AVESTAN LANGUAGE, the language of the Avesta, an Old Iranian language.

i. The Avestan script.

ii. The phonology of Avestan.

iii. The grammar of Avestan.

iv. Avestan Syntax.

i . The Avestan Script

The Avestan script is known from manuscripts written in Iran (at Yazd and Kerman) and in India (in Gujarat, e.g., Cambay, Broach, Ankleshwar, Surat, and Navsari). The earliest manuscript dates from A.D. 1288. The script consists of 14 (or 16) letters for vowels and 37 letters for consonants, see Table 2. In printed texts the letters ȧ, ġ, ŋᵛ, ń, , and are not used. The transliteration given in Table 2 differs in some points from that almost universally used until recently. Thus, it has been usual to use for ; č and ǰ for c and j; w for β; n for both n and ; š for š, š′, and; y for both y () and ii; v for both v and uu. The signs for ą̇, ġ, ŋᵛ, , , , š, and were not used at all until recently.

The letters are written from right to left and are not connected. Ligatures (e.g., šk, šc, št, ša) are rare and clearly of secondary origin. A point (dot) is used to indicate the end of a word or the end of the first member of a compound, no distinction being made between the two. The letters have almost the same shapes in all manuscripts. Only some Indian manuscripts show peculiarities: H2 (A.D. 1415), S1 and J9 (14/15th century A.D.).

The large number of letters used suggests that their invention resulted from an attempt to record an orally recited text with all its phonetic nuances. For that reason the Avestan script must have been the deliberate invention or creation of a scholar or of a group of scholars (see, e.g., Morgenstierne, “Orthography and Sound-system,” pp. 31-33; Henning, “Disintegration,” p. 44).

The Avestan script is based on the Pahlavi (q.v.) script in its cursive form as used by theologians of the Zoroastrian church when writing their books. The earliest Pahlavi manuscripts date from the fourteenth century A.D., but the Pahlavi cursive script must have developed from the Aramaic script already in the first centuries A.D. This is proved for example by the fact that an early inscription on the lid of a sarcophagus found in Istanbul that for archeological reasons can not be dated later than A.D. 430 already shows the characteristic written forms of the Pahlavi cursive script with two insignificant exceptions (k and s). (See the bibliography in Ph. Gignoux, Glossaire des inscriptions pehlevies et parthes, Corp. Inscr. Iran., Suppl. Ser. I, London, 1972, p. 14.) In the Pahlavi cursive script almost all the letters represent several different sounds. This ambiguity is due in part to inadequacies of the Aramaic alphabet from which it developed, in part to the phonological development of the Middle Persian language (“historical spelling”), and in part to the graphic coalescence of signs. In addition, many individual letters of a word are joined to one another, with the result that extremely ambiguous ligatures occur.

Apart from the Pahlavi cursive script as used in the Zoroastrian church there was a still older kind of script that was to some extent less ambiguous. This script, called here the “Psalter script,” is known to us from a manuscript from the seventh or eighth century A.D. containing a “Christian” Pahlavi translation of the Psalms. (See D. N. MacKenzie, A Concise Pahlavi Dictionary, London, 1971, pp. xi, xiii, for tables of the Pahlavi and Psalter scripts; and Aramaic, i.)

The creator of the Avestan script took over from the Pahlavi cursive script the letters a, i, k, t, p, b, m, n, r, s, z, š, and xᵛ to represent the same sounds as in Pahlavi. The sign (28) for d derives likewise from the unambiguous Psalter script. In Pahlavi the sign for k (17) represented both the sounds k and γ, because k had developed to γ in word-interior position. In the Psalter script the sign for k differed from that of the Pahlavi cursive in that the Psalter sign ended in a flourish towards the right. The creator of the Avestan script made use of this variation in the shape of the letters by assigning to the Pahlavi form (17) the fixed value k and to the Psalter form (23) the fixed value γ. In this way the flourish could be reinterpreted as a diacritical mark, which the creator of the script put to further use. The Pahlavi Psalter sign (25) for c/j/z/ž had a similar flourish and was accordingly adopted to represent the voiced sound j. By removing the flourish the creator of the script obtained the sign (24) for c, which has a different shape in the Pahlavi cursive script. Pahlavi p represented the sounds p/(f)/β. It was retained unchanged in Avestan for p (31) while an initial flourish converted it into the sign for β (34). The addition of a flourish to Pahlavi t (26) either initially or finally was not used, as might be expected, to represent δ but to represent a word-final (30) that was probably implosive. The Pahlavi alef was adopted as a (1) in the Avestan alphabet.

In Pahlavi, alef had coalesced graphically with h, from which it was still distinguished in the Psalter script. Thus, Pahlavi had only one sign to represent alef, h, and x. In order to represent the sound xᵛ in Avestan, use was made of an ambiguous Pahlavi ligature (20) of ʾ/h + w/n/r, which among many others had the value xw. The shape of the ligature hw adopted for Avestan xᵛ not only is characteristic of the Pahlavi books but is found already in the inscription on the sarcophagus lid from Istanbul, whereas the ligature has a different shape in the Psalter script. In the Avestan script a flourish was added to distinguish (19) from xᵛ (20). An unusual diacritic in the form of a loop at the end of a curved flourish was used to distinguish h (53) from a (1). The loop may have been a secondary addition providing graphical resemblance to p (31), since a variant form of h (53 in brackets) without the loop is found in such manuscripts as H2 and J9. By extending the curve further upwards than in the unlooped variety of h it was possible to distinguish x (18) from both a (1) and h (53). The curved upwards flourish was further used to create Avestan f (32) out of Pahlavi p (31) and is seen in the voiceless fricative θ (27). The basic shape to which the curved upwards flourish was added in the case of θ is to be seen in the form taken by final s in Pahlavi words such as gʾs for Avestan gāθā, in which s represents Avestan θ (MacKenzie, Pahlavi Dictionary, p. xiii, the second s, to the right).

The Avestan letter ā (2) is also derived from the Pahlavi script, where this sign was used for ʾy at the end of a word (already in the Istanbul sarcophagus inscription). However, as early as in Middle Persian inscriptions from the third century A.D., ʾy was used to represent the final -ā of foreign names as in swlyʾy for (Greek) Sūríā, and the Pahlavi Psalter confirms that this convention continued to be adopted as the Psalter itself has the spelling ʾpltʾy for Syriac ʾprtʾ, that is (Greek) Ephrathá (Bethlehem).

The Avestan letter o (11) corresponds in graphic shape to a special form of Pahlavi l that is found only in Aramaic heterograms. The commonest of those heterograms is the preposition ʿL “to, at,” which was read in Middle Persian as ō (MacKenzie, Pahlavi Dictionary, p. 187, left column, 3rd line from the top). It looks as though the creator of the Avestan script used this special form of l without the initial ʿayn to represent the sound o. The letter e (9) seems to have a similar origin. Pahlavi ēw “one” was probably pronounced simply as ē already at an early date. This pronunciation is actually attested in the later Pahlavi literature. Avestan e differs from the Pahlavi ligature ēw only by the absence of a small initial hook which was indispensable for Pahlavi but unnecessary for Avestan. (Words with initial ēw-/ēn- in MacKenzie, Pahlavi Dictionary, pp. 232f.)

The original (Aramaic) letters n, w, r, and ʿ (ʿayn) coalesced in a single short vertical stroke in Pahlavi. This sign was taken over unchanged for n in the Avestan alphabet (38). A slight bend in the stroke was made to distinguish Avestan u (15) from n since Pahlavi w was used in internal position also to designate the sound u.

The Pahlavi script had very inadequate means to designate the vowel sounds. By contrast the creator of the Avestan script quite clearly invented a special sign for every vowel distinguished in the oral tradition. No doubt the Greek script had provided a model; the Greek script was well known in Iran as is shown by the fact that already under Šāpūr I (241-72 A.D.) Greek translations accompanied the royal inscriptions. Thus Avestan ə (7) could have been adopted from Greek minuscules, which had a comparable form already in the fourth century. The sign for ā (2) probably came directly from Pahlavi but the letters for the remaining long vowels were evidently formed by adding diacritics to letters for the corresponding short vowels. ə̄ (8) was accordingly formed by adding to ə (7) a flourish to the left, while ē (10) was formed by adding to e (9) a flourish to the right. The letters for ō (12), ī (14), and ū (16) were distinguished from the letters for the corresponding short vowels by the addition of a short vertical stroke at the bottom. It is likely that the creator of the script based the sign for ō (12) on the Pahlavi heterogram ʿL, which was pronounced ō, by placing the ʿayn, the vertical stroke on the right, under the L. The sign for the short vowel was then formed by treating the vertical stroke as a diacritic denoting length. The same stroke may subsequently have been used by analogy in order to differentiate between ī and i and between ū and u.

As yet few plausible statements can be made concerning the origin of the remaining letters of the Avestan alphabet, but it must be accepted that the creator of a script is free to invent letters or diacritics arbitrarily.

ā̊ (4), which looks like a ligature of ā + ə, was differentiated from ā. Short ȧ (3) has been found in one manuscript only (Pd, where it is used instead of ą before ŋh; see Salemann, “Parsenhandschrift,” p. 510). ą (5) seems to be a free invention. In some manuscripts (e.g., Mf4, ed. in facsimile by K. M. JamaspAsa) ą̇ (6) is found instead of ą (5). There is some slight evidence that ą and ą̇ were not just graphic variants but two different letters. ą may have been a nasalized long ą̄, and ą̇ a nasalized short ə. The original form of ą̇ may have been the left variant of no. 6 in the table.

The Avestan script originally possessed also the letter ġ (22). All the known Avestan alphabets, most of which are very corrupt, begin with the letters g, ġ, γ (21-23). ġ is seldom found in the manuscripts but relatively often in final -ə̄ṇġ, especially in the manuscripts S1 and J3. This suggests that ġ was implosive, like t̰, the only other final stop in Avestan.

Avestan g (21) may be a modification of the corresponding Pahlavi letter. Neither of the forms of δ (29) appears to be based on Pahlavi letters.

Among the nasal signs ŋ (35), the labialized nasal ŋᵛ (37), and the uvular nasal (40) appear to be free inventions. Both forms of palatalized ń (39)—that on the right in the table is found only in MS K7—are modifications of n (38). The voiceless (42) is simply m (41) plus a diacritic.

The sign for initial (43) and v (44) are free inventions.

The left part of ž (50) resembles the Pahlavi ligature ʾc (written like 53). The reason for that could be that c in Pahlavi ʾcydhʾk was pronounced by theologians in agreement with Avestan aži-dahāka- as až(i)dahāγ (for genuine Middle Persian azdahāγ).

šˊ (51) is simply š (49) plus a diacritic. In Indian manuscripts initial (43) is replaced by initial y (52), which looks like š (49) with a slightly different diacritic. If the sign originally had the phonetic value palatal ž, that may in fact have been its origin. Even (46) could be a modification of š (49) if the sound it represents was already some kind of š sound at the time the script was invented (see on phonology below).

It is generally considered that the Avestan script dates to the Sasanian period (224-651 A.D.). The evidence of the Istanbul sarcophagus inscription (before A.D. 430) suggests that it may have been invented already by the fourth century A.D., perhaps even under Šāpūr II (310-379 A.D.). Note, however, that none of the letters of the alphabet used in the monumental Mid. Pers. inscriptions seem to have been borrowed for the Avestan alphabet (table in MacKenzie, Pahlavi Dictionary, p. xi).

It may be assumed that the Avestan texts were written down shortly after the invention of the script, which was designed to provide a special sign for each sound used in the traditional pronunciation of Avestan. In this first notation of the Avestan texts, the so-called “Sasanian archetype,” the aim of the inventor of the script must have been put into practice.

In the post-Sasanian period there took place a serious deterioration in what had become a manuscript tradition. There must have been numerous errors even in the manuscripts written in the ninth or tenth century, from which ultimately the extant manuscripts descend. Thus, for example, the letters š, šˊ, and were only in part correctly employed and ŋuh or ŋh was written instead of ŋᵛh. The manuscripts themselves constantly betray a marked deterioration in the pronunciation of the vulgate. 


C. F. Andreas, “Die Entstehung des Awesta-Alphabetes und sein ursprünglicher Lautwert,” Verhandlungen des XIII. internationalen Orientalisten-Kongresses, Hamburg, September 1902, Leiden, 1904, pp. 99-106.

W. B. Henning, “The Disintegration of the Avestic Studies,” TPS, 1942, pp. 40-56 (Selected Papers II, Acta Iranica 15, pp. 151-67).

Idem, “Mitteliranisch,” p. 52.

K. Hoffmann, “Zum Zeicheninventar der Avesta-Schrift,” in Festgabe deutscher Iranisten zur 2500 Jahrfeier Irans, Stuttgart, 1971, pp. 64-73 (Aufsätze zur Indoiranistik I, Wiesbaden, 1975, pp. 316-25).

A. V. W. Jackson, The Avestan Alphabet and its Transcription, Stuttgart, 1890.

K. M. JamaspAsa, Manuscript D90: Yasnā with its Pahlavi Translation I-II, Shiraz, 1976 (facsimile of Geldner’s ms. Mf4).

G. Morgenstierne, “Orthography and Sound-system of the Avesta,” NTS 12, 1942, pp. 30-82 (Irano-Dardica, Wiesbaden, 1973, pp. 31-79).

C. Salemann, “Ueber eine Parsenhandschrift der Kaiserlichen Oeffentlichen Bibliothek zu St. Petersburg,” Travaux de la troisième session du Congrès international des Orientalistes 1876 II, St. Petersburg and Leiden, 1879, pp. 508-19.

G. Windfuhr, “Diacritic and Distinctive Features in Avestan,” JAOS 91, 1971, pp. 104-24 (somewhat speculative).

See also J. Duchesne-Guillemin, Kratylos 7, 1962, pp. 4-9.


ii. The Phonology of Avestan

Attested forms and stages of development. Avestan is attested in two forms, known respectively as Old Avestan (OAv.) or Gathic Avestan and Young Avestan (YAv.). They differ from each other not only chronologically but also dialectally. Avestan, which is associated with northeastern Iran, and Old Persian, which belongs to the southwest, together constitute what is called Old Iranian. It is possible to some extent to reconstruct Proto-Iranian by comparing Avestan with Old Persian. This Proto-Iranian is closely related to the Vedic language of ancient India. Both Proto-Iranian and Vedic go back to Proto-Indo-Iranian or Proto-Aryan, which in turn descends from Proto-Indo-European.

By comparison with Vedic, whose phonemes are consistently recorded, Avestan in the form in which it has been handed down in manuscripts from 1288 A.D. onwards is attested in a very irregular notation. Apart from errors introduced in the post-Sasanian period, the essential features of the manuscript tradition of the Avesta must have been present already in the Sasanian archetype. When the Avestan texts were first recorded, perhaps as early as the fourth century A.D., each sound of the current Avestan pronunciation was designated by a special letter. The fact that a phonetic notation was used rather than a phonemic one means that it is possible to assess the linguistic significance of the individual spellings with regard to both the synchronic description of the language and its historical development.

Every Avestan text, whether composed originally in Old Avestan or in Young Avestan, went through several stages of transmission before it was recorded in the extant manuscripts. During the course of transmission many changes took place.

For Old Avestan the following stages may be assumed: 1. The original language of the Zarathustrian Gāthās, the Yasna Haptaŋhāiti, and the four sacred prayers; 2. Changes involved by the practice of slow chanting; 3. Changes due to transmission by YAv. priests, who introduced many YAv. sound forms into the OAv. texts; 4. Deliberate alteration of the text in the course of an orthoepic revision (“School text”); 5. Continued transmission of the OAv. texts along with the YAv. texts.

Young Avestan went through the following stages: 1. The original language of the composers of grammatically correct YAv. texts; perhaps in Marv or Herat; 2. Dialect influences as a result of the transfer of the Av. texts to Southeast Iran (Arachosia?); 3. Transfer of the Avesta to Persis in Southwest Iran, possibly earlier than 500 B.C.; 4. Transmission of the Avesta in a Southwest Iranian theological school, probably in Eṣṭaḵr: Old Pers. and Mid. Pers. influences, the insistence on fantastic pronunciations by semi-learned schoolmasters (Av. aēθrapaiti-), the composition of ungrammatical late Av. texts, the adaptation of portions of texts taken from other regions where they were recited; 5. The end of the oral transmission: phonetic notation of the Avestan texts in the Sasanian archetype, probably in the fourth century A.D.; 6. Post-Sasanian deterioration of the written transmission due to incorrect pronunciation (Vulgate); 7. In the ninth and tenth centuries A.D. the manuscript copies of individual texts were made on which the extant manuscripts are based; 8. Earlier manuscripts were copied in manuscripts dating from A.D. 1288 till the nineteenth century by scribes who introduced errors and corruptions. These are the manuscripts extant today.

Many phonetic features can not be ascribed with certainty to a particular stage since there may be more than one possibility. Every phonetic form that can be ascribed to the Sasanian archetype on the basis of critical assessment of the manuscript evidence must have gone through the stages mentioned above so that “Old Avestan” and “Young Avestan” really mean no more than “Old Avestan and Young Avestan of the Sasanian period.”

The vowels. The Proto-Indo-Ir. vowels a, ā, i, ī, u, ū and the diphthongs ai̯, āi̯, au̯, āu̯ ( = Vedic e, ai, o, au) remained unchanged in Proto-Iranian. Proto-Indo-Ir. i that arose from Proto-IE. ə (the vocalization of a consonantal laryngal H) is attested by such forms as Av. pitár- “father;” OAv. sīšā “teach,” cf. Vedic śiṣat, from Proto-IE. *k̂əse-; OAv. -maidī, cf. Vedic -mahi, 1 plur. verb ending, from Proto-IE. *-medhə. But Proto-IE H was maintained under certain accentual conditions in Proto-Ir. and was lost in Av. Hence we find such contrasting forms as Av. draonah- “possession” beside Vedic dráviṇas-; OAv. dugədar- “daughter” beside Vedic duhitár-; OAv. vərəṇtē “he wishes” beside Vedic vṛṇīte; OAv. fəδrōi “to the father” beside OAv. piθrē. Proto-Indo-Ir. sonant ( = Vedic ) became in Proto-Ir. and Av. ər but before š the tradition introduced the YAv. spelling ar(š) also into OAv. texts. The corresponding long vowel from Proto-IE. ṛH developed in Proto-Ir. and Av. to ar whereas Vedic had either ir/ur or īr/ūr.

There is a wide variety in the representation of the vowels in the manuscripts. Most of these features were already present in the Sasanian archetype.

Numerous anaptyctic vowels, represented mostly by ə but also by a, ō, and other vowel signs, were used to simplify consonant clusters especially after r : arəθa-, karapan-, vīžibiiō, θβarōždūm, etc. These anaptyctic vowels were introduced during the course of transmission in order to account for the pronunciation used in the slow chanting of the texts.

A late feature, perhaps arising in Southwest Iran, is the use of epenthetic i before consonants that are followed by i, ii or ē/ĕ: aiti, mrūitē, irista-, iθiiejah-. This epenthesis is not found before ń, ŋ́, st, št, m, hm, but it does occur before rm: zairimiia- “house,” cf. Vedic harmiyá-; airime “quiet” beside armaēo. Anaptyxis and epenthesis may occur together: YAv. kərəiti-; OAv. daibitā.

Epenthetic u occurs only before ru, rṷ: uruθβarə, pouru. It is a genuine YAv. development in the case of -uri- arising from older *-urṷi-: YAv. paoiriia- “first” from *paṷrii̯a- from older *parṷii̯a-, cf. OAv. paouruuiia-; YAv. tūiriia- “father’s brother” from *təurii̯a- from older *tərṷii̯a- and ultimately from Proto-Indo-Ir. *pHtṛṷii̯a-, cf. Vedic pitṛviya-. (On the phonological status of epenthetic i and u, see Morgenstierne, “Orthography and Sound-system,” pp. 55-58 par, ix.)

There is a consistent pattern in the representation of the quantities of the vowels a, ā, ə, ə̄, i, ī, u, ū, e, ē, o, ō in final position: in OAv. they are always long, that is, both original a and ā are written ā, etc., while in YAv. they are always short, except for , -ə̄ (the YAv. final is always long) and in monosyllabic words. The short vowels were probably closed, the long open, as in Attic Greek. Hence in the Sasanian archetype short and long vowels were often used to indicate degrees of openness of the vowels rather than their quantities. Thus we find vīspa- “all” with ī indicating a (short) open vowel: cf. Vedic víśva-. Similarly explainable are the spellings of ahura- “lord,” with (long ?) closed u, beside the derivative ahūiri- with (short ?) open u (through dissimilation with the closed i ?); note also ao from *aṷ beside from *ai̯.

Qualitative changes are seldom found in the case of ī/ĭ and ū/ŭ but note OAv. ə̄nəiti- from *əniiti- and drəguuaṇt- from *drugṷant-. As in East Iranian dialects, Av. *-īṷ- became -uṷ- in juua- “living,” cf. Vedic jīvá-, and cuuaṇt- “how much, how big” from *čīṷant-.

Proto-Ir. a suffered very many changes: to ā, ə, ə̄, e, o, ō. These came about partly due to phonological development caused by the surrounding sounds, partly due to the liturgical chanting, and partly due to dialect influence. Before final -n and -m, a always became ə̄/ə̆. This was originally the case also in word-interior position but ə was often replaced by a in this position in YAv., from where it was introduced also into OAv. Thus both OAv. and YAv. have nəmah- beside manah-. Before -ŋh- (-ṇgh-) where the nasal is etymological (-ŋh- from *-ns-), OAv. has only ə̄/ə̆ in sə̄ṇgha- “pronouncement,” cf. Vedic śáṁsa-. But before -ŋh- where the nasal is secondary (-ŋh- from *-s-), OAv. has only a, e.g. in manaŋhā, cf. Vedic mánasā. In both cases YAv. has a: saŋha-, manaŋha. In final position *-ans became -ə̄ṇg in OAv. and -ə̄ in YAv.

In YAv. ə developed further to i after , č, ǰ: YAv. yim beside OAv. yə̄m; YAv. drujim, beside OAv. drujə̄/ə̆m. Postconsonantal *-i̯ə- became first *-i̯i-, then YAv. -ī/ĭ-, which was introduced from YAv. into OAv.: YAv. ainim, OAv. aniiə̄m, ainīm, cf. Vedic anyám “other.” Similarly *-ṷə- became -ṷu and then ū/ŭ: YAv. tūm, OAv. tuuə̄m, cf. Vedic tvám “you.” Note that -aii̯ṷə- became -ōiiu- by umlaut: YAv. ōiium from aēuua- “one;” YAv. vīdōiium from vīdaēuua- “abjuring the devils;” YAv. Harōiium beside OPers. Haraiva-. An exception is daēum (not *dōiium!) from daēuua- “devil.” Proto-Av. *ai̯ə, *āi̯ə, *aṷə, and *āṷə before n, m were reduced in YAv. to the disyllabic diphthongs , āi, ao, āu respectively: YAv. aem beside OAv. aiiə̄m “this;” YAv. daēnā- “religion” (from *dai̯ənā-) was introduced into OAv.

Before *-ṷi-, a became ə: səuuišta- “strongest,” cf. Vedic śáviṣṭha-. In certain environments a became e: between and j, cf. iθiiejah- “abandonment;” between i̯ and a syllable containing ī/ĭ, ii, or ē/ĕ, cf. yesne, loc. sing. from yasna- “veneration.” In some environments a became o: between p, m, and a syllable containing u (but not ): pouru “much;” mošū “soon;” vohu “good,” but there are exceptions: vaŋhuš “good;” pasu- “cattle;” maδu- “wine.”

Proto-Ir. *ā/ăn became ą before spirants x, θ, f, s, z, š, hi: mąθra- “sacred utterance,” cf. Vedic mántra-; ąsa- “party,” cf. Vedic áṁśa-; mąsta “he thought,” cf. Vedic maṁsta; ązō “narrowness,” cf. Vedic áṁhas-; dąhišta- “most versed,” cf. Vedic dáṁsiṣṭha-; vąs “he prevailed” (from *ṷānst); sąstā (2 plur. imv.) “appear,” cf. Vedic á-chāntta; frąš “forward” (from *prāŋkš).

In OAv. final -ah (cf. Vedic -aḥ from -as) became -ə̄ but it has in most cases been replaced by YAv. . That even YAv. originally had -ə̄ (cf. Khot. [ə] from *-ah) is indicated by such forms as YAv. vacə̄bīš (instr. plur.) based on nom. sing. OAv. vacə̄ (= Vedic vácaḥ).

We often find long, that is, open (back) ā instead of closed (front) a in initial position: ārmaiti- “right-mindedness,” cf. Vedic arámati-; kāuuaiiō “princes,” cf. Vedic kaváyaḥ “seers;” srāuuahiieitī “he desires fame,” cf. Vedic śravasyáti; hātąm (gen. plur.) “of the existing (ones),” cf. Vedic satāˊm. Note also ā for a after i and u: vii-ādarəsəm “I have seen,” cf. Vedic adarśam; vərəziiātąm, nīdiiātąm, višˊiiātā, hə̄miiāsaite, paitii-āmraot̰, aiβii-āma-, drəguuātā, drəguuāitē (but drəguuatō), etc.

Proro-Ir. *ai̯ usually becomes in open syllables (vaēdā/ă “he knows”) but ōi in closed syllables (vōistā/ă “you know”). In final position it appears as -ōi in OAv. but as -e in YAv. The spelling in OAv. is due to YAv. YAv. has -ōi only in yōi and mai’iiōi. The dat. sing. forms OAv. axtōiiōi and YAv. anumatə̄e point to an original *-ə̄/ə̆i̯ə̄/ə̆i̯ from Proto-Indo-Ir. *-ai̯ai̯, cf. Vedic. -aye.

Proto-Ir. aṷ became ao, but before final it usually became ə̄u in OAv. and YAv.: gə̄uš, mańiiə̄uš, mərəθiiaoš. In final position -aṷ became sometimes -ṷō, sometimes (cf. Vedic -o): OAv. huuō “yonder” (from *haṷ, cf. OPers. hauv); ərəzuuō (voc. sing.) “O straight one;” huxratuuō (voc. sing.) “O skilful one,” cf. Vedic sukrato; but mainiiō (voc. sing.) “O spirit,” cf. Vedic manyo; aŋhuuō (loc. sing.) “in the life;” gātuuō “in the place;” daŋ́huuō “in the land” beside daŋ́hō; haētō “on the bridge;” šˊātō “in peace;” vaštō “in the wish;” həṇtō “in gain,” cf. Vedic sánitau.

Many changes are found in the case of Proto-Ir. ā, e.g. ą: uruuąnō “souls” beside uruuānō (in final position always ąm, ąn); ǡ: mazǡṇtəm (acc. sing.) “great;” mǡŋhəm (acc. sing) “moon;” e: aiienī “I shall go,” cf. Vedic ayāni; zbaiiemi “I call,” cf. Vedic hvayāmi. Final -āh became (cf. Vedic. -āḥ from -ās); sāsnǡ “commandments” (by analogy also sāsnǡs-ca “and commandments”).

Original ā is often shortened, as in dātaras-ca beside dātārō “creators;” -anąm, gen. plur. ending with disyllabic -ąm, cf. Vedic and OPers. -ānām; aētaŋhąm, cf. Vedic etāˊsām: -at̰.haca (instead of *-āt̰.haca), but -āat̰cā/ă in ašāat̰cā/ă.

Before a vowel, āi̯ and āṷ are often shortened to ai̯ and aṷ, a feature shared by Avestan with East Iranian dialects such as Sogdian: vaiiu- “wind,” cf. Vedic vāyú-; zaiiata “he was born,” cf. Vedic jāyata; -aiiǡ, gen. sing. fem. ending, cf. Vedic -āyāḥ; -aiiāi, dat. sing. fem. ending, cf. Vedic -āyai; nauuāza- “boatman,” cf. Vedic nāvājá-; yauuaṇt- “as great, as much,” cf. Vedic yāvant-; aṧauuā “righteous,” cf. Vedic ṛtāvā.

The consonants: (a) Semivowels. In the Sasanian archetype the semivowels i̯and were always written and v in word-initial position. These sounds probably represent an intermediate stage in the development of initial and to ǰ and b as seen in NPers. In the Indian manuscripts is replaced by y, whose original value was probably palatal žˊ. In medial position the manuscripts have ii, uu and not y, v as earlier transcriptions seemed to indicate, (e.g., vayu- for vaiiu-). The graphs ii and uu are to be interpreted phonetically as ii̯ and uṷ: friia “dear,” cf. Vedic priyá-; druua- “firm,” cf. Vedic dhruvá-. The fact that jiia “bowstring” and kuua “where” were disyllabic in YAv., cf. Vedic jiyāˊ and ku respectively, is proved by their being written with a short final vowel, since the final vowel of monosyllables was regularly written long in YAv. ii̯ and uṷ may have developed in West Iran under the influence of Old Persian, where every postconsonantal and became iy and uv respectively: Av. ańiia- (from *anḭa-, cf. Vedic anyá-) like OPers. aniya-; Av. hauruua- (from *harṷa-, cf. Vedic sárva-) like OPers. haruva-. Even intervocalic i̯ and are sometimes written iy and uv in OPers. Thus Av. dāraiia- and bauuaiti correspond to OPers. adāraiya and bauvatiy. Note too that intervocalic ii and uu may even be etymologically justified: OAv. āiiāt from *āii̯āt, cf. Vedic iyāt, Av. sraiiah- “more excellent,” cf. Vedic śréyas- (from Proto-Indo-Ir. *śrai̯Hi̯as-); gauuāstriia- “belonging to the cattle pasture” from *gaṷ-ṷāstriia-. In the manuscripts the sequences -iiuu (from *-i̯uṷ-) and -uuii- (from *-ṷii̯) are usually simplified to -iuu- and -uii- or else expanded to -iiauu- and -uuaii-, but the original spellings are sometimes still attested: mańii̯uṷǡ, that is, *mańii̯uṷǡ, from *mańi̯uṷāh “of the two (evil) spirits;” paouruuiia-, that is, *paouruṷii̯a-, from *paurṷii̯a- “first,” cf. OPers. paruviya-.

Internal i̯ was lost in YAv. before e: YAv. vaheḥī- (fem.) “the better,” from *ṷahi̯ehī-, cf. Vedic vásyasī-; -ahe, gen. sing. masc. ending, cf. Vedic -asya; kaine “girl,” cf. Vedic kaniyˋā; bāzuβe “with both arms,” from *bāzuβi̯a, cf. Vedic bāhúbhyām; YAv. -ə̄e, dat. sing. ending, cf. Vedic -aye.

A late but consistent change is that of -uṷe (from earlier *-uṷai̯ and *-ṷai̯) to -uiie: OAv. mruiiē, YAv. mruiie “I say,” cf. Vedic bruve; OAv. vīduiiē “to know” from *ṷidṷai̯.

In some cases Proto-Ir. and combine with a preceding consonant. Proto-Indo-Ir. *či̯ became *šˊi̯ in original OAv. and then šˊii in the Sasanian archetype. In original YAv. it became šˊ but is mostly written š or in the manuscripts. Thus we have: OAv. šˊiiāta- beside YAv. šˊāto (mostly written šāto or ṧātō).

Proto-Ir. hi̯- from Proto-Indo-Ir. -si̯- remained unchanged in original OAv. but became -hii- in the Sasanian archetype. After the change of h to ŋh, Proto-Ir. -hḭ developed in original YAv. to -ŋ́h- from *-ŋhi̯-. Thus we have: OAv. vahiiō beside YAv. vaŋ́hō (wrongly written vaŋhō), cf. Vedic vásyaḥ “better.” In the same way Proto-Ir. -hṷ- (from Proto-Indo-Ir. -sṷ-) developed into OAv. -huu- (from -hṷ-) and original YAv. -ŋᵛh- (often written -ŋuh- or -ŋh- in the MSS): OAv. gūšahuuā; YAv. pərəsaŋha (often written pərəsaŋuha, pərəsaŋha). Initially *hṷ- became in Av. xᵛ-: xᵛafna- “sleep,” cf. Vedic svápna-. On xᵛ see also under (f) below.

After certain consonants Proto-Ir. underwent further changes. Proto-Ir. śṷ became sp in Avestan and Median: aspa- “horse,” cf. Vedic áśva-. Proto-Ir. źṷ became zb in Av. and Median: zbaiia- “to call,” cf. Vedic hvaya-, from Proto-Indo-Ir. *jhṷai̯a-. Proto-Ir. θṷ became θβ in Av.: caθβārō “four,” cf. Vedic catvāˊraḥ, Sogd. and Parth. ctfʾr. Proto-Ir. δṷ became in YAv. δβ (ərəδβa- “upright” beside ərəduua- from *ərdṷa-) but initial *dṷi- became OAv. dbi- (daibišiiant- but duuaēšah-, cf. Vedic dvéṣas- “hatred”) and YAv. t̰bi- (t̰bišiiant- and by analogy t̰baēšah-). From initial *dṷi- YAv. has also bi- perhaps by dissimilation; bitiia- “second” beside OAv. daibitiia-, cf. Vedic dvitīˊya-.

Initial *ṷr- was metathesized to *rṷ- and written uruu- in Av.: uruuata- “commandment,” cf. Vedic vratá-.

(b) Liquids (only r).

Consonantal r and original syllabic * fell together in Avestan, syllabic * becoming ər. After t the ə was usually dropped: ātrə̄m (acc. sing.) “fire” from *ātərəm; strə̄š (acc. plur.) “stars” from *stərə̄š; striia- “to sin” from *stəri̯a-, where the ə must have been lost before i-epenthesis could take place. Immediately following the Proto-Indo-Ir. accent rk became hrk and rp became hrp: mahrka- “destruction,” cf. Vedic márka-; vəhrka- “wolf,” cf. Vedic vṛ′ka-; kəhrpəm “body” from *kṛ′pam. Instead of the expected *hrt from *rt we find : maṧiia- “man,” cf. Vedic mártiya-; aməṧa- “immortal,” cf. Vedic amṛ′ta-. From the third century A.D. Mid. Pers. loanwords from Av. are attested which have hr/hl for Av. : Mid. Pers. ʾhlw [ahlaw] from Av. aṧauua. will accordingly have been pronounced originally as a voiceless l-like lateral fricative, which, at any rate in the post-Sasanian period, merged with .

(c) Nasals.

On the whole the nasals n and m remained unchanged in Av., but they are regularly written before t, d, k, g, c, j, b. The letter probably represents a uvular nasal that was articulated just by lowering the soft palate. It is indicated in this article by N in reconstructions. The same sound no doubt occurred in OPers. but it was not written: Av. aṇtarə “inside” but OPers. a-ta-ra [anrar]. The dorsal nasal was, however, retained in YAv. paŋtaŋhum “a fifth” from *paŋktahṷəm. An unusual metathesis is attested by YAv. mərəγənte “he destroys” for *mərəŋte from *mṛŋktaḭ. Proto-Indo-Ir. ns before ā/ă resulted in Av. ŋ(g)h: YAv. saŋha-, OAv. sə̄ṇgha-, cf. Vedic śáṃsa-.

For discussion of Av. -aŋha-, -aŋ́ha-, aŋᵛha, and -aŋ́hi- see above under (a) and below under (f).

Before , n was palatalized to but in the manuscripts is usually replaced by n: ańiia-, cf. Vedic anyá-. The manuscripts often have instead of hm, which makes it probable that was a voiceless m. Final -m is found for -n when the syllable in question had a labial initial: OAv. dāmąm, nāmąm: YAv. uruθβąm, θrizafəm, aṧāum (from *aṧāṷən).

Phonetically Av. ą was probably nasalized ə̄. Not only did it develop from Proto-Indo-Ir. ā/ăn (ā/ăN) before s and š as seen above on the vowels but it occurs also in OAv. ərąš from *-ərəNš from older *-rNš: nərąš, mātərąš, mərąždiiāi. Note also mərąšˊiiāṱ from *mərəNšˊḭāt from older *mṛṇčḭāt. As in the case of the OAv. and YAv. acc. plur. endings -īš and -ūš from *-iNš and *-uNš, the nasalization is not attested in the acc. plur. of consonant stems in YAv.: nərə̄š, strə̄š, and pairiiaētrə̄š-ca. In the manuscripts these forms are often miswritten, e.g., nərə̄uš for nərə̄š.

(d) Occlusives.

The Proto-Indo-Ir. occlusives p, t, k, became f, θ, x in Proto-Ir. before a consonant. Proto-Indo-Ir. ph, th, kh also became f, θ, x before a vowel. However, Av. shows certain peculiarities. After s and š it has only p, t, k. Moreover, Av. has pt instead of the expected *ft; and for expected * and *; šˊi and šˊe for expected *xi and *xḭaḭ in hašˊi and hašˊe corresponding to Vedic sákhi and sákhye.

It is characteristic of OAv. that it has preserved b, d, g from Proto-Indo-Ir. b, d, g and bh, dh, gh. In YAv., b, d, g are retained only in initial position while in medial position they were replaced by the voiced fricatives β, δ, γ except after a nasal or a sibilant. Thus, OAv. dugədar- “daughter” contrasts with YAv. duγδar-. There are, however, a number of exceptions. Note OAv. -βž- and γž-, YAv. γž-, γəm-, and γən-. Proto-Ir. -dn- became -n-: OAv. and YAv. bū/ŭna- “bottom,” cf. Vedic budhná-. Proto-Ir. dm- was retained in OAv. but became nm- in YAv.: OAv. dəmāna- “house” beside YAv. nmāna-. In YAv., γ was lost before u and : Mourum, cf. OPers. Margum; raom, cf. Vedic raghúm; druuaṇt- from *druγṷant-, cf. OAv. drəguuaṇt-. In YAv. driγūm “pauper,” the γ was restored by analogy with other forms of the paradigm such as gen. sing. driγaoš.

The YAv. change of β to is dialectal, perhaps Arachosian; it may also have belonged to the colloquial language. Examples are: gəuruuaiia- “to seize” from *gəṛβāḭa-, cf. Vedic gṛbhāyá-; the prep. auui “to,” which is also written aoui, aoi, from *aβi contrasting with aiβi in nominal compounds, cf. OAv. aibī and Vedic abhí; the adj. uuaiia, uuaēm “on both sides,” cf. Vedic ubháya-; uua “both,” cf. Vedic ubhāˊ (mase. dual); uiie from *uṷe, cf. Vedic ubhé (neuter dual); nəruiiō “to the men” beside nərəbiiō, cf. Vedic nṛ′bhyaḥ; aṧauuaoiiō “to the righteous” from *aṧaṷaβḭō. In some cases the spellings seem to be arbitrary: YAv. māuuōiia “to me” from *maṷḭa from older *maβḭa, cf. OAv. maibiiā; huuāuuōiia “to (your)self” from *huṷaṷḭa from older *huṷaβḭa, cf. original *-ṷḭ- in hāuuōiia (inst. sing.) “with the left (hand)” from *haṷḭā, cf. Vedic savyāˊ.

The occasional replacement of δ by θ appears also to be dialectal, perhaps West Iranian. In the athematic daδāiti “he puts; he gives,” cf. Vedic dad(h)āti, δ is retained but in the thematic new formation daθaiti earlier δ has been replaced by θ. The gen. sing. of daδuuǡ “creator” is daθušō, which is confirmed by dathousa (in Greek script) in the Cappadocian calendar. Note also h from θ in Parth. dh-, NPers. dah- “to give.” θ is attested also in East Iranian in Khot. parāth- “to sell” from *parā-daθa-, cf. Av. para.daθa-.

Proto-Indo-Ir. t was lost before s: Av. masiia- “fish,” cf. Vedic mátsya-. Similarly, Av. has st from *-tst- from t/d + t as in vista- “found” from *ṷidstá-, cf. Vedic vittá and zd from *-dzdh- from dh + t as in vərəzda- “grown” from *ṷṛdzdhá-, cf. Vedic vṛddhá-.

Final -t was lost after n, probably already in Proto-Indo-Ir., and also after s. Examples are: YAv. ās “he was” from *āst; OAv. cinas “she assigns” with -s from *-st; vąs “it prevailed” from *vān-s-t; OAv. sąs “it seemed” from *sśānd-s-t. However, both -st and -št are also found: OAv. urūraost “he wailed (?)” from *ruraudst; YAv. nāist “he cursed” from *nāid-s-t; OAv. vaxšt “he made grow,” cōišt “he assigned,” tāšt “he shaped.” In all other cases -t became -ṱ (probably an implosive): YAv. baraṱ, OAv. cōrəṱ from *čart; OAv. yaogəṱ “he harnessed” from *ḭaugd (?) from older *ḭaukt. The graph -gət may represent an implosive -k / -g in YAv. paragəṱ “apart from,” cf. Vedic párāk; YAv. aṧiš.hāgəṱ “following Aṧi;” OAv. paitiiaogəṱ “responding.”

(e) Affricates.

The palatal affricates of Proto-Indo-Ir. č, ǰ, ǰh, which in Vedic became c, j, h, survived in Av. as c, j, j. On the development of Proto-Indo-Ir *čḭ to OAv. šˊii and YAv. šˊ see above on the vowels. The YAv. change of j to the palatal *žˊ, always written ž, is dialectal, perhaps Arachosian: druža- “to deceive” from *drujḭa-, cf. OAv. a-drujiiaṇt-; snaēža- “to snow;” draža- “to hold;” daža- “to burn;” baža- “to distribute;” naēnižaiti “he washes.” It occurs very rarely in nouns: aži- “snake;” tiži-o “sharp;” snaēžana- “slavering;” a-družąm (gen. plur.) “of the deceitless” (otherwise only druj-).

The primary palatal affricates of Proto-Indo-Ir., namely ć, and jh from Proto-IE. , ĝ, ĝh, developed via Proto-Ir. ś, ź, ź to Av. s, z, z corresponding to Vedic ś, j, and h respectively: Av. satəm “hundred,” cf. Vedic śatám; zaoša- “pleasure,” cf. Vedic jóṣa-; zaotar “priest;” cf. Vedic hotár-. Before t, dh, and bh, ć and j′ developed already in Proto-Indo-Ir. to š and ž respectively: OAv. vaštī “he wishes” beside vasəmī “I wish,” cf. Vedic váṣṭi beside váśmi; OAv. važdra- “pulling” from vaz- “to pull,” cf. Vedic voḍhár- “draught (i.e., pulling) animal” from vah-; OAv. and YAv. vīžibiiō, abl. plur. from vīs- “tribe,” cf. Vedic viḍbhyáḥ from víś-. In initial position źn- became žn- in YAv. ( = OPers. xšn-): žnātar- “knower,” cf. Vedic jñatár- “knower,” OPers. xšnā- “to know;” žnu- “knee,” cf. Vedic jñu-o. Internally both śn and źn became šn: YAv. frašna- “question,” cf. Vedic praśná-; YAv. baršna “in height, depth” ( = OPers. baršnā) from *barźnā from older *bharjh. But sn is found instead of šn in some cases due to the influence of other forms: OAv. vasnā “according to wish” ( = OPers. vašnā) from vas-; OAv. and YAv. yasna- “veneration” (cf. Vedic yajñá-), from yaz-.

The Proto-Indo-Ir. clusters and šć from Proto-IE. sk developed via Proto-Ir. and šś to Av. s ( = Vedic ch): Av. pərəsa- “to ask,” cf. Vedic pṛchá-. Similarly, ćš and h, from Proto-IE. kˆs, kˆρ and ĝhs, ĝhρ respectively, developed via Proto-Ir. śš and źž to Av. š and ž: Av. šōiθra- “dwelling-place,” cf. Vedic kṣétra-; uz-uuažaṱ “he drew out,” cf. Vedic vákṣat (subj.) from Proto-IE. ṷegh-se- (see next paragraph).

(f) Sibilants.

Proto-Indo-Ir. s and z were maintained in Av. before n and occlusives, and after t and d, which were lost in that position as noted above. Thus we find: YAv. snāuuarə “sinew,” cf. Vedic snāˊvan-; asti “he is,” cf. Vedic asti; masiia- “fish,” cf. Vedic mátsya-; YAv. mazga- “marrow” from Proto-IE. mozgho-; YAv. aspas-ca “and the horse,” cf. Vedic áśvaś-ca; OAv. zdī (2 sing. imv.) “be,” cf. Vedic edhi, from Indo-Ir. azdhí; vərəzda- “grown” from *ṷṛdzdhá-, cf. Vedic vṛddhá-.

After Proto-Indo-Ir. ī/ĭ (), ū/ŭ (), r (), /ĝ/ĝh, and ć/j/jh (from Proto-IE. k/g/gh), Proto-Indo-Ir. s and z became š and ž: Av. vīša- “poison,” cf. Vedic viṣá-; mīžda- “reward,” cf. Vedic mīḍhá-; zušta- “loved,” cf. Vedic juṣṭa-; aršti- “spear,” cf. Vedic ṛṣṭi-; uxšan- “bull,” cf. Vedic ukṣáṇ-; OAv. aoγžā “you say” from *aṷgh-sa; vašī “you wish,” cf. Vedic vakṣi, from Proto-IE. ṷek-si; tašan- “fashioner,” cf. Vedic tákṣan-, from Proto-IE. tékρon-. In Proto-Ir. this development took place also in clusters with labials. Thus Av. has from *ps and *: Av. drafsa- “banner,” cf. Vedic drapsá-; fšu- from *pśu- to pasu- “cattle.” Similarly Av. has βž from *bzh: diβža- “to deceive,” cf. Vedic dipsa-, from Proto-Indo-Ir. dhibzha-; vaβžaka- “wasp” from *ṷabzha- from Proto-IE. uobhso-.

In all other positions Proto-Indo-Ir. s became Proto-Ir. h. This h was kept initially before a vowel: hafta “seven,” cf. Vedic saptá. But *hi became x́ ii- in OAv.: x́ iiāṱ “he should be,” cf. YAv. hiiāṱ, Vedic syāt; and *hṷ became xᵛ in both OAv. and YAv.: xᵛafna- “sleep,” cf. Vedic svápna-. Medial h was unchanged only before i and u: ahī/ĭ “you are;” uhura- “lord.” In OAv. medial h remained unchanged also before and : OAv. ahiiā, cf. Vedic ásya: gūšahuuā with the ending -ahuuā corresponding to Vedic -asva. In the sequence ā/ăha, h probably became voiced and resulted in ŋh: aŋhaṱ, cf. Vedic ásat; ǡŋharə, cf. Vedic āˊsur. That this ŋ was phonemically significant is shown by the fact that it was extended from the gen. sing. vaŋhə̄uš from *ṷahaṷš ( = Vedic vásoḥ) to the nom. sing. masc. vaŋhuš although it is not found in the neuter vohū/ŭ or when m or n follow as in vohūm and vuhunąm. In medial position hḭ and hṷ developed in YAv. to ŋ́h and ŋᵛh; see (a) above. (See also Hoffmann, Aufsätze II, pp. 595-96).

In OAv. the gen. sing. ending -ahiiā is always written with before enclitic -cā “and:” -ax́ iiā-cā. This pronunciation may reflect the secondary accentuation *ahḭá-ca. -x́ ii- is also found elsewhere for -hḭ-: OAv. dax́ iiə̄uš “of the land” but YAv. daŋ́ə̄uš; both OAv. and YAv. dax́ iiūm (acc. sing.) and dax́ iiunąm (gen. plur.).

The use of -xᵛ- for internal -hṷ- in YAv. Haraxᵛaitī- “Arachosia” and OAv. nəmaxᵛaitī “respectful” may be dialectal, perhaps Arachosian. The same applies to the use of xᵛ for unaccented syllabic huṷ- in the following: Xᵛāstrā-, name of an Arachosian river, from *hu-ṷāstrā-; OAv. xᵛāθra- “welfare” from *hu-āθra-, cf. duž-āθra “discomfort;” xᵛə̄ṇg (gen. sing.) from *huṷə́ŋh to huuarə “sun,” cf. Vedic suvár; xᵛaēta- “easy to walk along” from *hu-ā-ita-; xᵛīti- “easy walking.” (See also Hoffmann, “Das Avesta in der Persis,” pp. 92-93.)

Proto-Ir. hm is retained internally as in ahmi “I am” but the h is lost in initial position: mahi “we are,” cf. Vedic smasi. Proto-Indo-Ir. sr appears to have become θr in YAv. in initial position: θraotō.stāc- “flowing in rivers,” from *srautas-tāč-, cf. Vedic srótas- but OPers. rautah-. Medially hr became ŋr in YAv.: aŋra- “evil,” cf. Vedic asrá- “painful;” daŋra- “knowing,” cf. Vedic dasrá-. These forms were introduced from YAv. into OAv., where one also finds the spellings aṇgra- and daṇgra-.

For the loss of final -h see above on the vowels.


Chr. Bartholomae, in Geiger and Kuhn, Grundr. Ir. Phil I/I, pp. 1-48, 152-88.

W. B. Henning, “The Disintegration of the Avestic Studies,” TPS, 1942, pp. 40-56.

London, 1944 (Selected Papers II, Acta Iranica 15, Leiden, 1977, pp. 151-67).

K. Hoffmann, “Altiranisch,” in HO IV, 1, Leiden and Cologne, 1958, pp. 1-19 (Aufsätze I, pp. 58-76).

Idem, “Das Avesta in der Persis,” in J. Harmatta, ed., Prolegomena to the Sources on the History of Pre-Islamic Central Asia, Budapest, 1979, pp. 89-93.

Idem, Aufsäfze zur Indoiranistik I-II, Wiesbaden, 1975-76.

G. Morgenstierne, “Orthography and Sound-system of the Avesta,” NTS 12, 1942, pp. 30-78 (Irano-Dardica, Wiesbaden, 1973, pp. 31-79).

(This was the only comprehensive phonetic and phonemic analysis of Avestan until 1979.) H. Reichelt, Awestisches Elementarbuch, Heidelberg, 1909, pp. 28-89.

S. N. Sokolov, “Yazyk Avesty,” in V. J. Abaev, ed., Osnovy iranskogo yazykoznaniya I: Drevneiranskie yazyki, Moscow, 1979, pp. 136-60.

G. Windfuhr, “Diacritic and Distinctive Features in Avestan,” JAOS 91, 1971, pp. 104-24.

Idem, “Some Avestan Rules and Their Signs,” ibid., 92, 1972, pp. 52-59.

See also J. Duchesne-Guillemin, Kratylos 7, 1962, pp. 4-11.

J. Kellens, ibid., 16, 1971, pp. 4-6; 18, 1973, p. 1.


iii. The Grammar of Avestan

The morphology of Avestan nouns, adjectives, pronouns, and verbs is, like that of the closely related Old Persian, inherited from Proto-Indo-European via Proto-Indo-Iranian (Proto-Aryan), and agrees largely with that of Vedic, the oldest known form of Indo-Aryan. The interpretation of the transmitted Avestan texts presents in many cases considerable difficulty for various reasons, both with respect to their contexts and their grammar. Accordingly, systematic comparison with Vedic is of much assistance in determining and explaining Avestan grammatical forms.

Old Avestan (OAv.) or Gathic Avestan, the language of Zarathustra, the founder of the Zoroastrian religion, is particularly archaic. Young Avestan (YAv.) is the language of the later texts, the earliest of which may date from the sixth century B.C. It already shows numerous innovations when compared with OAv.

A particular difficulty of Avestan is caused by the fact that many sound changes took place which obscure the original structure of the forms. Note that words ending in , , , are OAv., while those ending in -a, -i, -u, -e are YAv. Forms that are otherwise identical in OAv. and YAv. are indicated by -ā/ă, -ī/ĭ, -ū/ŭ, -ē/ĕ. Apart from forms with these endings, forms that are common to both OAv. and YAv. are not specified.

1. Nominal inflection.

Like Vedic and Proto-IE., Avestan distinguishes three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter. Words designating male and female beings are masculine and feminine respectively, but also many words that designate inanimate objects and concepts are masculine or feminine and not neuter as might be expected. Avestan has three numbers: singular, dual, and plural. The dual is used to refer to two persons or objects. Avestan has eight cases: nominative for the subject, accusative for the direct object, dative for the indirect object, genitive to indicate possession or relation, instrumental to indicate means or association, ablative to indicate separation, locative to indicate location, and vocative used in addressing a person, less commonly, a thing.

The basis of the nominal inflection is the noun stem, which not only conveys the lexical meaning but in most cases also the gender. In general, inflectional categories are marked by endings, most of which indicate at the same time number, case, and, in part, gender. Thus a particular ending may be characteristic of the genitive sing. masc. Neuter nouns are inflected like masc. nouns, except that they have different endings in the nom. and acc. for all three numbers. The nom. and acc. of neuter nouns are always identical. Some noun stems remain unchanged throughout the paradigm, whereas others have different ablaut grades according to the case.

The paradigm followed by a noun or adjective is usually determined by the final sound of its stem. Thus, there are masculines and neuters in -a-, feminines in -ā-, -ī-, -ū-, masculines and feminines in -i-, -u-, masculines in -n- and -r-, neuters in -man- and -ah-, and words of all three genders ending in consonants (e.g., -p-, -t-, -k-, -g-, -s-).

The addition of the case ending to the final sound of the stem often involves special sound changes. Thus, the original Proto-IE. ending of the nom. sing. masc. and fem. of most noun stems is -s, and this -s is retained in the case of -a- stems before -ca “and” (in sandhi), but otherwise -as developed via -ah to . After -ī/ĭ-, -ū/ŭ- and some consonants, -s became , e.g., gairiš “mountain,” aŋhuš “life,” vāxš “voice” ( < *ṷāk + s).

a-stems. The thematic stems in -a- are particularly numerous. Examples are masc. nouns: ahura- “lord,” maṧiia “mortal,” yasna- “worship,” vīra- “man,” zasta- “hand;” neuter nouns: aṧa- “truth,” uxδa- “word,” xšaθra- “rule,” šˊiiaoθna “action;” and adjectives: aka- “bad,” aniia- “other,” hauruua- “entire.”

The masc. a-stem inflection is as follows. Sing.: nom. ahurō, yasnas-ca; —acc. ahurəm (maṧīm < *maṧiiəm; haurum < *hauruəm), —inst. ahurā/ă; —dat. ahurāi, OAv. ahurāi; —abl. yasnāṱ, yasnāaṱ-ca, -aṱ haca; —gen. OAv. ahurahiiā, -ax́ iiā-cā, YAv. ahurahe; —loc. yesnē/ĕ (zastaiia < *-aḭ + ā); OAv. ōi; —voc. ahurā/ă. —Dual: nom. ahurā/ă; —inst./dat./abl. ahuraēibiia; —gen. vīraiiǡ; —loc. OAv. zastaiiō. —Plur.: nom. maṧiiā, maṧiiǡŋhō, ahura-ca; —acc. OAv. maṧiiə̄ṇg, maṧiiąs-ca, YAv. /-ə̄ (zastə̄); —inst. zastāiš; —dat./abl. OAv. -ōibiiō, YAv. -aēibiiō; —gen. yasnanąm; —loc. maṧiiaēšū, YAv. -aēšuua ( < *-aišu + ā); —voc. OAv. ahurǡŋhō.

Neuter a-stem inflection differs from masc. a-stem inflection only in having special forms in the nom./acc., e.g. sing. xšaθrəm “rule;” dual OAv. šˊiiaoθnōi “the two actions;” plur. uxδā “words.”

ā- and ī-stems. The inflection of fem. ā-stem words, e.g., gaēθā- “living being,” daēnā- “religion,” and the inflection of fem. ī-stem words, e.g., nāirī- “woman,” aṧaonī- “righteous” (fem. adjective from aṧauuan-) are largely parallel.

The fem. ā-and ī-stem inflection is as follows. Sing.: nom. daēnā/ă, nāirī; —acc. daēnąm, aṧaonīm; —inst. daēnā/ă, daēnaiiā/ă, -iiā/ă; —dat. daēnaiiāi, aṧaoniiāi; —abl. YAv. -aiiāṱ, YAv. -iiāṱ; —gen. daēnaiiǡ, nāiriiǡ; —loc. grīuuaiia “on the neck;” —voc. daēne, sūra, aṧaoni. —Plur.: nom./acc./voc. gaēθǡ, aṧaonīs; —inst. gaēθābīš; dat./abl. gaēθābiiō, aṧaonibiiō; —gen. gaēθanąm, aṧaoninąm; —loc. gaēθāhu, gaēθBāhuua, -išu, -išuua.

i- and u-stems. Similarly formed are the paradigms of masc. and fem. stems ending in -i- (e.g., aṧi- “reward,” axti- “pain,” gairi- “mountain,” paiti- “master”) and in -u- (e.g., aŋhu- “life,” xratu- “mental vigor,” dax́ iiu-/ daŋ́hu- “land, country,” mainiiu- “spirit,” vaŋhu-/vohu- “good”). The stem final shows the ablaut grades -i-, -aḭ-, -āḭ- and -u-, -aṷ-, -āṷ- respectively.

The i- and u-stems inflect as follows. Sing.: nom. aṧiš, xratuš; —acc. aṧīm, xratum; —inst. aṧī, xratū; —dat. ( < *-aḭ-aḭ) OAv. axtōiiōi, YAv. opatə̄e; ( < *-aṷ-aḭ) vaŋhauuē; —abl. YAv. garōiṱ, xratanṱ; —gen. ( < *-aḭ-š) patōiš; ( < *-aṷ-š) xratə̄uš; —loc. (* < *()) gara; vaŋhāu; —voc. ( < *-aḭ) paite; ( < *-aṷ) mainiiō. —Dual: nom./acc. paiti, mainiiū; —inst. aṧibiiā, ahubiiā; —gen. mainiuuǡ ( < *mańḭuṷ-āh); —loc. aŋhuuō ( < *ahuṷ-aṷ). —Plur.: nom. ( < *-aḭ-ah) garaiiō; ( < *-aṷ-ah) xratauuō; —acc. ( < *-i-Nš) gairīš; ( < -u-Nš) xratūš; —dat. gairibiiō, daŋ́hubiiō; —gen. gairinąm, vohunąm; —loc. vaŋhušu.

The nom./acc. of neuter stems in -i- and -u- has in all three genders the endings -ī/ĭ and -ū/ŭ respectively.

The only i-stem word that is declined irregularly is paiti- in the sense of “husband,” which in the dat. sing. has the ending -ḭ-aḭ instead of -aḭ-aḭ: YAv. paiθiiaē-ca, paiθe (Vedic pátye). Several u-stem words have exceptional forms: nom. sing. OAv. darəgō.bāzāuš “long-armed;” inst. sing. xraθβā (Vedic krátvā); dat. sing. xraθβe (Vedic krátve), OAv. aŋhuiiē, YAv. aŋᵛhe ( < *ahṷ-aḭ); loc. sing. daŋ́huuō, daŋ́hauua ( < *dahḭaṷ + ā, cf. Vedic dásyav-i) reflecting the ending *-aṷ (+ ā).

Root nouns, etc. A large group of masc. and fem. nouns are monosyllabic “root nouns” (that is, nouns whose stem consists of the root alone), and other nouns, not all monosyllabic, that end in -ā-, -ī-, -ū- (e.g., xā- “source,” ərəžə-jī- “right-living,” tanū- “body”) or in a consonant (except -n- and -r-). The case endings are the same in almost all paradigms. As mentioned above, the original ending -s of the nom. sing. appears in various forms: + s > -āh > Av. (raθaē-štǡ “charioteer”); + s, + s > Av. -īš, -ūš (ərəžə-jīš, tanūš ); -p + s > Av. -fš (afš < ā/ăp- “water”); -k (g) + s > Av. -xš (vaxš < vā/ăc- “voice,” druxš < druj- “lie”); + s > Av. (vīš < vis-, Vedic víś-, “settlement”); -t (d) + s > Av. -s (hauruuatās < hauruuata!- “completeness”).

The other endings of this group are: Sing.: acc. -əm (āpən, vācəm), -im (drujim); —inst. -ā/ă (visa = Vedic viśā); —dat. OAv. -ōi, , YAv. = *-aḭ (vīse = Vedic viśé); —abl. (OAv. = gen.), YAv. -aṱ (vīsaṱ); —gen. < *-ah < *-as (vīsō = Vedic viśáḥ); —loc., -iia < *-i + ā (vīsi, vīsiia; Vedic viśi). —Dual: nom./acc. -ā/ă (ratu-friia “delighting the Ratus”); —inst./dat./abl. -biiā/ă (vaγžibiia); —gen./loc. (amərətātǡ). —Plur.: nom. < *-ah < *-as < Proto-IE. *-es (āpō); —acc. < Proto-IE. *ṇs (vīsō); —inst. -bī/ĭš (vaγ`ibiš); —dat./abl. -biiō (vīžibiiō); —gen. -ąm (vīsąm); —loc. -hu/-šu < Proto-IE. *-su (nafšu “among the grandsons” < *napt-su).

In a number of paradigms the noun stem shows ablaut. The “strong” cases are the sing. nom., acc., and loc.; the dual nom.-acc.; and the plur. nom. The remaining cases are “weak,” that is, they show zero grade or a short vowel in the stem. Thus, among the root nouns, we find nom. sing. āfš, vāxš; acc. sing. āpəm, vācim, but inst. sing. apa, vaca.

Ablaut is particularly well preserved in the case of the possessive suffixes *-ṷant- / *-mant- “having,” which in the “weak” cases appear as *-ṷat- / *-mat- ( < Proto-IE. *-ṷṇt- / *-mṇt-). Thus, OAv. has acc. sing. drəguuaṇtəm but gen. sing. drəguuatō from drəguuaṇt- “deceitful.” The same ablaut is found in the case of the participles of athematic temporal stems (*-ant- / *-at-) and in the case of the adjective bərəzaṇt-/bərəzat- “high.” The nom. sing. masc. takes various forms. The participles have -ąs in OAv. ( < *-ant-s: pərəsąs “asking,” hąs “being”) but usually in YAv. (pərəsō, bərəzō), only rarely ( “being”). The expected form *-ṷąs / *-mąs ( < *-ṷant-s / *-mant-s) is attested only in OAv. θβāuuąs “like you” and in YAv. cuuąs “how big” ( < *cī-ṷant-s). Elsewhere it is replaced by *-uṷǡ / *-mǡ ( < *-ṷāh / *-māh): OAv. drəguuǡ, YAv. druuǡ “deceitful” ( < *drugṷāh); YAv. xratumǡ “having mental vigor.”

Stems in -an- and -ar-. Masc. and fem. stems in -an- (-man-, -ṷan-) and in -ar- (-tar-) form the nom. sing in (YAv. -a) < Proto-IE. */* with loss of the final consonant, e.g., tašā “carpenter” (Vedic tákṣā, Greek téktōn); OAv. ptā, YAv. pita “father” (Vedic pitāˊ, Greek patḗr). In the other “strong” cases we find both -an-, -ar- ( < Proto-IE. *-en-, *-er-) and -ān-, -ār- ( < Proto-IE. *-on-, *-or-), e.g., OAv. tašānəm (Vedic tákṣānam, Greek téktona); OAv. patarəm, YAv. pitarəm (Vedic pitáram, Greek patéra). In the “weak” cases the stem ends in simple -n-, -r- before an ending beginning with a vowel but in -a- ( < Proto-IE. *-ṇ-), -ər- ( < Proto-IE. *-ṛ-) before an ending beginning with a consonant, e.g., dat. sing. tašne (Vedic tákṣṇe); OAv. aṧāunē (Vedic ṛtāˊvne) “to the righteous one;” OAv. fəδrōi, OAv., YAv. piθrē/ĕ (Vedic pitré); —dat. plur. aṧauuabiiō (with -ṷabiiō < *-ṷṇ-bhḭos); YAv. ptərəbiiō (Vedic pitṛ′bhyaḥ). The rare gen. sing. YAv. -arš ( < -ṛ-š) corresponds to Vedic -ur: zaotarš “of the sacrificer” = Vedic hótur.

Neuter n-stems have in the nom.-acc. sing. -ā/ă ( < Proto-IE. *-ṇ), e.g., YAv. nąma “name” (Vedic nāˊma, Latin nōmen), in the nom.-acc. plur. both -ə̄nī/ĭ, e.g., nāmə̄nī/ĭ and -ąn (-mąn/-mąm), e.g., nāmąm. A peculiarity of the nt. n-stems is the formation of the gen. sing. in OAv. -ə̄ṇg, YAv. -ą[n] ( < *-ənh < *-an-s), e.g., cašmə̄ng < cašman- “eye;” barəsmąn < barəsman “bundle of twigs.” Note also YAv. zrū gen. sing. of zruuan- masc. “time,” from *zruṷū < *zruṷə̄ < *zruṷəŋh, and abl. sing. barəsmən < *-man + t.

Neuter r-stems are well attested in Avestan in the nom.-acc. sing. with the ending -arə, e.g., aiiarə “day”, Vedic áhar), karšuuarə “continent,” yākarə “liver” (Vedic yákrt, Greek hēpar), vadarə “weapon” (Vedic vádhar). The remaining cases were formed from an n-stem in Proto-IE. and Proto-Aryan. Only a few such forms are attested in Avestan, e.g., OAv. rāzarə “directive” has n-stem forms in the inst. sing. (rāšnā), gen. sing. (rāzə̄ṇg), and gen. plur. (rāšnąm); huuarə “sun” (Vedic súvar) contrasts with gen. sing. OAv. xᵛə̄ṇg (disyllabic, < *huṷəŋh), YAv. ( < *huṷū < *huṷə̄ < *huṷəŋh); YAv. aiiarə “day” contrasts with gen. sing. aiiąn ( < *aḭəŋh); *azar “day” (Vedic áhar) contrasts with dat. sing. asne (Vedic áhne) and gen. plur. asnąm (Vedic áhnām). In the nom.-acc. plur. we find both -ārə and -ąn, -ə̄ni, e.g., OAv. aiiārə “days,” YAv. aiiąn (cf. Vedic áhāni).

h-stems. Neuter h-stem words with -ah- < *-as- have in the nom.-acc. sing. the ending < *-ah, e.g., manō “thought” (Vedic mánaḥ, Greek ménos). Before endings beginning with a vowel, -ah- usually becomes -aŋh-, e.g., inst. sing. manaŋhā, dat. sing. manaŋhe, gen. sing. manaŋhō. Noteworthy are: nom.-acc. plur. OAv. manǡ with -ǡ < *-ās, inst. YAv. manə̄biš, and loc. plur. YAv. ązahu “in distresses” (Vedic áṁhasu). When ah-stems are used as masculines, e.g., in the case of the comparative suffix -ḭah-, the nom. sing. ends in < *āh, e.g., OAv. vax́ iiǡ, YAv. naŋ́hǡ < *ṷahḭāh “the better one. Contrast the neuter sing. O.Av. vahiiō, YAv. vaŋ́hō, Vedic vásyaḥ.

The suffix -ṷāh- of the perfect participle active takes the form -uš- in the “weak” cases. Sing.: nom. masc. OAv. vīduuǡ “knowing” (cf. Vedic vidvāˊn); —acc. YAv. vī’uuǡŋhəm (Vedic vidvāˊṁsam); —dat. OAv. vīdušē (Vedic vidúṣe); —gen. OAv. vīdušō (Vedic vidúṣaḥ). —Plur.: nom. YAv. vī’uuǡŋhō (Vedic vidvāˊṁsaḥ).

Irregular nouns. For historical reasons a number of words are inflected irregularly. The most important are:

Mazdā- (Ahura-) “the Wise (Lord).” Voc. Mazdā, nom. Mazdǡ, acc. Mazdąm, dat. Mazdāi, gen. Mazdǡ. The last three cases have disyllabic endings -ąm, -āi, .

paṇtā-/paθ- “way, path.” Sing.: nom. paṇtǡ (cf. Vedic pánthāḥ), acc. paṇtąm (cf. Vedic pánthām), inst. paθa (Vedic pathāˊ), gen. paθō (Vedic patháh), loc. paiθī (Vedic pathī). —Plur.: acc. paθō (Vedic patháḥ), inst. padəbīš (cf. Vedic pathíbhiḥ), gen. paθąm (Vedic pathāˊm).

kauuaii- “seer” and haxāii- “companion.” Sing.: nom. kauuā, huš.haxā, YAv. haxa (Vedic sákhā); acc. kauuaēm, huš.haxāim (Vedic sákhāyam); inst. YAv. haša (Vedic sákhyā); dat. YAv. haše (Vedic sákhye). —Plur.: nom. OAv. kāuuaiias-cīṱ (Vedic kávayaḥ), YAv. haxaiiō (Vedic sákhāyah); gen. YAv. kaoiiąm ( < *kaṷḭ-āˊm), hašąm ( < *sákhḭ-ām).

*raḭi- “wealth” has “weak” stem *rāḭ-. Sing.: acc. YAv. raēm (Vedic rayím), inst. YAv. raiia (Vedic rāyāˊ), gen. OAv. rāiiō (Vedic rāyáḥ). —Plur.: gen. YAv. raiiąm (Vedic rāyāˊm).

āiiū/ŭ “life” (nom.-acc. sing. nt.) has oblique forms in OAv.: inst. yauuā, dat. yauuōi, yauuē, gen. yaoš.dāuru “wood” (Vedic dāˊru) has gen. sing. YAv. draoš (Vedic dróḥ). zānu “knee” (Vedic jāˊnu) has abl. plur. YAv. žnubiias-ciṱ.

gauu- masc. fem. “ox, cow.” Sing.: nom. gāuš (Vedic gáuḥ), acc. gąm (Vedic gāˊm), inst. gauua (Vedic gávā), dat. OAv. gauuōi, YAv. gauue (Vedic gáve); abl. OAv. gə̄uš (Vedic góḥ), YAv. gaoṱ, gen. gə̄uš (Vedic góḥ), voc. YAv. gao-spəṇta. —Dual: nom. gāuuā (Vedic gāˊvā). —Plur.: nom. YAv. gauuō (Vedic gāˊvaḥ), acc. (Vedic gāḥ), inst. gaobīš (Vedic góbhiḥ), gen. gauuąm (Vedic gávām).

zam- “earth,” ziiam- “winter,” dam- “house,” ham- “summer.” Sing.: nom. (Vedic kṣāˊḥ), ziiǡ; acc. ząm (Vedic kṣāˊm), ziiąm; inst. YAv. zəmā (Vedic jmāˊ), hama; abl. YAv. zəmaṱ; gen. zəmō (Vedic jmáḥ), zimō, OAv. dəṇg (Vedic dán < *dám-s); loc. zəmē (Vedic kṣmay-āˊ), zəmi (Vedic kṣámi), OAv. dąm, YAv. dąmi.

-yan-/-γn- “striking,” in vərəθra-jan- “breaking the resistance.” Sing.: nom. masc. vərəθra-jā (Vedic vṛtra-hāˊ); acc. vərəθrā-janəm (Vedic vṛtra-hánam); dat. vərəθra-γne (Vedic vṛtra-ghné).

YAv. span-/sun- “dog.” Sing.: nom. spā (Vedic śvāˊ); acc. spānəm (Vedic śvānam); dat. sūne (Vedic śúne); gen. sūnō (Vedic śúnaḥ). —Dual: nom. spāna (Vedic śvāˊnā). —Plur.: nom. spānō (Vedic śvāˊnaḥ); gen. sunąm (Vedic śúnām).

nar- “man" and star- “star.” Sing.: nom. OAv. , acc. narəm (Vedic náram), YAv. stārəm; dat. OAv. narōi, YAv. naire (Vedic náre); gen. OAv. nərəš, YAv. narš; voc. YAv. narə. —Plur.: nom. OAv. narō (Vedic náraḥ), YAv. stārō; acc. OAv. nərąš, YAv. nərə̄š, incorrect nərə̄uš (cf. Vedic nṝ´n), YAv. strə̄š, incorrect strə̄uš; dat. OAv. nərəbiias-cā, YAv. nərəbiiō, nəruiiō (Vedic nṛbhyaḥ); abl. stərəbiiō; gen. YAv. narąm (Vedic nárām); OAv. strə̄m-cā, YAv. strąm.

ātar- masc. “fire” has been remodeled from an old neuter. Sing.: nom. OAv., YAv. ātarš ( < *ātṛ-š); acc. OAv. ātrə̄m, YAv. ātrəm (<*ātṛ-m); inst. OAv. āθrā ( < *āθr-ā); dat. YAv. āθre; abl. OAv. āθras-cā, YAv. āθraṱ; gen. OAv., YAv. āθrō; voc. OAv., YAv. ātarə ( <*ātṛ). —Plur.: acc. ( < nom.) YAv. ātaro; inst. YAv. ātərəbiiō; gen. YAv. aθrąm.

Pronouns. The irregularity of the Avestan pronominal inflection is almost entirely inherited from Proto-Indo-Ir. and Proto-IE. Thus the personal pronouns for the first and second persons have in all three numbers stem forms in the nominative differing from the stems of the remaining cases (cf. English I : me, we : us). In the case of the personal pronouns no distinction of gender is made, but masculine, feminine, and neuter are distinguished in the demonstrative, relative, and interrogative pronouns.

Personal pronoun for the first person (“I, we both, we”). Sing.: nom. azə̄m; acc. mąm; dat. OAv. maibiiā, maibiiō, YAv. māuuōiia, māuuaiia-ca ( < *maṷḭa < *maβḭa); abl. maṱ (OPers. -ma); gen. OAv. mə̄.nā, YAv. mana (OPers. manā). Enclitic forms: acc. ; gen., dat. OAv. mōi, YAv. (OPers. -maiy). —Dual: nom. OAv. ; acc. āuuā. Enclitic gen. . —Plur.: nom. vaēm ( < *ṷaḭəm, cf. OPers. vayam); acc. OAv. ə̄hmā, YAv. ahma; inst. OAv. ə̄hmā; dat. OAv. ahmaibiiā; abl. OAv. ahmaṱ; gen. YAv. ahmākəm. Enclitic forms: acc. OAv. , YAv. ; gen., dat. OAv. nə̄, YAv. .

Personal pronoun for the second person (“you”). Sing.: nom. OAv., YAv. , OAv. tuuə̄m, YAv. tūm (OPers. tuvam); acc. θβąm (OPers. θuvām); inst. θβā; dat. OAv. taibiiā-cā, taibiiō; abl. OAv. θβaṱ; gen. tauuā/ă. Enclitic forms: acc. θβā; gen., dat. OAv. tōi, YAv. (OPers. -taiy). —Dual: gen. YAv. yauuākəm. —Plur.: nom. yūžəm, OAv. yūš; inst. OAv. xšmā; dat. OAv. xšmaibiiā, YAv. xšmāuuōiia; OAv. yūšmaibiiā, YAv. yūšmāoiiō; abl. OAv. xšmaṱ, OAv., YAv. yūšmaṱ; gen. OAv., YAv. xšmākəm, YAv. yūšmākəm. Enclitic forms: acc. OAv. , YAv. ; gen., dat. OAv. və̄, YAv. .

Personal pronouns for the third person (“he, she, it; they”) are represented by various forms of the stems i-, h(i)-/š(i)-, di-. All forms are enclitic except for OAv. (sing. nom. fem. and dual nom. nt.). Sing.: acc. masc. fem. īm, hīm, YAv. dim (OPers. dim); gen., dat. OAv. hōi, YAv. /šē (OPers. -šaiy). —Dual: acc. OAv. ī. —Plur.: acc. OAv. īš, OAv., YAv. hīš (OPers. -šīš), YAv. dīš (OPers. -dīš). —Neuter forms: acc. sing. OAv. īṱ, YAv. iṱ, diṱ: plur. YAv. ī, . —Reflexive sing. dat. YAv. huuāuuōiia ( < *huṷaβḭa).

Demonstrative pronouns: ta- “this,” aēta- “this,” auua- “that one over there (yonder);” relative pronoun ya- “who, which;” interrogative pronoun ka-/ca- “who, which” (when followed by the enclitics -cā/ă, cī/ĭṱ, this becomes an indefinite pronoun “whoever, whichever”). The case endings of all these pronouns are largely the same in the masc. and nt. as those of the a-declension nouns and in the fem. as those of the ā-declension nouns. Examples: masc. sing. nom. OAv. yə̄, kə̄, YAv. , ; acc. tə̄m, kə̄m, OAv. yə̄m, YAv. yim, aom ( < *aṷəm, OPers. avam); gen. YAv. aētahe, auuaŋ́he, OAv. yehiiā, YAv. yeŋ́he, OAv. kahiiā, cahiiā, YAv. kahe, kahiiā-ciṱ; —plur. acc. OAv. tə̄ṇg, , YAv. tə̄, , YAv. auuū, ( < *aṷə̄).

Characteristic pronominal forms are, e.g., masc. sing. (from the pronoun ta-, aēta-) YAv. , (Vedic ), YAv. aēšō (Vedic eṣá); (from the pronoun auua-) OAv. huuō ( < *haṷ), YAv. hāu ( = fem.) (OPers. hauv); —inst. kana; —dat. aētahmāi, yahmāi, kahmāi, cahmāi (Vedic yásmai, kásmai); —abl. aētahmāṱ, yahmāṱ, kahmāṱ (Vedic yásmāt); —loc. aētahmi, yahmī/ĭ, kahmi, cahmi (cf. Vedic yásmin, kásmin). —Plur. nom. OAv. tōi, YAv. , aēte (Vedic , eté), auue (OPers. avaiy), OAv., YAv. yōi, kōi (Vedic , ); —gen. aētaēšąm (OPers. avaišām), yaēšąm (Vedic yéṣām). —Neuter sing. nom./acc. OAv., YAv. taṱ (Vedic tát), YAv. auuaṱ, OAv. hiiaṱ, YAv. yaṱ (Vedic yát), kaṱ (Vedic kát). —Fem. sing. nom. , aēša (Vedic sāˊ, eṣāˊ), YAv. hāu (OPers. hauv); —inst. aētaiia (Vedic etáyā); —dat. YAv. auuaŋ́hāi ( < *aṷahḭāi); —abl. auuaŋ́haṱ; —gen. aētaŋ́hǡ ( < aitaḥĭāh, Vedic etasyāḥ); —loc. yeŋ́he ( < *ḭahḭā, cf. Vedic etásyām). —Plur. gen. YAv. aētaŋąm (Vedic etāˊsām).

A special pronoun with the meaning “this one here” is based on the stems a- and i-/aḭ-: masc. sing. nom. OAv. aiiə̄m, YAv. aēm (Vedic ayám); —acc. YAv. iməm; —inst. anā (OPers. anā); —dat. ahmāi (Vedic asmai); —abl. ahmāṱ; —gen. OAv. ahiiā, YAv. ahe, aŋ́he (Vedic ásya); —loc. ahmī/ĭ, ahmiia. —Dual nom./acc. ima; —dat. ābiia; —gen. aiiǡ. —Plur. nom. ime; —acc. ima; —inst. OAv. āiš, anāiš, YAv. aēibiš; —dat. aēbiiō; —gen. aēšąm; —loc. aēšu, aēšuua. —Neuter sing. nom./acc. imaṱ. —Plur. nom./acc. OAv. ī, imā/ă. —Fem. sing. nom YAv. īm (< *iḭəm, Vedic iyám); —acc. imąm; —inst. OAv. ōiiā, YAv. ā/ăiia (Vedic ayāˊ); —dat. OAv. ax́ iiāi, YAv. aŋ́hāi (Vedic asyái); —abl. aŋ́hāṱ; —gen. aŋ́hǡ; —loc. aŋ́he ( < ahḭā). —Dual dat. OAv. ābiiā. —Plur. nom./acc. imǡ; —inst. OAv. ābīš; —dat. ābiiō; —gen. ǡŋhąm (Vedic āsāˊm); —loc. āhū, āhuua.

In addition to the interrogative pronoun ka-/ca- there is a stem ci- (ci- + cā/ă “someone,” naē-ci- “no one”): sing. nom. masc. ciš, ciš-cā/ă, naē-ciš (Latin quis, quis-que, nīquis); —acc. cīm, naē-cim. —Nom./acc. nt. ciṱ (Latin quid), naē-ciṱ. —Plur. nom. masc. caiiō, caiias-cā; —nom./acc. nt. cī/ĭ-cā/ă.

The possessive pronouns OAv. ma- “my,” OAv. θβa- “your” (sing.), and OAv., YAv. xᵛa-, YAv. hauua-, huua- “one’s own” also have some pronominal endings, e.g., masc. sing θβahmāi, θβahmāṱ, θβahmī, xᵛahmi. —Plur. nom. θβōi. —Fem. sing. nom. θβōi ( < *tṷā + i), xᵛaē-cā ( < *sṷā + i); —inst. maiiā; —dat. OAv. xᵛax́ iiāi; —gen. θβax́ iiǡ. Note also the pronominal endings used with aēuua- “one,” aniia- “other,” and vīspa- “all:” sing. aniiahmāi, vīspəmāi ( < *-əhmāi, Vedic víśvasmai), aēuuahmāṱ, aēuuahmi. —Plur. aniie, vīspe (Vedic anye, víśve), aniiaēšąm, vīspaēšąm (Vedic anyéṣām, víśveṣām). —Fem. sing. gen. aēuuaŋ́hǡ.

2. Verbal inflection.

Many Avestan verbal forms have counterparts in the Vedic language. Since Vedic is attested by an extensive literature that enables its grammatical forms to be determined with exactitude, it is possible to establish the complicated Avestan verbal system with considerable certainty by comparing it systematically with Vedic. With the exception of certain nominal forms such as participles, every verbal form terminates with a personal ending. The personal endings determine the first, second, and third persons in singular, dual, and plural. In addition, they indicate at the same time the diatheses active (e.g., English “I praise”) and middle (e.g., English “I praise in my own interest, we praise each other, I am praised”). The middle may be reflexive, reciprocal, or passive, etc. There are four kinds of personal endings: the primary and secondary endings, the imperative endings, and the perfect endings. The secondary endings indicate only the person and the diathesis whereas the primary endings indicate also present time (e.g., English “I am praising”). The special perfect endings indicate, together with the perfect stem, the state arrived at as a result of an action (“I have praised”). The basis of a verb form is the so-called “verb root,” which conveys the lexical meaning of the verb. By means of changes of the verb root or by the addition of suffixes the so-called “tense stems” are formed. These are known as the present, aorist, and perfect stems. The future stem is typologically a present stem.

When an imperative ending is added to a present stem the verb form expresses a command (imperative present). The addition of a primary ending to the present stem results in an indicative present whereas the addition of a secondary ending to the present stem results in an injunctive present. The injunctive present is used to mention an action without reference to time, one which is general or adhortative, past or future. The preterite is expressed by the imperfect, which is formed by prefixing to the verbal stem the augment a-. Whereas the augment a- is common in Vedic and OPers., it is seldom found in Avestan.

Originally the aorist stem was used to indicate the perfective aspect of an action, that is the view of a completed action in its entirety, but this function of the aorist is usually no longer evident in the Avestan texts. The aorist stem can take only imperative or secondary endings. With secondary endings the aorist is known as the injunctive aorist, which has functions corresponding to those of the injunctive present. The aorist stem with prefixed augment a- and secondary endings forms the indicative aorist, which has preterite meaning.

The moods of the verb are: indicative, injunctive, imperative, subjunctive, and optative. The subjunctive expresses volition and futurity. It is characterized by the addition of the suffix -a- to the high-grade present, aorist, and perfect stems. The subjunctive may take either primary or secondary endings, no difference in meaning being discernible. The optative expresses volition and potentiality. It is formed by adding to the low-grade tense stems the suffix -ḭā-/-ī- and the secondary endings.

The present system. Since the Proto-IE. period, present stems have been formed in many different ways, but it has in most cases not been possible to determine the reason for any particular formation. From the point of view of morphology two broad groups can be distinguished: the thematic and the athematic present stems. The thematic present stems end in the thematic vowel -a-, which with certain variations is retained before the personal endings. In the case of the athematic present stems the personal endings and the suffixes for subjunctive and optative are added directly to the various present stems instead of being preceded by the thematic vowel.

Thematic present stems. To the full or zero grade of the verb root is added the thematic vowel -a- alone or a suffix ending in -a-: -ḭa-, -aḭa-, -sa- ( = Vedic -cha-). Examples: bar-a- “carry,” spas-iia- “espy,” kir-iia- (passive) “be done,” xš-aiia- “rule,” vaxš-aiia- (causative) “make grow,” ja-sa- “come” ( = Vedic gáccha- < Proto-IE. gwṃ-skˆé-). The root can receive an infixed -n-, e.g., kərəṇta- “cut” (Vedic kṛ-n-ta-). The desideratives are characterized by reduplication and the addition of the suffix *-sa- (-ha-, -ša-), e.g., su-srū-ša- “wish to hear.” In some cases the present stems look quite different from the root, e.g., sixša- (Vedic śikṣa-) “wish to be able (sak), learn,” diβža- (Vedic dipsa-) “wish to cheat (dab).” The future stem in *-sḭa- (-hḭa-, -šḭa-) can also be classified as a thematic present, e.g., vax-šiiā “I shall say.”

Inflection of the thematic present stems. Active: indic. pres. sing. 1. barāmi (OAv. pərəsā “I ask”), 2. barahi, 3. baraitī. —Dual 3. baratō. —Plur. 1. barāmahi, 2. -aθā, 3. barəṇti. —Inj. pres. sing. 1. barəm, 2. barō, 3. baraṱ. —Dual 3. -atəm. —Plur. 2. -ata, 3. barən. —Subj. pres. sing. 1. barāni, 2. barāhi, 3. -āiti, barāṱ. —Dual 1. -āuua, 3. barātō. —Plur. 1. barāma, 2. āθā, 3. barǡṇti, barąn. —Opt. pres. sing. 2. barōiš, 3. barōiṱ. —Plur. 1. -aēma, 2. -aēta, 3. baraiiən. —Imv. pres. sing. 2. bara, 3. baratu. —Plur. 2. barata, 3. barəṇtu. —Part. pres. barəṇt-.

Middle: indic. pres. sing. 1. baire, 2. -ahe, 3. baraite. —Dual 3. baraēte. —Plur. 1. barāmaide, 2. OAv. dīdraγžō.duiiē “you wish to fasten” ( < *-a-dṷaḭ, Vedic -a-dhve), 3. barəṇte. —Inj. pres. sing. 1. baire, 2. -aŋha (< *-a-sa), 3. barata. —Dual 3. -aētəm. —Plur. 3. -əṇta. —Subj. pres. sing. 1. -āi, āne, 2. -ǡŋhe ( < *-āhaḭ), 3. -aite.-Plur. 3. -āite. —Opt. pres. sing. 2. -aēša, 3. baraēta. —Plur. 1. -ōimaidī, 2. -ōiδβəm, 3. -aiiaṇta. —Imv. pres. sing. 2. baraŋᵛha, 3. OAv. vərəziiātąm ( < *-a-tąm). —Plur. 2. OAv. gūšōdum “listen” ( < *-a-dṷəm), 3. -əṇtąm. —Part. pres. barəmna-.

Athematic present stems. In the case of the athematic present stems the personal endings are added to the root or to the present suffix directly, that is, without the intervention of the thematic vowel -a-. The most important classes of these present stems are: 1 . the root presents; 2. the reduplicated presents; 3. the present stems containing infixed -n-; 4. the present stems ending in -nā-; 5. the present stems ending in -nu-. These present stems are affected by ablaut: they have the full grade of the root or the infix or suffixes in the case of the active singular forms of the indic., the inj., and, in part, of the imv. as well as throughout the active and middle paradigms of the subj. The remaining forms have the zero grade as far as that is phonologically possible.

1. The root presents. In this case the pres. stem is identical with the verb root, e.g., ah-/h- “to be” (Vedic as-/s-), mrauu-/mrū- “to speak” (Vedic bravi-/brū-); vas-/us- “to wish” (Vedic vaś-/uś-). A subgroup has the long grade in the act. sing. indic. and inj. and otherwise the full grade, e.g., stāuu-/stauu- “to praise,” tāš-/taš “to fashion;” aog- “to speak;” sāh- “to instruct.”

Active inflection: indic. pres. sing. 1. ahmī/ĭ, mraomī/ĭ, vasəmī; stāumi, 2, ahī/ĭ, vašī/ĭ, 3. astī/ĭ, mraoiti, vaštī; tāšti, sāstī. —Dual 1. usuuahī, 3. stō (Vedic s-taḥ), mrūtō. —Plur. 1. mahī/ĭ < *hmahi (Vedic s-masi), usə̄mahī (Vedic úsmási), 2. stā (Vedic s-tha), uštā, 3. həṇtī/ĭ (Vedic s-ánti). —Inj. pres. sing. 1. mraom, 2. mraoš, 3 mraoṱ; tāšt. —Plur. 2 mraotā, uštā. —Subj. pres. sing. 1 anhā, mrauua, mrauuāni, 2. aŋhō, 3. aŋhaṱ, aŋhaitī, vasaṱ. —Plur. 1. ǡŋhāmā (< *aŋhāma), 3. aŋhən, vasən. —Opt. pres. sing. 1. OAv. x́ iiə̄m (Vedic s-yāˊ-m), 2. x́ iiǡ, mruiiǡ, 3. x́ iiāṱ/YAv. hiiāṱ, usiiāṱ, sāhīṱ. —Plur. 1. x́ iiāmā, 2. x́ iiātā, 3. YAv. hiiārə. —Imv. pres. sing. 2. OAv. zdī (<*s + dhi) “be!,” mrūi’i, 3. astū, mraotū/ŭ. —Plur. 2. staota, 3. hə̄ṇtu. —Part. pres. haṇt- (sing. nom. masc. hąs, acc. həṇtəm, gen. hatō. —Plur. gen. hātąm. —Fem. stem hā/ăitī-), usaṇt-; stauuat- ( < *stéṷ-ṇt-).

Middle inflection: indic. pres. sing. 1. mruiie ( < mruṷaḭ); aojōi, 3. mrūite. —Plur. 1. mrūmaidē; aogəmadaē-cā, staomaide, 3. aojaite (Vedic óhate < *-ṇtoḭ). —Inj. pres. sing. 1. aojī, 2. aoγžā ( < *aṷgh + sa), 3. OAv. aogədā ( < *aṷgh + ta), YAv. aoxta, staota. —Subj. pres. sing. 1. aojāi, mrauuāne, stauuāne. —Opt. pres. sing. 2. mruuiša, 3. mruuīta; aojīta. —Part. pres. mruuāna-, aojana-.

2. Reduplicated present stems. The commonest such verb is *da-dā-, which continues both Indo-Ir. “to give” and dha “to put.”

Active inflection: indic. pres. sing. 1. da’ąmi, 2. daδāhi, 3. dadāitī, daδāiti. —Plur. 1. dadəmahī, YAv. dąnmahi, 3. dadaitī (Vedic dád(h)ati with -ati from *-ṇti). —Inj. pres. sing. 1. daδam, 2. OAv. dadǡ, 3. OAv. dadāṱ, YAv. daδāṱ. —Plur. 3. dadaṱ ( < *d(h)a-d(h)-ṇt). —Subj. pres. sing. 1. daθāni, 3. OAv. dadaṱ, YAv. daθaṱ. —Plur. 1. daθāma, 3. daθən. —Opt. pres. sing. 1. dai’iiąm, 2. daidīš, daiθiiǡ, 3. OAv. daidīṱ, YAv. dai’īṱ, YAv. dai’iiāṱ, daiθiiāṱ. —Dual 3. dai’ītəm. —Plur. 3. daiθiiąn, daiθiiārəš. —Imv. pres. sing. 2. dazdi ( < *d(h)a-d(h)z-dhi), 3 dadātū. —Plur. 2. dasta. —Part. pres. daδat- (sing. nom. masc. daδō, daθō).

Middle inflection: indic. pres. sing. 1. dadē, daiθe, 3. dastē (Vedic datté), dazdē ( < *dha-dhz + tai). —Plur. dadəmaidē. —Inj. pres. sing. 3. dazdā ( < *dha-dhz + ta), dasta. —Subj. pres. sing. 3. daθaite. —Plur. 3. dadəṇtē. —Opt. pres. sing. 2. daiθīša, 3. daidītā, daiθīta. —Imv. pres. sing. 2. dasuuā (Vedic d(h)atsva). —Plur. 2. mąz-dazdūm (<*dha-dhz-dhṷam) “bear in mind!” —Part. pres. daθāna-.

3. Present stems containing infixed -n-. In the act. sing. forms of the indic. and inj. and throughout the subj., -na- is infixed but elsewhere only -n-, e.g., vi-na-d-/vi-ṇ-d- “to find,” ci-na-h-, ci-na-s-/cīš- ( < ci-N-š-) “to assign,” mərə-ṇ-c- “to destroy.”

Active inflection: indic. pres. sing. 1. cinahmi, 3. cinasti, vinasti. —Plur. 1. cīšmahī, 3. viṇdəṇti. —Inj. pres. sing. 3. cinas. —Plur. 3. viṇdən. —Opt. pres. sing. 3. cīšiiāṱ, mərąsiiāṱ ( < *mṛṇčḭāt). —Plur. 3. čīšiiąn. —Imv. sing. 2. cīždī.

Middle inflection: indic. pres. sing. 3. mərəγəṇte ( < *mərəŋ(g)te). —Plur. 1. cīšmaide, 2. mərəṇgəduiiē ( < *mṛng-dhṷaḭ), 3. mərəṇcaitē (with -aitē < *-ṇtoḭ). —Opt. pres. sing. 3. mərəṇcīta, viṇdīta. —Part. pres. viṇdāna-.

4. Present stems in -na-. In the act. sing. forms of the indic. and inj. and throughout the subj. the affix -nā- is used but elsewhere only -n-, e.g., frī-nā-/frī-n- “to delight,” gərəβ-nā-/gərəβ-n- “to seize,” pərə-nā-/pərə-n- “to drive away,” vərə-n- “to choose.”

Active inflection: indic. pres. sing. 1. frīnāmi, 3. gərəβnāiti. —Plur. 1. friiąnmahī ( < *frinmahi), 3. frīnəṇti. —Subj. pres. sing. 1. frīnāni, 3. frīnāṱ. —Plur. 3. gərəβnąn. —Imv. plur. 3. frīnəṇtu.

Middle inflection: indic. pres. sing. 1. vərənē, 3. vərəṇtē. —Inj. pres. sing. 3. vərəṇta. —Plur. 3. OAv. vərənātā (with -ātā < *-ata). —Subj. pres. sing. 1. frīnai, pərənāne, 3. pərənāite.

5. Present stems in -nu-. The suffix appears in the full grade as -naṷ- in the sing. forms of the indic. and inj. active. In the subj. it takes the form -naṷ-a- and elsewhere it appears as nu- or -nṷ-. The commonest such verb is kar “to make, do.”

Active inflection: indic. pres. sing. 1. kərənaomi, 3. kərənaoiti. —Plur. 3. kərənuuaiṇti. —Inj. pres. sing. 3. (a-)kərənaoṱ. —Subj. pres. sing. 1. kərənauuāni. —Plur. 3. kərənaon (with -naon < *-noṷən). —Opt. pres. sing. 3. kərənuiiāṱ. —Imv. pres. 2. kərənūi’i. —Part. pres. kərənaṇt-.

The aorist system. As shown by Vedic, the aorist stem indicates the perfective aspect. Apart from the consideration of aspect, the inj., subj., opt., and imv. forms of the aorist have the same functions as the corresponding forms in the present system. The indic. aor. is formed by prefixing the augment a- to the injunctive. The indic. aor. is restricted to the past. Three types of aorist are found in Avestan: 1. thematic aorists, 2. athematic root aorists, 3. sigmatic aorists.

1. The thematic aorist. There are three kinds of thematic aorist. The thematic vowel may be added to the full grade of the root (e.g., taša- “to fashion,” Vedic tákṣa-; hana- “to acquire,” Vedic sána-) or to the zero grade of the root (e.g., sīša- “to instruct,” Vedic śiṣa-, from the root sāh, Vedic śās; xša- “to rule” from the root xšā, Vedic kṣā; xsa- “to look” from the root xsā, Vedic kśa) or to the reduplicated root (e.g., vaoca- “to speak,” Vedic vóca- < *ṷa-ṷč-a- from vac).

The thematic aorist inflection corresponds to that of the thematic present stems. Noteworthy forms are: active inj. ā-xšō “look at,” tašaṱ “he fashioned,” ā-uuaocāma (Vedic á-vocāma) “we spoke.” —Subj. hanānī “I shall acquire,” fra-uuaocāmā “we will proclaim.” —Opt. sīšōiṱ “may he instruct,” hanaēmā “may we earn.” Middle inj. mā . . . xšəṇtā “they shall not rule.” —Subj. xsāi “I shall look.” —Opt. xšaētā “may he rule.” —Imv. xšəṇtąm “let them rule.”

2. The athematic root aorist. Thirty-seven verbs use the verb root as aorist stem without the addition of any further morphological feature. Their inflection is largely the same as that of the athematic root present stems. The following examples are attested forms of 1. “to give,” 2. “to put” and gam “to go.”

Active inflection: inj. aor. sing. 3. dāṱ. —Plur. 2. dāta, 3. dąn, gmən. —Subj. aor. sing. 1. jimā, 2. dāhī, 3. dāitī, dāṱ, jimaitī, jimaṱ. —Plur. 1. dāmā, 3. daiṇtī, dąn, jimən. —Opt. aor sing. 1. OAv. diiąm, 2. jamiiǡ, 3. diiāṱ, jəmiiāṱ. —Plur. 1. jamiiāmā, 2. dāiiata, 3. YAv. jamiiąn, jamiiārəš. —Imv. aor. sing. 2. dāidī, gaidī, 3. dātū. —Plur. 2. dātā. —Part. pres. daṇt-.

Middle inflection: inj. aor. sing. 2. dǡŋhā, 3. dātā. —Dual. 1. duuaidī ( < *dh-ṷadhi) “we two destined.” —Subj. aor. sing. 1. dānē, 2. dǡŋhē, 3. dāitē. —Dual 3. jamaētē. —Plur. 2. daduiiē ( < dh-a-dhṷaḭ), 3. dǡṇtē. —Opt. aor. sing. 1. diiā ( < *dh-īḭa), 2. dīšā. —Imv. aor. sing. 2. dāhuuā.

Some special forms for the 3. sing. passive also belong to the root aorist: a-uuāci “it has been called,” srāuuī “it has been heard;” ərəž-ucam (imv. sing. 3.) “it shall be cortectly told” (from the root vac).

3. The sigmatic aorist. Whereas the thematic aorist and the athematic root aorist can be distinguished from similarly formed present stems only on the basis of comparison with Vedic, the sigmatic aorist is clearly marked. Proto-IE. -s-, which may appear in Avestan as -h- or -š-, is affixed to the verb root. The root has the long grade in the indic. and inj. but the full grade elsewhere. The inflection is athematic. About twenty-seven verbs have attested sigmatic aorists. The following verbs have been selected to illustrate the inflection: xšnu “to satisfy” (xšnāuš-/xšnaoš-), dis “to show” (dāiš-/dōiš-), fras “to ask” (fraš-), man “to consider” (məṇgh-, mąs-), van “to overcome” (vəngh-, vąs-), varz “to work” (varš-), “to present” (rāh-, rǡŋh-), uruuaj “to walk” (uruuāxš-), sand “to appear” (sąs-, Vedic chā/ănts-).

Active inflection: inj. aor. sing. 2. dāiš, 3. xšnāuš, sąs. —Plur. 3. uruuāxšaṱ (with -aṱ from *-ṇt). —Subj. aor. sing. 1. dōišā, 3. və̄nghaitī, və̄nghaṱ, varəšaiti. —Plur. 3. xšnaošən. —Imv. aor. 2. dōišī ( < daiś + ši). —Plur. 2. sąstā ( < sśānd-s-ta).

Middle inflection: inj. aor. sing. 1. frašī, mə̄ṇghī, 3. fraštā, mąstā. —Plur. 1. (a-)məhmaidī. —Subj. aor, sing. 1. mə̄ṇghāi, varəšānē, 2. rǡŋhaŋhōi, 3. varəšaitē. —Plur. 2. maz-dǡŋhō.dūm. —Imv. aor. sing. 2. fərašuuā. —Part. aor. maŋhāna-.

The perfect system. The perfect originally designated the state arrived at as the result of an action but it came to be used as a preterite tense. It is found with fifty-six verbs in Avestan. In the perfect stem the verb root has the full grade in the sing. forms of the active and throughout the subj. but elsewhere it has the zero grade. With the one exception of vaēd/vid- “to know” all the perf. forms are reduplicated, that is, the first consonant of the root followed by the vowel -ā/ă- (occasionally -i-, -u-) is prefixed to the root. The perf. differs from the present-aorist system also in having special endings in the indic. active and middle. The following are examples of perf. stems: āh- ( < ah “to be”), dadā-/dā/ăδ- ( < “to give; put”), mamn- ( < man “to think”), yaiiat-/yaēt-, yōit- ( < yat “to take a firm stand”), vāuuarəz-/vāuuərəz- ( < varz “to work”), vaēd-/vid- ( < vid “to know”).

Active inflection: indic. perf. sing. 1. vaēda, 2. vōistā, dadāθā, 3. vaēdā. —Dual 3. yaētarə. —Plur. 1. yōiθmā, 3. ǡŋharə, vīδarə. —Opt. perf sing. 1. dai’iiąm, 3. vīdiiāṱ. —Dual. 3. aŋ́hāṱ.təm ( < *āh-ḭā-tām). —Part. perf. (suffix -ṷāh-, -uš-, fem. -ušī-) sing. nom. masc. vīduuǡ, daδuuǡ, gen. vīdušō, dadušō, fem. vīθušī-.

Middle inflection (rare): indic. perf. sing. 3. vāuuərəzōi “it has been worked.” —Dual 3. mamnāitē. —Opt. perf. plur. 3. vaozirəm “they would have driven” (from root vaz). —Part. perf. mamnāna- “having thought,” vāuuərəzāna- “having been done.”

Infinitives. Infinitives are formed by the addition of various suffixes either directly to the root or to a tense stem: *-ai: OAv. pōi ( < *pH-aí) “to protect,” YAv. buiie ( < *buṷ-ai) “to become;” *-ṷaḭ: OAv. dāuuōi “to give,” vīduiiē (<*ṷid-ṷai) “to know;” *-ṷanaḭ: OAv. vīduuanōi “to know;” *-taḭ: OAv. itē “to go,” mrūitē “to say,” stōi “to be;” *-ah: OAv. auuō “to aid,” vərəziiō “to work;” *-ahaḭ: OAv. vaocaŋ́hē “to say” (from aorist stem vaoca-), srāuuaiieŋ́he “to recite” (from caus. stem srāuuaiia-), *-dhḭāḭ (Vedic -dhyai): OAv. jaidiiāi “to be killed” (from root jan), diβžaidiiāi “to be deceived,” vərəziieidiiāi “to do, be done.”

Verbal adjectives. Verbal adjectives ending in -ta have almost always passive meaning, but there are exceptions such as gata- (= Vedic gatá-) “gone.” If phonologically possible the root appears in the zero grade, e.g., -uxta- “said” (Vedic uktá- < vac); vista “found” (< *ṷidz-tá-, cf. Vedic vitttá- < vid); vərəzda “increased” (Vedic vṛddhá- < *ṷṛdzdhá- < *ṷṛdhz-tó-); jata- “slain” (Vedic jātá- < han) from root jan; zāta- “born” (Vedic jātá- with -ā- < ṇH-) from root zanH. Roots ending in -ā- do not show ablaut, e.g., dāta- “given; put” (But Vedic hitá < *dhə-tó-).


Chr. Bartholomae, Awestasprache und Altpersisch, in Geiger and Kuhn, Grundr. Ir. Phil. I, pp. 188-241.

A. V. W. Jackson, An Avesta Grammar in Comparison with Sanskrit, Stuttgart, 1892, repr. Darmstadt, 1968, pp. 62-200.

H. Reichelt, Awestisches Elementarbuch, Heidelberg, 1909, repr. Darmstadt, 1967.

H. G. Herzenberg, Morfologicheskaya struktura slova v drevnikh indoiranskikh yazykakh, Leningrad, 1972.

S. Sokolov, “Yazyk Avesty,” in V. I. Abaev, ed., Osnovy iranskogo yazykoznaniya I: Drevneiranskie yazyki, Moscow, 1979, pp. 161-94.

E. Benveniste, Les infinitifs avestiques, Paris, 1935.

J. Kellens, Les noms-racines de l’Avesta, Wiesbaden, 1974.

Idem, Le verbe avestique, Wiesbaden, 1985.

On other aspects of Avestan grammar, not treated here, consult the works listed above. On composition see J. Duchesne-Guillemin, Les composés de l’Avesta, Liège and Paris, 1936.

See also J. Duchesne-Guillemin, Kratylos 7, 1962, pp. 11-38; J. Kellens, ibid., 16, 1971, pp. 9-17; 18, 1973, pp. 1-2.

K. Hoffmann, Aufsätze zur Indoiranistik I-II, Wiesbaden, 1975-76 (consult the index pp. 688-704).


(K. Hoffmann)

Originally Published: December 15, 1987

Last Updated: August 17, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. III, Fasc. 1, pp. 47-62

Cite this entry:

K. Hoffmann, “AVESTAN LANGUAGE i-iii,” Encyclopædia Iranica, III/1, pp. 47-62, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/avestan-language (accessed on 30 December 2012).