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Grammaticalization in Persian and Other Iranian Languages

Author: Sol Ami Patria
by Sol Ami Patria
Posted: Feb 03, 2017
iranian languages

Although, there is little doubt that Persian is the most important of the Iranian Languages and that it has the largest potential to provide data for grammaticalization research, the rewards of studying this ancient langauge can be savored fully only by comparing with its living relatives, that are the other Iranian Languages in the region. Here, we make an attempt to provide a more complete picture of how grammaticalization has occured through the history of Iranian Languages.

We know that the ancestor of all Iranian Languages was a proto-iranian language that was a very close genetic relative of the ancient Sanskrit languages. Both must have descended from the proto-indo-iranian language, that we know almost nothing about. Yet, by comparing Sanskrit with Old Persian adn the Avesta language, we can get some ideas on how that lost language must have sounded like and how it was connected to the antediluvian proto-indo-european. We know that at this prehistoric stage the language has case affixes, grammatical genders and other complesx grammatical structures that today’s Persian language does not have. The question is when and how these structures were lost. We do not know exactly when but we can make some estimations.

The Middle Persian language that emerged sometime around two thousands years ago had a much simplified grammar with a dying case system and only relics of a long-gone grammatical gender. So, by that time, the language must have gone through enough change to make the ancient texts of Aveta unintelligible to the public. The mechanism of this change a phonetic erosion. Imagine millions of people uttering the same words over centuries and inevitably they tend to say those words in the easiest way possible. As time passes, they put less and less emphasis on pronouncing the case affixes and in the end, lose them completely. That must have indeed created a crisis in the language because they were giving up the means to express the relations between elements of a sentence for the sake of speaking quicker. That is why the newly developed class of adpositions had to step in. Not only Persian but also languages like Pashto, Caspian languages and Kurdish developed their own inventory of adpositions mostly from nouns. The phenomenon of grammaticalization of adpositions is so obvious in the entire language family that we are able to talk about adpositons derived from nouns in iranian languages as a whole issue.

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Author: Sol Ami Patria

Sol Ami Patria

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Member since: Dec 08, 2013
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