeo-Kashani xiniâ (see Kashan ix. The Median Dialects of Kashan (2) Urban Jewish Dialect). — āyn-yāve “yawn,” cf. Av. āŋhan- “mouth,” Pers. dictionaries *yāfa “yawn.” — Old Arabic loans include tāyer “bird,” biriq (< ebriq) “clay ewer.” — tammāte “tomato” is borrowed via Isfahani Persian. — čiže “breast” has similar forms in other Central dialects: Kafrāni čiže, Abyānaʾi čeje, and Vafsi čeze, Ḵuri kiži, Nāʾini jija; these seem related to Gilaki čučay, Maz. juju, Māsāli (and other Tatic) juju, Zaza čiž, Ishkashmi čuči, Oss. žiži, Khot. tčīja (all meaning “breast”), as well as Bal. jujak (“nipple”). Having such a broad geographic distribution, the word must be very old.


The consonants inventory include /b č d f g h j k l m n p q r s š t v x y z ž ʾ/. The fricative /v/ is normally pronounced as the bilabial [β]. /q/ stands for both fricative [γ] and plosive [q], with a complex distribution similar to that of modern Persian. The palatalization of /k g/ before front vowels is strongly marked. However, /č j/ have not shifted to [ts dz] as they have in Isfahani Persian. The dialect lacks the pharyngeal fricative and stop heard in some other Central Dialects.

The vowels are /i e a ə u o ā/ and possibly /ü/, which is noted in just a few words, such as /“hair,” üčgu/účku “nobody,” küvu/kyuyu “squash,” hüsǖd “jealous.” In view of the doublets, it is hard to assume a phonemic status for ü, even with the presence of the minimal pairs “two” vs. “smoke; buttermilk” (but Olun. ) and /kyu “out” vs. “mountain; manure.” — /ə/ is a very short vowel with significant frequency (6 percent of the vowel sounds), but it yields no minimal pairs. It always occurs in unstressed, non-final positions, most systematically as the eżāfa marker (e.g. mašt-ə maqz “full of kernel”) and the durative markers (kār-ə-kəre “he works”). It shows in penultimate and antepenultimate positions: pəye “father,” kəye “house,” səbe “white,” həmā “we,” vəyā “separate,” dəzār “wall” vəzark “big,” səbarz “spleen,” sārəvon “caravan leader,” vātəmon “to say,” bərēme “weep,” nəmarzon “broom,” xəsartəmon “to catch a cold.” /ə/ may drop before /r/: f(ə)rāx “wide,” j(ə)riqqe “vest,” f(ə)rātəmon “to sell,” be-bərem “cry!” bebəraft “he cried.” It seldom occurs as the result of the reduction or loss of coloring of other vowels: bəne/bone “tree,” xədā/xodā “God,” axəhā “men” (cf. axe “man”), and the enclitic pronouns, e.g. -əš/-. ʿOlunābādi field notes show no /ə/.

Diphthongs are probably /ey, āy/. There are also /eu, ou, au/, which alternate freely with /ev, ov, av/ [εβ oβ aβ].

Vowel length can be distinctive only when it is a result of consonant omission, e.g. kene “tick” ≠ ke:ne “old,” jon “soul” ≠ ju:n “pretty.” Long vowels occur also on account of the sequence of the same vowel due to morphology: ve:son (v-e-es-on) “I stand.” Length may sometimes be the effect of intonation.

Stress patterns are similar to other Central Dialects, that is, generally word-final in the nominals. In verbs, the stress is absorbed by the syllable carrying the negative morpheme, modal prefixes, preverbs, and participial element, as demonstrated in Table 3. Note also the contrasts in čerā́ “light” ≠ čérā “why,” yané “mortar” ≠ yáne (otherwise háne) “put!” giftemón “to take” ≠ gíftemon “we used to take.”

Syllabic structure is CVCC, but words ending in a consonant cluster are few. Verb stems in /-r/ or /-rt/ optionally lose it when not suffixed: beker “do!” beškart “he did.” Stems ending in other consonants may also lose them: bevāž “say!” veess “stand!” veross “rise!” Sequence of three consonants is possible, provided that it is not in the same syllable (dārt-šon ka “they were doing”), but is disallowed morphonologically in causative stems (see below).

The dialect has a strong tendency for vowel harmony in verbs: kār-ə-kər-e “you work” ~ kār-u-kur-u “he works,” va-nəves “write!” ~ va-a-nuvus-u “he writes,” be-m-ba “I carried” ~ bi-m-kuft “I pounded.” Note also pərēyi “day before yesterday,” pəreyišev/pəreušeu “night before last.”

Epenthesis. -y- is inserted at the morpheme juncture between the vowel-initial suffixes and the stems/words ending in a vowel: boma-y-on “I came,” bomde-y-e “I have come,” ha-nišde-y-ind “they have sat,” vessā-y-im “we stood,” the past participles vessā-y-e “stood,” paye “cooked,” die [dije] “seen”; and čučuve-y-é “the woodpecker.”


Noun Forms. The nouns and pronouns indicate no gender or formal case. The plural ending is -(h)ā, as in axehā “men.” The suffix -(y)é is a definite marker, e.g. pəra:ne-yé “the shirt.” Indefinite markers are yag “a, one” and/or an unstressed -(y)i, e.g. her rá:-yi šoyon “wherever I used to go.”

Modifiers. The eżāfa marker -ə (or, occasionally, -i, apparently from Isf. Pers.) is usually realized in possessive and adjective phrases (e.g., xox-ə kas “little sister,” zūn-ə vəlāti “provincial tongue,” āyn-ə to “your mouth,” del-i vače “child’s heart,” engur() siā “black grapes”) but may drop when the constituent ends in a vowel: pəye həmā “our father,” ye Ki “Qehi’s barley.”

Pronouns. There are two basic sets of personal pronouns: freestanding and enclitic (Table 1). The enclitics are preceded by a vowel, usually o, e, ə, or none, when attached to a consonant. When functioning as the direct object, the pronominal endings can be incorporated on or into the verb: nigind-mon “they will take us,” seyl bi-d-nigu “that the flood take you,” bərāy-m bi-š-vīnon “that I see my brother,” tā bišim un va-aš-yīzim “that we go find him.”

Demonstratives. These are yon “this,” un “that,” yāhā “these,” u(v)ā “those,” hemin/hemun “this/that very (same),” hemtin “this much.”

Reflexive. The reflexive xoy/ receives the enclitic pronouns: xoy-em (or xom), -et, -eš, xō-mon, -ton, -šon. These function as: (1) emphatic: xoyem un ru sahrā-de bimdi “I myself saw him in the field,” komin kəye-š xoyeš besāt? “which house did he himself build?” (2) possessive: āyn-ə xoyeš vāz-ukuru “it opens its own mouth,” vače go došmen-ə jon-i pəye-vo-mā xoyuš-u “the child who is the mortal enemy of his own parents,” (3) direct object: xo(m) bi gušo de ša:r “I must get myself to the town,” and (4) indirect object: čendi pul xo xoyed bārte? “how much money have you brought with you.”

Prepositions. These are de(r) “to, in, into,” ru “in(to),” “to, toward,” dim “on,” ez “from,” xo “with, to,” žēr “under,” lev “at,” herā “for,” gel “around,” “outside,” duru “inside,” etc. They normally require no eżāfa, e.g., duru ov “into the water.” — de has a similar function as Pers. ba, as in ou de mo te! “give me water!” beušoyim de jengel “we went to the forest,” de mo-š səlōm ka “he saluted me.” — (cf. ra: “road”) “to(ward)” is employed only for locations, overlapping the similar function of de, e.g. pore-d kiga ez madrase de rā kəye yu? “when does your son come home from school?”

Postpositions. There are two postpositions in the dialect. (1) -de normally forms a circumposition with a preposition: ru sahrā de un bimdi “I saw him in the field,” duru ov-eš de dass-o-pā žint “he struggled in the water,” sovā-šon ez bəne de bičint “they picked the apples off the tree,” Vir-em de pəye-t bidi “I saw your father in Vir/Kupā.” (2) -rā “for” adds weight on the preposition herā “for” and may even replace it: muži-m herā to-rā bārt “I brought lentil for you,” bevāžid herā mo-rā “say (it) for me!” āš ipəšon xoč-em rā “I am cooking soup for myself.”

Adjectives. The comparative is marked with -ter, e.g. vəzar(k)ter “bigger,” ažonter “cheaper,” kasser “smaller” (with the assimilation ss < s-t).

Adverbs. These include -ji “also,” ibi “other, next, else, any more,” (place) yohon “here,” u(v)ā “there”; (time) zonon “now”; (manner) son “such” (Pers. čonin, čonān); (quantity and intensity) mā́li “very, many,” ēč “nothing,” üčgu “nobody,” her “every”; (interrogative) ke “who,” če “what,” komi(n) “which,” kāy(ā) “where,” “where is,” kiga “when,” čendi “how much.”

Conjunctions. “And” is –o after consonants and –vo after vowels: ser-o dīm “head and face,” si-vo-šaš “twenty-six,” bigi-vo vapuš! “take [it] and put [it] on!” Other conjunctions are similar to those of Persian.

Object marking. While indirect objects are marked with adpositions, there is no marker for the direct object, e.g., ber hanabend! “don’t shut the door!” səmā yon baladid “you know this.” Contrary to some other Central dialects (see, inter alia, Jarquya ii. The dialect; Jowšaqān ii. The dialect), in Kuhpāʾi the enclitic agent does not mark the direct object in the transitive past (see below, under Fronting), e.g., Hasan-eš Ali-ø ru-bāq-de bidi “Hasan saw Ali in the garden.” Therefore, the distinction between the subject and the direct object is largely dependent on the prevalent subject-object-verb (SOV) word order of the sentence. The word order is even more important when the subject is not distinguished by the verb person ending, that is when both the subject and the direct object are the third person singular or plural. However, the fact that the pronominal endings act also as the verb endings in the transitive past (Set II in Table 1) leads to such ambiguities as un1-eš2 bārt “he1,2 brought” or “he2 brought it1” (cf. un1-eš2-eš3 bārt “he1,3 brought it2.” The sentence un-eš go seyl bārte bo “that which the flood had brought” could be interpreted also as “he who had brought the flood” if semantically possible.


Stems. Past stems are either irregular (e.g., pres. ː past sāž- ː sāt- “make”) or derivable from the present stem by adding the formant -ā (e.g., mež- ː mežā- “suck”); the process may involve slight vowel shift: -xusn- ː xosnā- “drench.” Irregular and regular past forms coexist in many verbs: xoft- and xousā- “sleep,” dī- and vinā- “see.” Doublet past stems extend to the forms such as pres. kār-, past kārt-, kāšt- “sew,” with the possibility of the latter being a mere Persian loan. For the pres. stem va-yuz- “search, find,” there are two past stems: va-yošt- and va-yossā- (with past-stem formant) “search, find.” The stem’s consonants geminate in certain verbs, e.g. the stem mər- yield bemmuru “that he die.”

Causative. The causative present stem is formed by adding -n- to the present stem of intransitive verbs: pič- ː pičā- (intr.), pičn- ː pičnā- (trans.) “twist.” Doublets occur here too; e.g., the past stem par-n-ā- = paront- “make fly.” For “burn” there are intr. pres. si(y)-, past sot- or siā-, trans. pres. sužn-, past sužnā-. Note also semantically (and etymologically) unrelated tāž- ː tāt-/tāžā- “urinate,” tāžn- ː tāžnā- “make run.”

To avoid a sequence of three consonants (see Phonology, above) after receiving the causative formant -n-, the final consonant cluster of the stem may either be split by an epenthetic vowel or the final consonant may drop. Examples: tars- + n tars-ə-n- “frighten,” xend- + n xendən- “make laugh”; jomb- + n jombn-, with the past stem jombn-ā- or jomb-ə-n-ā- “shake”; čaus- + n čausən- or čaun- “stick up”: be-čausən-e “stick [it] up!” čausun-u “he sticks up,” be-š-čaunā “he glued,” čausənāmon “to glue.” (2) The pres. stem xovs- (or xous-) “sleep” yields xousən- or xoun- “put to sleep,” confirming the phonological rule that equates /ou/ and /ov/. (3) The fact that fa:m (< fahm) “understand” gives the causative fa:mon- “make understand,” rather than the expected *fa:mn-, suggests that the underlying /h/ is still perceived as such and therefore the three-consonant sequence */hmn/ is avoided. The other possibility, that fa:mon- is borrowed from the Persian causative fahmāndan, should not be disregarded, notwithstanding the aged status of this verb in Central Dialects.

Preverbs. These include der-/dar-, ha-/hā, va-/ve-, and ver-. (1) Preverbs as well as adverbs may further specify a stem: bend- ː bass-, hā-~ “close,” der- “tie”; čin- ː čint-, ha-~ “arrange?” ver-~ “pick (off, up)”; dār- ː dārt- “have,” ver-~ “weigh”; es(s)- “be in,” ve-~ “stand; become”; gart- ː gartā- “turn,” va-/ver-~ “return”; gir- ː gift- “seize; buy,” ha-~ “buy,” ver-~ “pick up,” taš ~ “catch fire,” der-girn- ː girnā- “kindle”; kər- ː kart- “do,” ha-~ “close,” va-~ “open,” vāž ~ “call,” max ~ “loose,” ~ “kick out”; māl- ː mālā- “rub,” ver-~ “flee”; mon- ː mont- “stay,” der- “be helpless”; nāž- ː nāšt- “extinguish,” ha-~ “seat, set”; xər- ː xārt- “eat,” va-~ “drink,” ver-~ “encounter.” (2) Aside from their lexical role, preverbs possess the grammatical function of the modal prefix be- (see below), and supersede the latter. (3) Preverbs are optional in certain stems, e.g., (ver)-xon- ː xont- “read.” (4) Preverbs make semantic distinction between the homonymous or nearly homonymous stems: nig- ː nigt- “carry, take away,” ha-nig- ː ništ- “sit”; der-xos- “throw,” ha-xovs- “sleep.”

Modal Affixes. The perfective/subjunctive prefix b(e)- marks the subjunctive (b-i-on “that I come,” -xər-on “that I eat”), the imperative (be-xr-id “eat ye!”), the preterit (b-omayon “I came,” be-m-xārt “I ate”), and the perfect (b-omde-yon “I have come,” be-m-xārte “I have eaten”). The modal prefix takes the irregular form bev- in the past stem bev-šo- (or beušo-) “go.” The intrusive -v- (or -y-) in this verb is a feature of the “provincial” dialects of Isfahan (Krahnke, p. 213), and occurs also in central Caspian (KALĀRESTĀQ ii. The dialect).

The durative marker -ə- precedes the stem and is usually harmonized with the first vowel of the stem, otherwise with the preceding preverb or the negative marker. Examples: (present tense) va:busu (va-a-bus-u) “he kisses,” na:kuru (na-a-kur-u) “you do not,” kār_ə-kər-e “you work,” kār_u-kur-u “he works,” vāron_u-yu “it rains,” čort_e-žin-e “you snooze”; (imperfect) komze-m_o-vont “I was cutting a melon,” dass-əš-eš derāz_a-ka “he stretched his hand.” The fact that the durative marker is always pronounced together with the preceding word and that it is redundant (because the perfective aspect is differentiated with be-) allows it to vanish when a verb without a preverb is conjugated in isolation. Thus əšon “I go” (cf. bešon “that I go”) and əšoyon “I used to go” (cf. bevšoyon “I went”); əvāžon “I say” (cf. bevāžon “that I say”) and əvātem “I would say” (cf. bemvāt “I said”). Even a verb with a preverb may safely ignore the durative marker, together with the preverb, if the latter is not semantically distinctive: (ha-a-)xovs-u “he sleeps” (cf. ha-xovs-u “that he sleep”), (ha-a-)xofd “he would sleep” (cf. ha-xofd “he slept”); (der-ə-)xoss-eš “he would throw.” These instances were recorded, particularly in careful speech: be un ə-rasim/rasāim “we will/would reach him” (cf. be-ras-im “that we reach,” be-mun-rasā “we reached”), čekār-šon ə-ka? “what were they doing?” (cf. -šon be-ka “they did”). The durative short vowel may be absorbed into the preceding vowels: bərēme əkuru “he is weeping,” mēve əgirid “you buy fruits,” yon kārā əkəre “you do these works,” ez to ətarson “I fear you,” age əšoim “if we would go.”

Negation. The negative marker - precedes the stem or the durative marker in all present forms and in the intransitive past. Examples: (imperative) ve-n-es(s) “stand not!” ha-na-bend “don’t shut!”; (present indicative) ná-a-n-un “I don’t put,” na-a-kər-e “you do not,” na-a-y-u “he doesn’t come,” vīr-ton va-na-a-š-u “you won’t forget”; (present subjunctive) na-yoš-u “it may not boil”; (preteri) be-na-oma “it didn’t come,” be-nav-šo “he didn’t go”; (imperfect) na-a-šo-y-on “I wouldn’t eat”; (perfect) (ha-)na-xofde-y-e “you haven’t slept,” na-xofde bo “he hadn’t slept,” be-na-šde bo “he hadn’t gone.”

In the transitive past, the combination of modal affixes with the subject marker (Set II) lead to parallel structures: (preterit) be-m-na-vāt = na-m-vāt “I said not” (cf. be-m-vāt “I said”), der-šon-na-girnā “they didn’t turn on,” hi-š-na-gift “he didn’t take,” to-t … be-nä-ke “you didn’t do”; (imperfect) na-a-vāt-em = na-m-ə-vāt “I wasn’t saying” (cf. vāt-em “I was saying”), na-a-xārt-em “I wouldn’t eat,” na-m-ə-xoss “I would not throw”; (perfect) bi-m-na-žinte “I haven’t hit,” be-š-na-xārte bo/bu “he hadn’t/may not have eaten,” un-em na-die “I haven’t seen him.”

Coexistence of affixes. The possibility of coexistence of various verb affixes is summarized in Table 2. (1) The perfective and durative markers do not coexist for the obvious reason of belonging to opposite aspects. (2) The perfective marker is always supplanted by the preverb when one exists. (3) The preverb ha- tends to vanish in the negative: na-a-n-un “I don’t put,” but ha-na-a-n-ind “they don’t let.” (4) The preverb and the durative marker do coexist, but they often drop together (see above), on the ground that they are not morphologically distinctive. (5) be- may stay on the verb in the negative, (as shown by the examples above), and its omission in the present subjunctive does not cause similar forms to those of the present indicative because the latter is marked durative. In the negative transitive past, the choice of retaining or omitting be- leads to considerably different structures, but tenses do not fall together.

Personal endings. These consist of the two sets shown in Table 1. Set I endings are used in the present indicative (ha-a-nig-on “I sit,” gir-on “I get”) and subjunctive (ha-nig-on “that I sit,” bi-gir-on “that I get”), the intransitive preterit (ha-nišd-on “I sat”), imperfect (ha-a-nišd-on “I would sit”), and perfect (ha-nišde-y-on “I have sat”). Set II are used in the transitive past as subject (agent) markers. They appear before the stem in the preterit (bi-m-gift “I got”) and perfect (bi-m-gifte “I have gotten”) and after the stem in the imperfect (gift-em “I would get”). For the movement of this “ending” through the sentence, see Fronting, below.

Imperative endings are zero in the singular and -id in the plural: bi-vin “see!” bi-vin-id (pl.), be-vāž “say!” na-vā (neg.), be-vāž-id (pl.), bexor “eat!” bexrid (pl.), veess “stand!” vessid (pl.), ha-vež “sieve!” be-ker “do!” be-brem “cry!” b-ā(r) “bring!” na-ā(r) (neg.). — The singular ending is -e for single-consonant stems: (ha-)t-e “give!” ha-t-id (pl.), der-k-e “fall!” — -e is added also to the causative stems (be-pparn-e “make fly!”) to avoid them fall together with their non-causative pairs; i.e., forms like *bepparn would have remained indistinct from beppar “fly!” This pattern has been extended to other stems ending in /Cn/: ver-ašn-e “hear!” but understandably not to the stems in /Vn/: ba-haran-ø “weave!” bi-hirin-ø “buy!” — Irregulars include bu “come!” (pres. stem y-), be-šo “go!” (pl. bi-š-id!).

Tenses. Simple tenses are constructed as follows:

Pres. indic. = (prev. + -ə-) + pres. stem + Set I

Pres. subjunc. = be-/prev. + pres. stem + Set I

Imperative = be-/prev. + pres. stem + -ø/-e (sg.)

Preterit (intr.) = be-/prev. + past stem + Set I

Imperf. (intr.) = (prev. + -) + past stem + Set I

Perfect (intr.) = (be-/prev.) + past part. + Set I

Preterit (trans.) = be-/prev. + Set II + past stem

Imperf. (trans.) = (prev. + -ə-) + past stem + Set II

Perfect (trans.) = be-/prev. + Set II + past part.

Notes: (1) The semantic range of Kuhpāʾi tenses is markedly similar to that of Persian. (2) Compound verbs are common: bərēmu = bərēme kuru “he weeps,” yā xārtəmon (Pers. jā xordan) “to be shocked,” dim-e hem nāmon “to pile up.” Note the compounds incorporating the noun vīr “memory”: vīr-ot u (Pers. yād-at ast) “you remember,” vīr-em_ə-yu (Pers. yād-am miāyad) “I (can) remember,” vīr-ton vanáašu (Pers. yād-etān nemiravad) “you won’t forget,” vīr vaštəmon “to forget.” (3) Intransitive compounds with transitive auxiliary verbs receive intransitive conjugations: -m gīr beka “my foot got stuck.” (4) The subjunctive and the imperative of certain verbs employ “be” as auxiliary: bezombe (i.e., be-zon be) “know!” (5) “See” conjugates regularly except for the imperfect, which is the invariable noun “visible” + Set II + bo “was”: dim bo, did bo, diš bo “I, you, he would see,” with the literal meaning “there was visibility for me, you, him.” Note also the compound verb die (?) kartəmon “to look.”

Periphrastic perfect tenses are formed from the past and subjunctive of “be” as the auxiliary and the past participle of the main verb: pluperfect bešde boyind “they had gone,” be-šon-vāte bo “they had said”; perfect subjunctive bešde bind “they may have gone,” be-šon-vāte bu “they may have said.”

Progressive forms are built on “have,” modeled on colloquial Persian: dār-e ə-bər-e “you are carrying,” dārt_ə-larzā “he was trembling,” Olun. dārim vezim “we are running.”

Fronting. In transitive past tenses, there is a strong tendency for the Set II enclitic agent to move off the verb onto a preceding word, which can be the direct object, an indirect object, an adverb, or, most interestingly, the subject—a trait found in no other known Central Dialect. This yields equal alternate structures such as mo-m Vir-de pəye-t bidi = Vir-em-de pəye-t bidi = pəye-t-em Vir-de bidi = pəye-t Vir-de bi-m-di “I saw your father in Vir/Kuhpāya.” Examples: (1) The agent on the direct object: huluži-m bexārte bo “I had eaten an/the/some apricot(s)”; to-šon ez kəye kü karte “they have kicked you out of the house”; ki mo-š vāž bika? “who called me?” yon pəra:ne jūn-ed ez kāyā higift? “Where did you buy this pretty shirt?” (2) The agent on an indirect object: be to-m bevāt “I said to you”; de mo-šon dāye “they have given me.” (3) The agent on the subject: mo-m bayosse “I have found”; ke-š mō sədā ka? “who called me?” herki-š mō bidi “whoever saw me…”; iki-š be un axe bevāt “some[body] said to that man”; axe bičāre-š herči təlāš beka “no matter how much the hopeless man struggled.” (4) The agent on an adverb: tā-š mo bidi “as soon as he saw me …”; ez-veski-š bexārte “so much he has eaten…”; ez dur-šon naznā “from afar they knew not”; heze-m dēnār kəvēj biirint “yesterday I bought dah-nār of wild plums”; Olun. son-em go bevāt “as I said…” (5) The agent remains on the verb optionally (un ru sahrā-de bi-m-di “I saw him in the field,” vesgi be-š-xārte “so much he has eaten…”), but necessarily so when the verb is the only word in a clause: he-m-dā vali hi-š-na-gift “I gave but he did not take”; ture-yi go karg-ə to-š binikt, bi-m-di “I saw the jackal who took away your hen.” (6) Imperfect transitive person endings are fronted at random: kəye čužihā-t xərā:b_o-ka “you used to destroy the sparrows’ nest”; dārtem komze-m_o-vont “I was cutting the melon.” (7) Fronting to a word that already has an enclitic possessive marker is possible if the agent succeeds the pronoun: be-š-em bevāt “I told him” (not “he told me”), dim-əm-em bešošte “I have washed my face,” enguli-m-am ji bevont “I cut my finger too.”

Be. The substantive verb bōmon “to be” consists of the stems zero/h- (present), b- (subjunctive), and bo(y)- (past), and is conjugated with the person-endings Set I, listed in Table 1. The duration is not specified.

Present: -on, -e, (h)-u, -im, -id, -ind

Subjunctive: bon, be, bu, bim, bid, bind

Preterit: boyon, boye, bo-ø, bo(y)im, bo(y)id, bo(y)ind

Imperative: be!  Past part.: bo, bie

The third person singular present often assimilates with the preceding vowel: yon sov-u “this is an apple,” un fəressuk-u “it is a swallow,” yon yane-e [yaneː] “this is a mortar,” un jinji-i “she is a woman,” yohon yā-ā “here is a room.” — The copula is optionally omitted: engur təroš māli na(hu) “sour grapes is not plenty.” — Interrogative sentences employ the subjunctive copula: yon čiči bu? “what is this?” yon axi ke bu? “who is this man?”

The locative/existential verb for animate nouns is formed from the copula and preverb (r)-: dəron, dəre, dəru/duru “I am in, you are in, he is in,” dəbe “be!” Examples: pišim kəye dəron “I’ll be home at noon,” gusbend ru lum duru “the sheep is in the pen.” No example is available for the subjunctive and the past.

The locative verb for the inanimate nouns is formed by adding the copula to the stem ess- (otherwise “stand; become”), attested only for the present third singular: sart kāyā essu? “where is the ladder?” če čihā-yə jūn-i yohon essu “such pretty things are here!” This moribund stem is sometimes omitted: čərā kənār-ə dəzār u “the light is at the wall.”

Become. is expressed by two pairs of stems: b- ː bebo- and ves(s)- ː ves(s)ā- (also “stand”). The passive is formed analytically with “become.” Examples: (present) zū xasse v-e-ess-e (or xasse_e-be-e) “you get tired quickly”; (imperative) max vess “get lost!” ; (preterit) max vessā “it was lost,” herči-š beres, čole bebo “whatever he spun, it turned to raw cotton,” tā-š mo bidi qāyem vessā/bebo “he hid from view”; (imperfect) rāzi na-a-bo (or ve-n-e-esā) “he wouldn’t get satisfied”; (present perfect) pālon-eš avaz bebie “its saddle has changed,” Olun. jun verdašta na:bu “it is not sewn well”; (pluperfect) bīhūš vessāye boyon “I had become unconscious.” — nábu (the pres. third singular in the negative) functions as an impersonal modal: bāhārā nabu raxt-ə garm vapušā “one may not ewear warm clothes in the summer.”

Have. This verb is irregular in that it takes no modal affixes in the affirmative, and the subjunctive and imperative forms are conjugated with “be.” Examples: (na-)dār-u “he has (not),” dār bon “I might have,” dār b-e “have!”; dārt- “he would have,” be-š-dārt “he had.” Note the past participle dār (instead of *dārte), as in dār bu (Pers. dāšta bāšad) “that he have.”  “Have” serves as the auxiliary in progressive forms (see above).

Modals. (1) gu ː “want; must” is conjugated in all tenses with enclitic pronouns as the agent, prone to fronting. “Want” normally appears in the imperfective aspect and is followed by the main verb in the subjunctive. The un-fronted forms are gu-m “I want,” gā-m “I wanted,” gāye-m “I have wanted,” with the respective negative forms na-m-u-gu, na-m-gā, na-m-gāye. Examples: uvā gu-šon bišind “they want to go,” āros-eš mā-pore na-a-gu “the daughter-in-law doesn’t want the mother-in-law,” vaxte-t_ə-gā = to-t vaxte_e-gā “when you wanted,” Eilers gū-š xub ū yā bäd, ūwa-šun1 ijare-šon2“be it good or bad, they1 want their2 rent.” — In the sense of “must,” the modal takes the perfective mood and is followed by the past stem (or the curtailed infinitive) of the main verb: mo-m bigu šo “I must go” (cf. Classical Pers. bāyad-am raft), uvā-d nagu šo “you should not go there,” bi-š-gu bart “he must carry.” — (2) šā “can” appears only in the negative in the texts. It is fronted by Set II endings and is succeeded, optionally, by bo, the third person singular of the substantive verb. Examples: mo-m našā bo = na-m-šā bo “I was not able to,” mehmon-š mehmon našā bivinu “a guest cannot see [another] gust.” The affirmative of “can” is constructed using the verb “come,” as in Persian: šāllā ez mo_o-oma herā-š kār-i bekəron (cf. Pers. az man (bar-)miāmad) “I wish I would be able to do something for him.” — (3) nábu (see under Become, above).

Verbal nouns. (1) The infinitive marker -(ə)mon is added to the past stem preceded by the preverb (if any) or optionally by the perfective prefix: pa:mon “to cook,” dīmon “to see,” šōmon “to go,” həmartəmon/həmarāmon “to break,” vayossāmon/vayossomon “to find.” The Persian gerundive is expressed by the infinitive in Kuhpāʾi, e.g., sotəmon (for Pers. suxtan and suxtagi) “to burn, burning.” — (2) The past participle consists of the perfective prefix (optional) or preverb (if any), the past stem, and the stressed suffix -e, e.g., the adjectives həmarte “broken,” dermonte “desperate,” paye “cooked” (with the glide y), budāye “roasted,” vessāye “standing.” The suffix may drop, as in behošā́ “dried.” In conjugation of the present perfect (and the periphrastic forms) the prefix is omitted optionally: (ha)xofde “he has slept,” (ha)xofde bo “he had slept,” (ha)xofde bu “he may have slept.” In the verbs “go” and “come,” the past part. is irregularly formed with an intrusive (historical) d and is inseparable from the perfective prefix: be-šdé-y-on “I have gone,” b-omdé-y-im “we have come.” — (3) The present stem is used in compounds: gon-duž (lit. gunny-sew) “large needle,” tāze-zā “new-born.” Most nouns constructed on the present participle bear the suffix -e, e.g., torn-e “rolling pin,” guli-torne (Pers. sergin-ḡaltān) “scarab,” duru-vāž-e “lier,” kāye-kər-e “playful,” bəne-soun-e (Pers. dār-kub) “woodpecker,” čučuve (< ču-kuv-e) “id.,” kār-tən-e (Pers. tār/kār-tan-ak, Isf. Pers. kārdown < kār-davān) “spider.”  There are also such nominals suffixed with -i, as ōhenji “irrigation” (henj- is an obsolete stem), kiri-māl-i (lit. oven-rub) “rag used to clean the oven,” yoš-i “quick-tempered.” Moreover, šū (cf. Pers. ravān) “flowing” might be from the present stem š- “go.”


(1) The suffix –že, in virže “from or related to Vir, i.e., Kuhpāya,” kukiže “of or related to Kuki, i.e., Jabal,” Siži “Sagzi,” etc. — (2) Diminutive suffix –ži, in huluži “unripe apricot,” guži “calf” (cf. gou “cow”), suruži “chickenpox,” ovži “egg-white,” and probably čuži “sparrow.” — (3) Diminutive suffix -či, in a:rči “hand-mill,” čužiči “sparrow chicken,” poreči/poriči “little boy,” siāči “grain fetter/pest.” — (4) Compounds: ho-š-vābendi (lit. to that attaching?) “pad for placing the dough on the inner wall of the oven,” pā-m-oš-ār (lit. foot-me-its-bring?) “pedal,” kužendere (lit. “out-hit-in” or “out-it-in”?) “unripe almond.” — (5) Compounds calqued on Persian model: kie-vāde (Pers. xānavāda) “family,” ču-luke (Pers. čub-panba) “cork,” sov-xāki (Pers. sib-zamini < French pomme de terre) “potato,” herā-in-go (Pers. barāye in-ke) “because of.”


As in most other languages and dialects of central Iran, Kuhpāʾi has remained unwritten. However, a substantial amount of literature has been produced by Reżā Maddāhi Kuhpāʾi (d. 2011), with the pen name of Reżā Darviš. Only a little of his poetry has been published (Borjian, 2004, 2011).


H. Borjian, “Neṣāb-e welāyati-e Reżā Darviš-e Kupāʾi,” Nāma-ye pārsi 9/3, 2004, pp. 63-80.

Idem, “Median Succumbs to Persian after Three Millennia of Coexistence: Language Shift in the Central Iranian Plateau,” Journal of Persianate Societies 2/1, 2009, pp. 62-87.

Johnny Cheung, Etymological Dictionary of the Iranian Verb, Leiden and Boston, 2007.

Wilhelm Eilers, “Kūhpāye, das alte Vīr, und seine Mundart,” Bulletin of the Asia Institute, N.S.  4 , 1990, pp. 217-29.

Karl Krahnke, “Linguistic Relationships in Central Iran,” unpublished dissertation, University of Michigan, 1976.

Georg Morgenstierne, “Feminine Nouns in -a in Western Iranian Dialects,” in W. Henning and E. Yarshater, eds., A Locust’s Leg, London, 1962, pp. 203-8.

Ehsan Yarshater, Handwritten field notes on the dialect of ʿOlunābād, 1969, kindly provided to the author.

(Habib Borjian)

Last Updated: June 26, 2013