MEYMA ii. The Dialect


MEYMA, district in central Persia, on the road leading north from Isfahan to Qom.

ii. The Dialect 

Meyma district is at the heart of the area where the Central dialects are spoken. Almost the entire district has been resistant to Persian in favor of the local vernacular (see ISFAHAN xx). Meymaʾi is a variety of the local dialects of Kashan district (see KASHAN vi) and shows many similarities with other Central dialects (henceforth CDs), but also some differences that will be emphasized in this entry. The dialect is known through the documentation of Ann K. S. Lambton (texts, 3,100 words, supplemented by a glossary and verb paradigms; Lambton, pp. 5-43), a list of words by M.-R. Majidi (pp. 61-64), and, on the question of grammatical gender, several sentences by Ehsan Yarshater (p. 741).


The vowel phonemes of Meymaʾi are similar to those of modern Persian, consisting of the tense set /â î û/ and the lax /a e o/, with ε, ɔ, ü as allophones in Lambton’s phonetic transcription, plus the diphthongs /ō/ (with the allophone ȫ; ow in Majidi) and /ey/. Lack of stress marks in the available data hinders our knowledge of certain morphological traits. Notable among consonants are the pharyngeal [ħ] and [ʕ], while not properly phonemes, are pronounced in several words of Arabic origin: “soul,” osüla “patience,” sabe “morning,” sa “tomorrow,” ʿamal “performance,” ʿεš “love,” ʿεzat “glory,” ʿɔmr “lifespan.”

Diachronics. While belonging to the Northwest (NW) group of Iranian languages, Meymaʾi also shows significant Southwest (SW) elements, as revealed in the following characteristic developments. OIr. *dz > /z/: zun- “know,” zumād “son-in-law,” hεze “yesterday,” εzma “firewood.” *dw- > /b/: bar “door,” (a)bi “other.” *y-, *wy- > /y/: ye “barley,” yedā “alone,” and “place,” also in kuā “where” and yāḡā “quilt.” *θr > /r/: pür “son,” ɔ̄r “mill,” owīre “pregnant.” *j- is retained in jan “woman, wife,” jande/a “alive.” *-č- > /j/: jīr “under,” rūjegār “era” (but rū̆ “day”), tājī “greyhound” (cf. Mid. Pers. tāzīg “swift”), tājn- “make run,” dar-āvij- “hang,” rīj- “pour,” suj- “burn,” vāj “call,” *vaj- “dig,” *vεrūj- “flee,” -ji “also,” and probably tājah “fresh”; note also nomā “prayers,” pīč- “cook.” *-rz, -rd > /l/ (a SW reflex in CDs, Meymaʾi included), as in hal- “put; allow.” *r > /l/ is found in salt “ladder” (< *sarta-), valk/varg “leaf,” dīvāl “wall,” xīyāl “cucumber,” zεnjīl “chain,” pīlāsāl “year before last.” The IE *l- may have been retained in “fox.” OIr. *-g > SW /w/ or zero: rüa(n) “ghee” (< *rōwan < OIr. *raugna-), dɔrū̆ “lie” (cf. Mid. Pers. drō(w); Pth. drōγ), čε “lamp,” εlo/ā “crow,” but tīḡ “blade.”

*hw- is reduced to /x/ or /h/, with the succeeding vowel rounded: -/(i) “self,” mamxɔsrü “mother-in-law” and bāxsüra “father-in-law” (< mām/bāb + OIr. *xwasura-aka- < IE *sweƙuro-), āhun “heap of threshed grain” (< *ā- + *hwah “strike, thresh”; Cheung, pp. 141-43), xos- ː xɔ̄st-/hɔst- “hit; throw” (< *hwah-; ibid); but vɔ̄t- “sleep,” in spite of the noun xo “sleep.” *x-, *h- > /h/: hūše “cluster,” harmīze “melon,” hεsεnje “broom” (Jowš. hasenjen <? xas “small chip of wood” + *θanj-), hɔle “hole” (cf. Pers., Gilaki xol, Sivandi fale, Kurdish kōl), hālu (< Arabic xāl) “uncle.” *-xm- has shrunk to /m/ in tum “seed.”

The Mid. WIr. clusters *xr-, *fr- > /hVr/: hurūs “cock,” hεrin- ː hεri- “buy”; hɔrūš “sale,” and the preverb - (< *frā-), which is also found frozen in hemer- ː hema- “break” (< *fra- + *marH) and hεran- ː hεrāst- “weave” (cf. Jowšaqāni rān- ː rāst-). *-xr- > hr > /r, l/: sür “red,” ta(ʾ)l “sour,” εstāl “pool,” čargīna (< *čaxr-gōna) “[round] basket.” — *-xt-, *-ft- > /t/: dōt “daughter,” dar-āvīt “hang,” horut- “sell,” pat- “cook,” rεt- “pour,” sṓt- “burn,” vat- “pull out,” - “say,” pīt- “twist” (< *pēxt-), and possibly rüt/rūt “naked” (Pers. lut, loxt); kat- “fall,” gat- “seize,” vɔ̄t- “sleep”; note bāft “boasting” (cf. bāf in Pers. zand-bāf “nightingale,” Sogd. b “say,” Av. uf- “sing”; see Cheung, p. 401), with the Perside reflex *w- > /b/, thereby a loanword. — *št, *st remain: εstāl “pool,” εstāre “star,” kost- “pound,” hεrāst- “weave,” xɔ̄st- “hit; throw,” bast- “close,” fεsεst- “rupture,” kast- “dig,” čāšt “morning,” ošto “haste,” angašt- “look,” hašt- “put,” rεšt- “spin,” šɔšt- “wash,” vāšt- “run,” vīšt- “find,” vȫdašt- “pass”; -čašt/d- “sit,” -šd- ː šdā- “stand.” — *š is lost in the nasal cluster *šN only in čam “eye,” vaša “hungry,” but not in tašna “thirst,” εšnās- “recognize,” as in Jowšaqāni.

Mid. WIr. *w- remains: - “without,” vad “bad,” vīdār “awake,” vād “wind,” vārūn “rain,” valk “leaf,” vādu “almond,” vīt “willow tree,” vare/a “lamb,” vačε “child,” vāhār “spring,” vεdar “better,” vīš(tar) “more,” viya “widow,” vāj “voice,” vin- “see,” vaz- ː vašt- “run”; vaša “hungry,” *vεrūj- “flee,” *vȫdεr- ː *vȫdašt- “pass”; but gɔrg “wolf,” *fεsεnj- ː fεsεst- “rupture.” — The final and medial *d is lost in kia “house,” kɔiya “game,” kue/a “dog,” kɔmina “which (one),” māye “female,” rōxūne “river,” “quickly,” čā(r)šȫ “veil,” hεri- “buy,” di- “see,” diār “apparent,” šo- “go,” with as many counter-examples: εsbīd “white,” vad “bad,” vεdar “better,” vād “wind,” vādu “almond,” vīdār “awake,” yedā “alone,” zumād “son-in-law,” -ida verb ending 2nd pl. (Table 1), *vȫdεr- ː *vȫdašt- “pass,” and vīt “willow tree,” where /t/ is a devoiced /d/. This dichotomy of loss vs. retention of an original *d clearly shows the superposition of two different developments in Meymaʾi. — Loss of final consonants is common: šū “husband,” “flood” (cf. Pers. lāy); “month,” n- ː nā̆- “put”; čī “thing”; mele “grasshopper”; adposition de (< dar; but dür “far”), including the loss of final nasals: kεr “worm,” vādu “almond,” nū-zade “fiancée,” čupu “shepherd,” gεrtε “walnut” (cf. Pers. gerdakān), pasī “afternoon,” tamo “skirt” (cf. Pers. tonbān < *tanu-pāna-), zamī “earth” (cf. Pers. zami(n), Mid. Pers. zamīg).

Old labials are absorbed into adjacent vowels, yielding the long vowel /ō ȫ/ or the short /o/: *āP > /ō/: ō “water,” (also in gɔlo “pear,” dūšo “syrup”), owīre “pregnant,” xo “sleep,” ošto “haste,” aɔfto “sun” (< *tāp-, also found in tovεstun “summer,” towa “frying pan”), while “cow” retains the quality of the old vowel; *ăP > /ȫ/: ȫr “cloud,” šȫ “night,” “at,” kȫk “partridge,” kȫš “shoe”; also sōz “green.”

Vowels. Three vertical layers can be identified: archaistic, modern, and innovative. This is illustrated by the Mid. WIr. *ē, which is retained as /e/ (mera “husband”; cf. Mid. Pers. mērak “young man, husband”), raised to /i/ under the possible influence of western Persian (pīšīn “midday”), or further developed to [ü] (düm “face”). — Another interesting development is that of OIr. *-aka, via Mid. WIr. -ak, which has yielded both /-a/ and /-e/, with nearly even distribution among the inherited words of the dialect. This would be highly unusual without considering the possibility of an underlying gender distinction (see below), although no correlation can be established, e.g. püre “boy,” dōte “girl,” vačε “child,” dade “brother” (cf. dādā “sister”), mεra/e “husband,” dadamira “husband’s brother,” xāmira “husband’s sister,” axe “man,” māne “mother,” ε “husband,” bābāgūrde “grandfather,” bāxsüra “father-in-law,” owīre “pregnant,” hɔle “hole,” ruwa “day,” golūʾe “socks”; viya “widow,” māye “female.”


Nouns are marked with (1) in the plural, as in karkā “birds,” čamɔ “eyes”; (2) -e/-i in an eżāfa construction, although it is not genuine to the dialect; (3) -ī̆/-e, especially when accompanied by yε “one,” to become indefinite: yε jan-i/e bo “there was a woman”; (4) -e (likely to be stressed, as in colloquial Persian) to become definite, düme “the picture”; (5) -ā̆/ε (< Pers. -) to be signified as a definite object: bāft-e hɔsn-e xɔšεš-ε ake “she was boasting of her beauty,” tā mɔn īn mard-ā jande-š vɔkεrɔn “that I may turn this man alive” (otherwise unmarked: mun bebe “take me!” īn māyegā xεb bεmrūt “I sold this cow well”). However, the distinction among the categories 3, 4, and 5 is not always clear, particularly when stress patterns are unknown. The problem becomes more complicated if we assume a faint trace of gender distinction in Meymaʾi, on the grounds that its immediate northern neighbor, Jowšaqān (see JOWŠAQĀN ii. The Dialect), is one of the few known among the Central dialects that have best preserved this grammatical feature. Yarshater finds no trace of gender distinction in Meymaʾi, but he construes the definition markers masc. -a and fem. -e for the animate accusative, from the examples in quč-a/asm-a sar-berbin “slaughter this ram/horse” vs. boz-e sar-berbin “slaughter the goat,” in boz-e beba “carry this goat,” although the assumption is vitiated in in miš-a behrinda “buy you this ewe” (Yarshater, p. 741, fn. 40). Further counter-examples to gender distinction can be drawn from Lambton’s documentation, e.g. karg-a de mɔn de! “give me the hen!” (See also a discussion on gender distinction under Diachronics, above.)

Pronouns. Independent pronouns are mɔn, to, un, hɔ̃mɔ̃, šomā, un(h)ā. Enclitic pronouns (Set II in Table 1) function as possessives (P), direct objects (DO), indirect objects (IO), and agents (A) in past transitive verbs (see below). Exx.: ungūšt jele čam-š-εš (P, A) “he held fingers before his eyes,” yak daīa-t mohlat hānadɔn (IO) “I won’t give you a moment’s extension,” juwāb-š-εšun (A, IO) “he gave them the answer.” As objects the enclitic pronouns may infix the verb: a-m-xusεnda (DO) “they are beating me,” -t-dun (IO) “that I give to you,” -š-adun (DO) “I give it” or (IO) “I give to him,” bε-m-εšun-xɔst (DO, A) “they struck me.”

The reflexive is - absorbs enclitic pronouns to function as an (1) emphatic: xɔm bamgī šo Šīrāz de “I myself have to go to Shiraz”; (2) possessive: pür-ε xɔš1-εš2 aba “he2 would take his1 son”; (3) direct object: bāft-ε xɔd neke! “don’t boast about yourself”; (4) object of prepositions: var xɔš1-εš2 “he2 put it in front of himself1.” A form is attested in hɔiyε xar naha “the donkey itself was not (there).”

Adpositions. Major prepositions are az “from,” “with,” bālā “for,” bar “on,” de/be “to,” dar “in,” rū̆ “in(to); on,” var “to, by, near,” xo “with.” Postpositions are de “from; in” and “for.” The most common of all is the polysemous de, a dative preposition and locative or ablative postposition: nɔk-εšun de-un ahɔst “they were pecking at it,” dotā γε-š ya ya-de bedi “he saw two crows in a place,” čāšȫ sar-εš-de ārεšde “he took off the veil from her head.” It also forms circumpositions: bar-zamī-de ha “it is on earth,” bīšma var-ham-de “let’s go together.”


Stems. Past stems are either irregular (e.g. [pres. ː past] hεgεr- ː hεngāft- “talk”) or derivable from the present stem by adding the formant -ā (e.g. pars- ː parsā- “ask”), also realized as -a and -o. The causative and the passive are formed by suffixing -n and -i, respectively, to the present stem: dargīr- ː darga- (intr.) → dargirn- ː dargirnā- “kindle”; hemer- ː hema- (tr.) → hemeri- ː hemeriā- (intr.) “break.” The two markers coexist in bepūšniyɔiyɔ (i.e., be-pūš-n-i-ā-a) “is hidden,” from the process *pūš- ː *pūšā- (intr.) “wear” → pūšn- ː pūšnā- (tr.) “cover” → pūšni- ː pūšniā- (intr.) “be covered.”

Affixes. The preverbs (, ār, dar, bar, vā̆-) suppress be- and precede a-, which differentiate the durative and non-durative aspects, respectively; be- appears in the imperative, subjunctive, preterit, and perfect (see Table 2). Durative marker occurs in (1) the present indicative: a-vεz-ɔn “I run,” dar-a-vaz-ɔn “I lose,” ār-e-vεz-ɔn “I jump,” hāačīnɔn “I sit,” vāaparsɔn “I ask,” vaːlun (i.e. va-a-ʰal-un) “I cast myself down,” (2) the imperfect (intr.) a-harzɔ-ø “it would cost,” a-gεrdā-ø “he was wandering,” (trans.) a-m-fahmā “I would realize,” a-š-ba “he was carrying,” a-š- “he was saying.” The durative marker is omitted before vowel-initial stems: a-ašnɔɔn “I hear,” angašt “he was looking,” εšnāse “he knows,” āhe “he was sitting.” (A historical form of the durative prefix in Central Dialects, *at-, surfaces in the imperfect forms of “come,” e.g. at-eme-ida “you were coming,” and is absorbed into the stem tār- ː tārd- “bring.”) — The negative marker -/- suppresses both aspect markers, thereby removes the indicative-subjunctive and durative-perfective distinctions: nekεre “he does not/that he do not,” vānaparsεnde “(that) they ask not”; nakatī (from dar-kat-) “you did/would not fall,” neangaštun “I did/would not look at.”

Person endings consist of two sets, as shown in Table 1. Set I endings are used in the present tenses and the intransitive past. Set II endings, employed in the transitive past as agent markers, always precede the stem and are optionally fronted. Imperative endings are the singular -e/zero and the plural -ide: bεše “go!” bebe(re) “carry!” bepīč “cook!” bexüs “hit!” bȫdεr “pass!” kεrīde “do!”

Tenses. Simple tenses are those shown in Table 2. A future tense is signified by the invariable kom(i), inserted before preterit forms: kom boyun “I will be,” kɔmi dā “he will have.” The perfect tenses employ the past participle, which is the past stem suffixed by the formant -á/-é: bemaiyɔn “I have come,” -m-gata “I have bought,” māst-edun hādāya “you have given yogurt.” The Pluperfect is formed by the past participle of the main verb and the preterit forms of the copula: beme boyon “I had come,” be-m-karda bo “I had done.” The perfect subjunctive employs the past participle and the subjunctive forms of the copula: āhe bεnda (Pers. nešasta bāšand) “they may have sat,” zūne bū (Pers. dānesta bāšad) “he may have known.”

The transitive past. Meymaʾi has retained an ergative construction in conjugation of transitive verbs in past tenses, where the enclitic pronouns, or Set II “endings,” appear before the stem to act as agent markers. There is a strong tendency in the past for the agent to be stranded from the verb and recede in the sentence to a preceding word, more often to (1) the direct object but also to an (2) indirect object or (3) adverb. Examples: (1) bar-εš bast “he shut the door,” -š ji bālā mɔn xεlat bekarda “he has then created you for me,” -m... behrī “I bought you”; (2) de jan-εš-εš dā “he gave to his wife,” var xɔš-εš nā “he placed [it] in front of himself”; (3) yak kam-εš bexā “he ate a little,” šāh bī-š bevā “the king then said.” The agent optionally remains on the verb (īn māyegā xεb bε-m-rūt “I sold this cow well”) and is repeated occasionally: īn harf-εm bālā māyεgā na-m- “I would not say these words about the cow.” 

Be and become. The substantive verb consists of the present stem zero, the past stem bo-, and the subjunctive stem b-, conjugated regularly (save the 3rd sg.) with the person-ending Set I (Table 3). The copula is aspect insensitive, i.e. it takes no modal prefix in the affirmative. The past participle is boya and the imperative is be (sg.). Negative: nebe “be not!; it may not be” naha “is not,” nehinda “they are not.”

The locative (or existential) verb can be expressed by the copula (with the stem h- for the 3rd person), as in yε pālun-e xar ha, ammā hɔi-yε xar naha “a donkey’s pack-saddle is there, but the donkey itself is not.” In most cases, however, the locative verb is expressed by the copula preceded by the locative de (see above), which at the same time functions as a postposition, often within a circumpostional phrase: xo-de hεnda “they are asleep,” dɔkkūn-e xɔš de bo “he was in his shop,” har yā-de bu “wherever he might be.”

“Become” is based on the present stem b- and past stem bo-, which optionally takes the modal prefix be- or the preverb -. “Be” and “become” overlap in the subjunctive. Exx.: pā boyun “that I get up,” neboyun “I was/became not,” maxvo voboyun “I was lost.”

Modals. (1) ː “want; must” is conjugated with Set II pronouns/endings as the agent in all tenses: pres. a-m-gi, atgi, ašgi, amungi, adungi, ašungi, past: a-m-, etc. Examples: atgi hā-t-dun “you want that I give [it to] you,” ašgā ke taʾrīf-ε dōt-εš bekεre “he wanted to praise his daughter,” natgī “desire not!” The agent may follow the stem (harči dεl-εt gīš “whatever your heart desires”) or be fronted even in the present tense (nun-e pīšīn-εm agi “I want a midday meal”). The subjunctive is attained by dropping the durative marker: and-εš “that he want sugar.” “Must” is expressed with the modal prefix be-: bamgī šo “I must go” (cf. dialect of Kuhpāya (q.v.), in which the senses “want” and “must” are constructed on the durative and perfective forms, respectively, and the neighboring dialect of Jowšaqān, where both “want” and “must” are expressed irrespective of the form and always with the durative marker.) (2) naš(i) “cannot; should not” is followed by the subjunctive, the apocopated infinitive (i.e. the past stem), or the infinitive of the main verb: to naš kε... bāft bekεri “you should not boast,” hεški naši xond “nobody can read,” naši šoyan (corrected for šoyun) “I cannot go.” (3) The verb “can” is normally expressed idiomatically: ti-εm arbīnī (lit. “my blade cuts”) “I can,” ti-εm bεšbεrind “I could.”

Other verbs. (1) dār- ː dā(rd)- “have; hold” is irregular in aspect insensitiveness (dār-εnda “they have”), except in compounds: gūš a-dεr-ɔn “I hold.” (2) “Sit” is expressed by three roots: (i) hā-čin- ː čašt-, attested also in other CDs; (ii) the past stem āh(ā̆ st)- (e.g. marū bar dɔmā āhāst “a mosquito sat on [his] nose,” āhe bεnda “they were sitting”), comparable to Qohrudi āh- ː āhā(d)- “to be seated, remain,” Ṭāri ax- ː axā(y)-, Ardestāni ax- ː āxo-, Abyānaʾi ay- ː ayā(y)-, Abuz. av- ː avad-, Nāʾini, Anāraki - ː āšes(s)- (Lecoq, p. 194); (iii) āni- (in čerā rū abrastun de ānī? “why are you sitting in the cemetery?”), is comparable to hā-ni(n)g/k- ː hā-ništ-, typical of the southern and eastern Central Dialects.  (3) diār “seen, apparent” combines with auxiliaries to make compounds: rū dɔkūn-e εsābī diār abo “is found in a butcher’s shop,” diār akeron “I find,” xɔdā... diɔr maiya “God has created/made apparent,” mɔštεri gā-š rā diar nema “no buyer was found for his cow.”



Jonny Cheung, Etymological Dictionary of the Iranian Verb, Leiden, 2007.

A. K. S. Lambton, Three Persian Dialects, London, 1938. 

Pierre Lecoq, Recherches sur les dialectes kermaniens (Iran central), Leuven, 2002.

Moḥammad-Reżā Majidi, Guyešhā-ye pirāmun-e Kāšān o Maḥallāt, Tehran, 1975.

Ehsan Yarshater, “Distinction of grammatical gender in the dialects of Kashan province and adjoining areas,” in Papers in Honour of Professor Mary Boyce II, Acta Iranica 25, 1985, pp. 727-45.

Habib Borjian, Meyma'i: A Central Iranian Plateau Dialect, Munich, 2012.

(Habib Borjian)

Originally Published: February 25, 2011

Last Updated: February 25, 2011