1TEACH YOURSELFAVESTAA beginner‟s guide to theSCRIPT, GRAMMAR & LANGUAGEof the Zoroastrian scriptural textsByRamiyar Parvez KaranjiaJune 2011
2TABLE OF CONTENTSContentsIntroduction. 4I. THE AVESTAN ALPHABET . 51. The Avestan characters (1) . 72. The Alphabets (2) . 83. The Alphabets (3) . 94. The Alphabets (4) . 115. Phonetic divisions of the Alphabets . 136. Orthographic rules for placement of letters . 15II. SANDHI. 161. Vowel Sandhi. 162. Consonantal Sandhi . 19III. ROOTS & THEIR GRADATIONS . 211. Roots . 212. Vowel Gradation (Guna and Vriddhi) . 22IV. NOUNS . 241. Primary and Secondary Nouns . 24V. ADJECTIVES . 25Degrees of Adjectives . 26VI. GENDERS . 27VII. DECLENSIONS . 281. General Case Terminations. 292. Vowel Bases . 301. Bases ending in a- Masculine . 302. Bases ending in a- Neuter . 313. Bases ending in A- Masculine. 314. Bases ending in A- Feminine . 325. Bases ending in i- Masculine . 346. Bases ending in i- Feminine. 347. Bases ending in i- Neuter . 348. Bases ending in u- Masculine . 359. Bases ending in u- Feminine . 3510. Bases ending in u- Neuter . 363. Consonantal Bases . 371. Bases ending in T(Na)- Masculine. 372. Bases ending in T(At)- Feminine . 383. Bases ending in T(aw)- Neuter . 384. Bases ending in n- Masculine . 395. Bases ending in n- Feminine . 396. Bases ending in n(am)- Neuter . 40
37. Bases ending in r- Masculine . 408. Bases ending in r(at)-Masculine . 419. Bases ending in h(MaB)- Masculine . 4110. Bases ending in h(Ma)- Neuter . 42VIII. PRONOUNS . 43IX. NUMERALS . 46X. VERBS. 481. Ten Classes of Conjugation . 482. Conjugational Tenses and Moods . 511. Present Tense . 512. Imperfect Tense . 533. Imperative Mood . 544. Potential Mood. 553. Non-conjugational Tenses and Moods . 571. Future Tense . 572. Perfect Tense . 583. Aorist Tense . 584. Precative or Benedictive Mood . 59XII. PARTICIPLES . 611. Present Participle . 612. Future Participle. 613. Perfect Participle . 624. Past Participle . 62XIII. DERIVATIVE VERBS . 631. Frequentative or Intensive verb . 632. Desiderative Verb . 643. Denominative or Nominal Verb . 644. Causal Verb . 645. Incohative Verb . 65XIV. PARTICLES . 661. Adverbs . 662. Prepositions. 663. Conjunctions . 674. Prefixes . 67XV. SOME GRAMMATICAL RULES. 681. Reduplication . 682. Compounds . 693. Insertion of redundant letters . 704. Strong and Weak bases . 705. Infinitive verbs . 716. Gerund or Verbal Nouns . 71XVI. TRANSLATION . 721. Syntax - Formation of Sentences . 721. Translate from Avesta to English . 733. Translate from English to Avesta . 744. Specimen Translation of a text –SROSH BĀJ . 75QUESTION BANK . 85KEY TO EXERCISES . 88
4IntroductionAvesta, originally a language of the ancient Indo-Iranian stock of languages, is presentlythe language of the Zoroastrian scriptures. It is no more used for day to daycommunication purposes, and hence is referred to as a „dead language.‟This elementary book, helps beginners to study the Avestan script, learn the language andunderstand its basic texts. It is prepared in the format of „Teach Yourself‟ books, with theview that a student may learn the language without much help from a tutor. Each chapteris prepared as a separate unit. Most footnotes provide alternative words or contemporaryversions of grammatical terminologies. They are intended for reference and are notessential to learning the language.Exercises have been provided at the end of each chapter along with keys to most exercisesat the end of the book. A Question Bank has been provided at the end for those who wantto evaluate themselves.The book is based on the Avesta grammar notes given by late Dasturji Dr. HormazdyarKayoji Mirza to his students. The style, content and layout of this book is a result of theteaching experience and interaction during the past several years.Considering the elementary nature of the book, grammatical rules have been simplified.Wherever there are multiple options in terminations, only the most frequently usedalternative has been given in the book. This book may also be used as a sourcebook forteaching Avestan script and grammar.To study Avestan grammar in greater detail one may refer to “A Practical Grammar of theAvesta language” by Kavasji Edalji Kanga (Bombay, 1891), “An Avesta Grammar incomparison with Sanskrit” by A.V.Williams Jackson (Stuttgart, 1892), “AvestanLanguage III. The Grammar of Avestan” by Karl Hoffmann (Encyclopaedia Iranica III,pp.35-44) and An Introduction to Young Avestan by P. O. Skjaervo (Online, 2003).I hope this book will enable people to get familiar with the Avestan script, grammar andlanguage.Ramiyar Parvez KaranjiaDadar, Mumbai.June 2011.
5I. THE AVESTAN ALPHABETThe Avestan languageAvesta is the oldest extant Iranian language. It belongs to the Indo-Iranian family oflanguages. It is the mother of other Iranian languages like Old Persian, Middle Persian,Kurdish, Pashtu and Ossetic. Avesta heads the Iranian branch of Indo-Iranian language,just as Vedic Sanskrit is the source for the Indian branch, which has languages likeHindustani, Bengali and Marathi. The striking similarity between Vedic Sanskrit andAvestan is on account of their common origin.The Iranian language family can be understood as follows:LanguageHypothetical proto-Aryan language (now lost)AvestaOld PersianInscription PahlaviPahlavi (Middle Persian), Manichaenian, Tokharish etc.Neo-PersianPeriodProto-Aryan periodPeshdad-Kayan periodAchaemenianAshkanian & early SasanianSasanianPost-SasnianOther important languages in the Indo-European family are Armenian, Baltic –Lithuanian, Latvian, Old Prussian, Anatolian – Hittite, Celtic – Hittite, Gallic, Hispanic,Irish, Scot, Welsh, Tocharian, Hellenic – Classical Greek – Modern Greek, Germanic –Old Saxon – Modern German, Norwegian, Icelandic, Italic and Latin.Account of the Avestan textsAvestan texts were composed in absolute prehistory when the art of reading and writinghad not yet been adequately developed. They were handed down by oral tradition fromgeneration to generation since very ancient times.The Iranian historical traditions regarding the transmission of the Avestan texts arerecorded in the Dēnkard, on the basis of which a succinct account of their transmission,can be formulated.According to this tradition, one written copy of the entire Avestan texts, comprising of 21Nasks (Volumes), was deposited in the royal archives of King Vishtasp. 21 priestlyfamilies were entrusted the task of memorizing one Nask each and the Nasks were orallytransmitted from generation to generation. During the Achaemenian times, the writtenAvestan texts in the royal archives was destroyed during Alexander‟s invasion andconquest of Iran in 330 B.C. Emperor Vologeses/Valkhash I (51–77 A.C.) of theParthian/Arshkanian dynasty (250 BC-226 AC) made an unsuccessful attempt to regatherthe 21 Avestan Nasks.The Sasanian Emperor Artakhshir Pāpakān (226-241 A.C.) instructed his Head PriestDastur Tansar (Tosar) to compile a standard edition of the 21 Nasks from the scatteredAvestan texts. This work was completed under Dastur Adarbad Marespand during thereign of Emperor Shapur II (309-379 A.C.).The Avestan texts were endangered once again when the Arabs invaded and conqueredIran in 641 A. C. However, they were not completely destroyed. Out of 21 Avestan Nasks,20 were in existence till the 9th century. A summary of 19 Nasks, based on their Pahlavi
6translations, is found in the VIII and IX books of the Dēnkard. After the 9th century, mostof the Avestan Nasks and their Pahlavi translations have been lost, mainly due to the largescale massacre and destruction brought about in Iran by the Huns Changiz Khan andHalagu Khan in the 14th century and later by the Tartar Timur The Lame in the 15thcentury.The Extant Avestan textsThe extant Avestan texts may be divided as follows:1. The Yasna (including the Gathas)2. The Visparad3. The Vidēvdād /Vendidad4. The Khordeh Avesta (including the Yashts)5. Fragments of some of the lost Nasks.1Origin of the Avestan scriptThough Avestan is the oldest known Iranian language, and it even pre-dates the times ofprophet Zarathushtra, it had no script of it own and was orally transmitted from generationto generation. There is a tradition that a copy of the Avestan texts were committed towriting and deposited in the royal archives during the Kayanian and Achaemenian times.However, the script used in writing is not known. They may have been written inprimitive indigenous scripts of those times, used for inscribing royal records and edicts.According to literary and archaeological references, attempts were made to commitAvestan to writing during the Parthian period, in the script of those times. However, thisattempt was not successful. The Avestan script, as it is used today, was developed in theSasanian period during the reign of Shapur II, and modified till the times of Cosroe II/Khushru Purviz (590-628 A.C.). This script, known as the Dīn Dabireh “the script forreligious (purposes)”, is the script with which we write the Avestan language today.Indian and Iranian StylesThere is a slight variance in the way some of the letters of the Avestan script were writtenby scribes in Iran and India. The Iranian scribes wrote in an ornamental manner with agreater flourish and curves at the end. The Indian scribes used straight strokes. In thisbook the Avestan script of Indian style has been used.1Fragments have been preserved in the commentaries given in Pahlavi translations, colophons ofmanuscripts, Avesta-Pahlavi Frahang and other Pahlavi works.
71. The Avestan characters (1)Special distinguishing features of the Avestan script:1) The Avestan script is written from right to left.2) The direction of writing and relative positions of each letter have to be noted.3) One sound may be represented by more than one character, depending on theirplacement in the word.4) Each Avestan character has an equivalent for transcription. Most of these character arefrom the English alphabet, but some are adopted from the Greek alphabet, and a fewspecial characters have been introduced. By and large the system of Karl Hoffmann hasbeen adopted for transcription.5) Every complete Avesta word is followed by a dot (like a full stop), called a wordseparator.6) Three dots are used to indicate the end of a sentence. Sometimes three small circlesused in a similar way, indicate the end of a paragraph.Avesta letter Transcription Pronunciation-a-A-i-I-- u-U-k-x-F2-X--g-G1 a - as in criticala - as in father i - as in it ī - as in feet u - as in put oo - as in shoot k - as in kite kh - as in Khan1 kh - as in khyal khv - as in khvāb g - as in girl gh - as in Ghana This and the following two words showing pronunciation are not from the English language as thesesounds are not available in this language.2A combination of two Pahlavi letters „x‟ and „v‟3This is the Greek letter gamma.
8Unlike Sanskrit, the consonants in Avestan, do not have inherent vowel sounds, and hencecannot stand by themselves. A consonant needs to be followed by a vowel to depict a fullsound. Thus:ak ka ik ki uk kuAkIk kīkāUk kūExercise:1. Practice the following:xIg iFUAkXGau2. Write the following in Avestan script. Speak as you write: a ā xixākū2. The Alphabets (2)Avesta letterTranscriptionPronunciation-o- 2 o - as in goingo - as in go e - as in plenty e - as in Andre th - as in bath d - as in day -O-e1-E-q-d-1It is used as final vowel in Gathas and in the diphthong combination Ea aē.2 This sign is similar to the Greek letter theta.
9Avesta letterTranscription1-D-Pronunciation r -r-f-b-t-2-T-3dh - as in adhere r - as in runf - as in fan b - as in bat t - as in tent - as in putExercise:1. Practice the following:TEoDtbrqfde O2.Write the following in Avestan script. Speak as you write: 3. The Alphabets (3)Avesta letter-v-4-V-6Transcription5Pronunciation e - as in red e - as in red 1 This sign is similar to the Greek letter delta.2 It is used at the beginning and middle of words.3 It is used at the end of words or when followed by k „k‟ or b„b‟456Generally replaces a „a‟ when followed by finalm„m‟ and n „n‟. Also used as the final vowel after r „r‟.This sign is similar to an inverted „e‟.It is generally used as final vowel, especially in Gathas
10Avesta letter-vrv-1-c j-n-N-2-m-Pronunciation ere - as in beretch - as in chair j - as in jam n - as in nut n as in grunt m - as in man ng - as in song ng - as in playing p - as in pan h - as in hen w - as in water m hw-M-?-Transcription3-p-h-B-4Exercise:1. Practice the following:Vjm?nBpcNhMV2. Transcribe the following into Avestan script. Speak as you write: 12 This cluster of three letters, is treated as one sound in Avesta.Used instead of n „n‟ when followed by a guttural or dental consonant.3It generally follows an4It generally followsi „i‟D „ ‟ and q„ ‟.
113. Transcribe the following in Roman script. Speak as you write:,mvk,mUnat,aDoab,iAmha,hMamvn,iriap4. The Alphabets (4)Avesta letterTranscriptionPronunciation-l- yy ow – as in cowan – as in France y - as in lawyer Y - as in year s - as in sit sh - as in harsh -C- sh - as in ashame 5- ‚- sh - as in Shyam -z-z z - as in zebra zh - as in azure vvv - as in save v - as in verse -&1-y-2-Y-s-3-S-4-Z6-w-7-W-Self study:1. Transcribe the following in Roman script. Speak as you write:12It is used only in the middle of words. Hence it is known as medial „y‟.It is used only in the beginning of words. Hence it is known as initial „y‟.3It is used at the end of words and also when followed by c „c‟ and t „t‟ .4It is used at the beginning and within a word.It is used at the beginning and within a word, when followed by the letter „y‟.6It is used only within the word.7 It is used only at the beginning of a word.5
12,Itsa ,mvtSihaW ,UhoW ,mvCa,iAmha ,AtSu ,Itsa ,AtSu ,mvCa ,iAtSihaW ,iACa ,Tayh 2. Transcribe the following in Avestan script. Speak as you write:ya ā ahū vairyō a ā ratu a ā ci hacā,va h u dazdā mana hō yao anan m a h u mazdāi,x a r mcā ahurāi ā yim dr gubyō dada vāstār m.,Acah ,Tic ,TACa ,Sutar ,Aqa ,OyriaW ,Uha ,AqaY,iAHam ,SuVhMa ,m&nanaqoay‚ ,OhManam ,AHad ,SuVhMaW ,mvrAtsAW ,Tadad ,Oybugvrd ,miY ,A ,iAruha ,AcmvrqaCxExercise:1. Practice the following:y&sSC‚zZlYwW2. Give the transcriptions of the following letters in Roman script.YZ‚W&WCl3. Transcribe the following in Roman script. Speak as you write:,TAdad ,mUyAp ,Etiawam ,AHam ,An ,mvk,EhManEa ,AtaCvradid ,lwgvrd ,Am ,Tayh,AcsahManam ,AcsarqA ,TAmhaBq ,mvyna,Aruha ,AtSoarq ,mvCa ,SiAnqoay‚ ,lyaY ,AcoawArf ,iAyanEad ,m&wtsAd ,iOm ,m&t
134. Transcribe the following in Avestan script. Speak as you write:k v r r m jā wā pōi s hā yōi h tīci rā mōi d m ahūmbī ratūm ci dīa hōi vohū srao ō ja tū mana hāmazdā ahmāi yahmāi va ī kahmāicī .5. Phonetic divisions of the AlphabetsThe Avesta alphabet has 50 characters, divided into two groups - 15 Vowels and 35Consonants. A vowel is a sound produced by letting air flow cleanly through the mouth Aconsonant is a sound produced by interrupting the flow of air through the mouth. Theseletters are divided into various phonetic divisions as under:15 VOWELSSimple Vowels:Phonetic DivisionShortGutteral (by letting air flow from the throat)Longa A Palatal (by moving the tongue near the palate)i I Labial (by pursing the lips)u Cerebral (by rolling the tongue)vrv U -----Diphthongs:Diphthong‟s is a secondary vowel sound. Its sound is devised by the combination of thesounds of two simple vowels. Some languages use two vowels to represent a diphthongsound. In Avesta a single letter is used. There are three diphthongs sounds in Avesta. Eachsound is represented by two letters, three indicated as short and the other three as long.The short and long diphthongs differ only in their placement, and not in their sound value.Phonetically the short and long diphtongs represent the same sound.ShortLonge E v V o O Special Vowels:These two characters are referred to as special since there are no similar letters in thealphabets of other related languages.l &
14Phonetic DivisionGutteral (obstructing of the flowof air by the throat)Palatal (obstructing of the flow ofair by the palate)Dental (obstructing of the flow ofair by the teeth)Labial (obstructing of the flow ofair by lips)35 CONSONANTSUnaspirant1 Aspirantk cUnaspirant Aspirantx / F g --j t /T Q d p f b Nasal (making the air flow fromn ; N ;m ; Mthe nose)Sibilant (making hissing sound bys ; S ; C ; ‚ ;the tongue)Semi-vowel / Liquid (soundy ; Y ; w ; Wtransmuted from simple vowels)Aspiration(soundproducedh exhalation of air)Bi-labial (obstructing the flow ofB air by lips after pursing them)Ligatures2(combination of two! ; X Avesta or Pahlavi letters)Exercise:1. Give the transcripts and phonetic divisions of the following letters:Av. letterTranscriptPhonetic Division ;G --D ? z ; Z ; r BhB Y N G ? F Z 11The Unaspirate consonants are those without the aspiration sound „h‟ inherent in it. The Aspirantconsonants have an inherent „h‟ sound to the corresponding Unaspirant consonant.2This is not a phonetic but an orthographic division. Its given here to have all the characters together in oneplace.
152. Give the consonants in the following phonetic groups:Phonetic GroupConsonantsDentalSibilantPalatal6. Orthographic rules for placement of letters-F- x is used before the letter „y‟. Eg:,uyFad “country.”-t- t is used at the beginning and in middle of words. Eg: ,unat“body.”-T- bis used at the end of words or when followed by k „k‟ or„b‟. Egs:,TaA“then” ; ,aCEakT “teaching.”-v- replaces a when followed by final m / n . Eg: ,mvruha m ,aruha “lord.”It is also used as the final vowel after r „r‟. Eg:-V- is generally used as final vowel, eg:,vratAd “O Creator!”,Vm“my”; or in the combination uV-N- is used instead of n „n‟ when followed by a guttural or dental consonant.,atSugNa “toe, finger” ; ,TNawcEgs:“how many ?”-?- follows an i „i‟. Eg: ,uh?iad “country”-B- w follows D „ ‟ and q-S- „ ‟. Eg: ,ayBqar “timely.”is used at the end of words and when followed by,atSihaWc„c‟ and“best” ; Siriag “the mountain.”-C- is used in the beginning and within a word. Eg: ,aCu “dawn.”-‚- is used only when followed by y „y‟. Eg: ,ay‚a “blessed.”-y- y is used only within the word.-Y- y is used only at the beginning of words.-w- v is used only within the words.-W- v is used only at the beginning of words.t„t‟. Egs:
16Self study:Correct the following ar,aFah,axahExercise:1. Correct the spellings:,Aqay,mvSa,Uhow,taYhII. SANDHIIn Avesta, nouns, adjectives, participles and other parts of speech are formed by addingsuffixes to roots. These nouns and adjectives are crude forms. If they have to be used in asentence, case terminations have to be added to them. In the process of joining suffixesand terminations, letters come into contact, and undergo a change, which is known asSandhi or Euphony. Thus, Sandhi is a combination of two or more vowels or consonantsresulting in a changed form.1Depending on the letters coming in contact, there are two types of Sandhi:1) Vowel Sandhi, in which both the letters are vowels.2) Consonantal Sandhi, in which both the letters are consonants.When one letter is a vowel and the other a consonant, no change takes place.1. Vowel SandhiThere are four types of Vowel Sandhi :A. DIRGHA SANDHI,B. GUNA SANDHI,C. VRIDDHI SANDHID. ANTARGATA SANDHI.A. DIRGHA SANDHI is a combination of two similar simple vowels resulting in a longvowel:A a a& & A / aU u uA A aI I iU U uA a A I i IU u UA A A I I IU U U1Exceptional cases, when the rules of vowel Sandhi, do not apply, is called Pragrihya. Eg:TaA- “then”.
17Examples:,anazApu anaza apu1“driving away”“having healthy horses”,amAqadin amA Aqadin“we gave”“a field”“ a tree”,apsAward apsa award,inArac inA arac,m&naW m& AnaW,erIn erI in“ I poured down”“good word”,atxUh atxu uhB. GUNA SANDHI is the combination of two dissimilar vowels, the first one of which isa and the second is one of the simple vowels:Ea I/ i aoa U/ u aRa vrv aExamples:“neither, not here”,aDEan aDi an“Hādokht (Nask)”2,atxoaDah atxu aDah“to go towards”,ra vrv aC VRIDDHI SANDHI is the combination of two dissimilar vowels of which, the first oneis A :iA I/i AuA U/u ARA vrv AVriddhi Sandhi also involves the following changes:iA Ea a/AuA oa a/ A12The underlined letters indicate the letters involved in Sandhi and their result.One of the 21 Nasks. Literally, “accompanied by the word.”
18Examples:“for Mazda”,iAdzam Ea Adzam“for Ahura” ,iAruha Ea aruha,EtiA Eti A“comes towards”D. ANTARGATA SANDHI is the combination of two dissimilar vowels. The first vowelchanges into a consonant, and the second vowel remains unchanged.aii a iAii A iuiiawAw A uiw i uar a vrvAr A vrvur u vrvawa a oa&wa & oa ir i vrv a u u iAwa A oa aya a Ea Aya A EaExamples:“speaking thus”“opposing”,anajoaytiu anajoa itiu,arAytiap arA itiap“Spityura” (King Jamshed‟s brother)“for the holy (lady)”,aruytips aru itips,iAynoaCa iA inoaCa“from the body”,Tawnat Ta unat“greatly beloved”,atirfAwh atirfA uh“widely flowing water”“small”“time”,apAwru apA uru,iwsak i usak,anAwrz anA urz“with the cow/bull” ,awag“of the cows/bulls”“pain, affliction” a oag,m&wag m& oag,atird ati vrvdExercise:1. Fill in the blanks and name the Sandhi:“indeed, surely” Ti Iz1
19“speaking in accordance” itxu una“approached” ati apu“and the women” “for the wor
To study Avestan grammar in greater detail one may refer to “A Practical Grammar of the Avesta language” by Kavasji Edalji Kanga (Bombay, 1891), “An Avesta Grammar in comparison with Sanskrit” by A.V.Williams Jackson (Stuttgart, 1892), “Avestan . -