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Ancient Iranian Languages

An Introduction to Sasanid-Pahlavi (Middle-Persian)


By: Shapour Suren-Pahlav

July 2007



The Sasanid-Pahlavi also known as Middle Persian is one of the Middle Iranian languages. The two major languages in this group are Arsacid Pahlavi (also called Parthian and Northwest Pahlavi[1]) and Sasanid-Pahlavi (or Southwest Pahlavi and, more commonly, Middle Persian). 


The term Pahlavi is a noun derived from the adjective Pahlav[2], which is the equivalent of the Old Persian word Parthava meaning ‘Parthian’[3].


Sasanid-Pahlavi was a successor to, and derived directly from, Old Persian. It has a multiplicity of Southwestern Iranian features. Gradually developing into a distinct idiom after the reign of Emperor Xerxes[4], it became the official language of the Sasanian dynastic Empire (224-651CE) and as such was utilised in a noteworthy literature of Zoroastrian and also Manichean religious texts.


Following the Arab invasions of Iran in the seventh century Sasanid-Pahlavi developed into New Persian.





[1]  Ronald G. Kent, Old Persian Grammar, Texts, Lexicon, 2nd rev. ed., American Oriental Society, New Haven, (1953).  P. 6.

[2] Hermann Collitz, “World Languages”, Language, Vol. 2, No. 1. (Mar., 1926), p.6.

[3] See idem, Old Persian Grammar, Texts, Lexicon, 2nd rev. ed., American Oriental Society, New Haven, (1953). p.7.

[4] Joseph Wiesehöfer, Ancient Persia, Tauris Paublishers, (1996), p8.


 پهلوي ساساني، فارسي ميانه، نگاشته شاپور سورنپهلو

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