Day 2 - Old Iranian languages, scripts, literature and sources

On Day 2, we are going to take a look at the Old Iranian languages and their particular characteristics. These include Old Persian, Avestan, and other languages about which we have only partial and scarce information, like Median and Scythian. We are going to discuss their grammatical structure, their history, scripts used to write them, how they were discovered or preserved, etc.

Homework (20 min.) - Students will be engaged in a discussion about yesterday's class as well as the homework articles.

First Part (1 hour) - In the 1st part of the class, we will have a general overview of the ancient period of the Iranian languages, how we define them and how different they are from the Middle and New Iranian languages. The cultural and political aspects of those languages, their mutual interactions are also going to be discussed. One of the most important questions to be discussed is also going to be the characteristic phonetic differences between Avestan, Old Persian, and Median, and how we define those differences.

Break (15 min.)

Second Part (45-50 min.) - During the second part of the class, we are going to pay more attention to Old Persian, its history, and literary heritage. The Old Persian language was spoken by the Persian tribes (OP pārsa-) living in the historical region of Persis (< Greek Περσίς), that corresponds to the modern-day province of Fars of the Islamic Republic of Iran. It was one of the official languages of the Achaemenid Empire.

Discussion (15-20 min.) - At the end of the class, students will be familiarised with the scholarly literature related to the topic and will have an opportunity to ask their questions. After that, they will be assigned a homework article/s to read at home.


Gernot Windfuhr, ed., The Iranian Languages, London and New York, 2009.

Schmitt, R., Die altpersischen Inschriften der Achaimeniden, Wiesbaden, 2009.

Schmitt, R., Avestisch, in Schmitt, R. (ed.), Compendium Linguarum Iranicarum, Wiesbaden, 1989, pp. 56-85