From Academic Kids

Template:Dablink The Pahlavi script was used broadly in the Sasanid Persian Empire to write down Middle Persian for secular, as well as religious purposes. Template:Alphabet


Origins of the term

The word Pahlavi, refering to the script of Middle Persian, itself is a borrowing from Parthian (parthau "Parthian" --> pahlaw; the semivowel glide r changes to l, a common occurrence in language evolution). The word originally refered to the language spoken by the Parthians, and later came to be applied to the script used to write Middle Persian, which was derived from the Aramaic alphabet. Middle Persian Pahlavi script was derived from Aramaic independently, although Inscriptional MP Pahlvi is quite similar to Inscriptional Parthian Pahlavi.

Pahlavi texts

The earliest evidence of Middle Persian (MP) Pahlavi writing have reached us from the Parthian period and are used on various pieces of graffiti that have been discovered in the Persepolis complex. This is not to say that Middle Persian was not written any earlier than this. Indeed, there are reasons to believe that the earliest forms of Middle Persian were already written in various forms of Aramaic during the later Achaemenid era. Still, extensive use of the MP Pahlavi seems, from the available evidence, to have occurred only after the accesion of the Middle Persian-speaking Sasanian dynasty in 224 AD.

Categories of Pahlavi script

Pahlavi script consisted of two major forms: Inscriptional Pahlavi and Book Pahlavi, along with the minor catogory of Psalter Pahlavi. Our earliest evidence of Pahlavi are provided by the insctriptions of various Sasanian emperors and other notables (e.g. the religous leader Kerdir). Book Pahlavi, a smoother script in which letters often attached to form comliacted ligatures, was probably adapted later. The third category of Pahlavi, Psalter script, was used to write down a Middle Persian translation of the Psalter, and it took advantage of some improvements such as the absence of heterograms and further distinguishment of letters.

Book Pahlavi

Book Pahlavi, the most common form of the script, was a complicated writing system with 12 characters representing 24 sounds. The matter was further complicated by the wide-spread use of ligatures, heterograms, and attaching of the letters. One unique feature of Pahlavi orthography is the use of Aramaic "heterograms" to render many common Pahlavi words. For example, the Pahlavi word for "king", shah, was written as MLKA, recognizable as the Aramaic word for "king" cognate with contemporary Arabic malik, but it was intended to be pronounced as shah. Using heterograms was also applied to verbs, where Pahlavi person-number agreement and tense markers were appended to an Aramaic third-person masculine singular present verb. Many extremely common nouns, verbs, and even function words were subject to heterographic writing.

In its later forms, attempts were made to improve the alphabet by adding diacritics and signs to the letters. Since no actual Pahlavi book has survived from the Sasanian period, we are left with medieval copies and have no way of knowing whether these improvements happened under the Sasanian rule or in the post-Islamic era. After the fall of the Sasanians, the Pahlavi script, as well as Middle Persian language, was preserved by the Zoroastrian clergy and scholars and was used to compose new pieces of literature. The alphabet was actively used by the Zoroastrian community well unto the 10th century AD.fa:پارسی میانه


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