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Avestan Script, History's First Phonological Alphabet



24 September 2005


History's first phonological alphabet was invented during Sasanid dynasty (226 to 637 AD).

Pointing out the issue, Professor Saeed Oryan, an expert of Iranian ancient languages and director of Languages and Dialect Research Centre of Iran's Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization says, "Iranians invented the Avestan alphabet during Sasanid era which is a unique and unprecedented example of its kind throughout history. If Avestan script were the only alphabet system which had ever been invented in the history of Iran, then again Iranian languages could have claimed that it has a rich history in terms of language and scripts."

Noting various factors which have made the script so prominent, he mentions the exclusive tailor-made invention of such script for Avestan language as the most outstanding feature of this alphabetic system. However, among all existing languages today, including both dead and living languages, one can not find another language whose script is exclusively invented.

This particular feature has made Avestan script also known as Din-Dabira (The Script of Religion, i.e. Zarathushtrian) capable of representing all phonemes existing in Avestan language, which is another important characteristic of the language. As a matter of fact this characteristic is just found in Avestan, beside phonological alphabets, which do not belong to any particular language.

"Using Avestan language one can even write the chirrups of birds," this is a famous saying which Oryan describes as an exaggeration but indicates, "How accurate is the Avestan script. This script is so accurate that you can use it as a phonological alphabet for various existing languages even today."

Avestan language has 14 vowels and so does Avestan script.

This alphabetic system, which is the sacred script for Avestan language, the religious language of Zoroastrians, is used in critical and important contexts, two or three times throughout its long history, of which writing Pâzand, the Pahlavi (middle Persian language) interpretation of Avesta, the Zoroastrians holy book, is considered as one of the most important ones.

Oryan explains, "Pâzand, is neither Pahlavi nor Avestan, it is a phonological rewriting of a Pahlavi text with Avestan alphabets, the first ever usage of a phonological system for writing something in the history, which is a rather prominent and unique event."




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